Writers love reading and one of my favourite early childhood photographs is of me sitting up in bed with a book.
I fished out the photo about 18 months ago when a since-disbanded group of writers here in Karmiel, Galilee agreed to pen our own eulogies. That may appear morbid!
So now, as then, I won't reproduce the snap and will confine myself to discussing my work. To do more, would surely be to tempt providence!
My writing instinct became fully aroused at about the time printed words assumed their own identities; a sort of visual onomatopoeia.
Whether in Roman or Hebrew characters, terms formed on a page grew distinct personalities so bold, that English adjectives like ‘angry’ or ‘pretty’ variously scowled or looked sweet, while a single character like the dotted Hebrew ‘pey’ seemed fierce enough to double as a Nazi’s steel helmet and was to be avoided at all costs!
I was born in Birmingham, England, U.K. in January 1954 and had a conventional provincial middle-class Anglo-Jewish home-life and education.
My mother - a published writer – helped to develop my love of writing and from 1963 a series of house moves with changes of cities, schools and friends, triggered an enduring sense of dislocation - the sort experienced by many artistic people – but one that I was then too young to understand.
After completing school I began work without attending college, first as a junior assistant librarian.
I then left home in Sheffield, Yorkshire to work for the Jewish press in north Manchester, Lancashire. This was barely a month before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – a period that proved to be a watershed for individuals, the Jewish community, Israel and the world.
As part of the warm, tight-knit Manchester Jewish community, I may have appeared sheltered from much of the rough and tumble of general life. Nonetheless, circumstances – other people – could be unpleasant for a young, single woman living alone, away from home.
I felt continually assailed by attacks on my work and this attitude also prevailed outside working hours and made socialising difficult. Moreover, my strongly held and often expressed feelings about Israel and Zionism troubled some individuals who seemed unable to distinguish between either a love of Israel and a loathing of individual Israeli politicians and their policies or some local institutions and those who ran them.
My only ‘crime’ - if I had been somehow delinquent, - was to retain an infant confusion of 'Shema Yisrael' (the central Jewish prayer) with 'Medinat Yisrael' (the modern State of Israel)– thus taking the existence of modern Israel for granted. It was already six years old when I was born and so, like my immediate family, it has always been part of my mental landscape.
Until the recent, terrible spike in international antisemitism, I never felt the need to be an ‘active’ Zionist any more than a combative British patriot and simply cannot imagine a world without Israel or indeed, visualise not being Jewish. The two are indivisible; somehow merged. So when challenged, for example, about any potential conflict of loyalties between the U.K. and Israel, I say it's like asking if I prefer my left arm to my right. My feelings are not split but fused.
For many years before ever contemplating emigrating to Israel from the U.K., my philosophy had been that Israel was to be loved at a distance; great for those wishing to settle there but for me it was too hot, too Middle Eastern; perhaps better in theory than personal actuality.
Despite this, after my husband retired, I agreed that we should settle in the Galilee, which I consider far more attractive than central Israel and where suddenly, I began to understand that my largely untapped writer’s skill may be as a storyteller, as I have always preferred feature writing to news reporting.
Then I also realised that I could use this background to create very short stories and so I now write ‘flash’ or ‘micro’ fiction and some free verse along with prose essays, as these forms require strict concentration of language and economy of style.
Thanks for reading and looking forward to seeing you here many times in the near future.