Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review of ‘Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora’ by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein

After being confronted with anti-Semitism for the first time as a youth, and realizing this was from being an isolated incident, Swedish journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein began wondering how Jews manage to survive, and in many cases thrive, in the diaspora. She set forth on a personal mission “to show ... and highlight the history, culture, and lives of [her] brothers and sisters all across the world.”

The result of the author’s “journey into the radically unknown and comfortably familiar” is her richly detailed investigative memoir, Exile: Portraits of the Jewish Diaspora (Bombardier Books, January, 2020). For the author, and for readers who join her on her travels, the book is a profound, enlightening experience.

Hernroth-Rothstein’s first stop is the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia. Isolated in its self-imposed ghetto, the Jewish community there is actually growing because the Tunisian Jews “understand the rules and limitations to which they must adhere.” They have survived because they “have created an impenetrable core the provides great comfort and relative safety.” The author wonders if this “might be the future of the Jewish diaspora: to refuse modernity, hide from the outside world, and plant your feet firmly in the past.”

Thursday, January 23, 2020

And Then My Phone Died

I knew it was coming even though there had been no warning signs. “It’s not going to live forever,” I was told, but I didn’t believe it. But when Jodie’s phone died suddenly a few months ago—working one moment and then totally uncommunicative the next—I began making preparations. I was ready but I never expected it to happen so soon.

One day last week I checked my phone in the office to see if I had any new messages. The screen was black. Maybe the phone was turned off? Maybe a restart was needed? Nothing worked.

Luckily there is a phone repair shop just outside my building. The salesman/technician began a careful investigation into the source of my phone’s failure to respond. “It’s the motherboard,” he concluded, when I returned to the shop an hour later.

Everything was in my phone. Calls, contacts, codes. Camera, social media, messaging—the necessities of life. Not to mention Waze and Maps to navigate; a clock to wake me up in the mornings; an app to track my running. Music, podcasts, ordering taxis and coffee, and reading the news—I use my phone for everything.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Taxi Politics - short story

“So, what do you say about our country? Staging elections for the third time this year! Where else in the world do you have a country like this? And we call ourselves a democracy! Is it a democracy when we can’t elect a stable government? What do you say about that?”

The man in the backseat looked up from his phone, surprised that the driver had spoken to him.


“Elections! They’re coming around the corner again and I wondered what is your opinion?”

“My opinion?”

“Yes, your opinion. Every citizen is entitled to have an opinion. I meet many people every day and let me tell you. Everyone has an opinion. What’s yours?”

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Cave - short story

They say the cave offers a passage to the underworld. In ancient Greek mythology, a musician, poet, and prophet named Orpheus, son of the god Apollo, descended through the cave into the subterranean kingdom of Hades in search of his beloved, Eurydice. There are many versions of this legend and none of them have happy endings.

They say that an outcrop of rock deep inside the cave’s interior resembles the face of the devil. This oddly shaped formation gives the cave its name. Devil’s Throat Cave. I don’t see the resemblance and I go into the cave six times a day, every day of the week. Except for the occasional Sunday.

It’s not all fun and games, this summer job of mine. My initial enthusiasm for working in nature and guiding tours of the cave has faded. The work is not hard, physically, but repeating the same talk over and over is tiring. Sometimes I wonder if anyone in my tours appreciates what they’re seeing. And sometimes I just can’t wait until the last person exits the cave so that I can lock the door soundly behind me.

Read the rest of the story on The Write Launch.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Bulgaria Travel Reading List

"Bulgaria is one of the largest countries in the EU, and yet like so many places that fell on the other side of the Iron Curtain, it remains terra incognita. Yet, it’s a place with an ancient history, delicious food, beautiful music, picturesque churches, and of course, roses. Bulgaria supplies 50% of the world’s rose essence."

Victoria Frolova,  a writer, journalist and professionally trained perfumer, put together "a list of non-fiction and fiction books that would be interesting even if you have no plans to visit Bulgaria and simply want to learn something new. These novels and travel accounts present a fascinating and rich land, a place where many different cultures, influences and traditions meet."

She mentions Valley of Thracians as "A fun, easy read, with vivid descriptions. A thriller set in Bulgaria that involves recovering a missing Thracian artifact."

Read the full article on Bois de Jasmin - A Primer on Sensory Pursuits.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Neighborhood Watch

There has been a spate of break-ins in Neve Ilan - six houses in the last 3 months. Two weeks ago, a family woke up in the middle of the night to find burglars in their children's bedroom.

The intruders are primarily looking for car keys. Or for cash and jewelry. Why would anyone steal a large screen TV or a laptop these days?

Six houses burglarized and two of them just a few doors away from my home. The situation is frightening and worrisome, to say the least. And it calls for action, but what can be done?

My house can’t be seen from the road and it’s very dark, which could hide it from visiting thieves. Or make it an easy target. We’ve started leaving lights on at night. And the television, suggesting that someone is awake at all hours. We do have a security light which goes on automatically when someone approaches the back porch, but is any of this enough?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Five Great Books Set in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a Balkan country, encircled by Romania, Serbia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. So it’s no surprise that the territory has been fought over and occupied by many different invaders through the centuries, from Thracians, Persians, Celts and Macedonians in ancient times; as part of the Roman Empire in the first few hundreds of years AD; the Bulgars; the Byzantine Empire; the Ottomans; and as part of the Soviet Communist bloc after World War II.

Read the rest of this article on TripFiction.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"Children of the Silent Revolution" – documentary review

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989 - a pivotal event which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War. Just one day later, the Bulgarian Communist Party ousted the country’s dictatorial leader Todor Zhivkov. The date is considered the beginning of Bulgaria’s transition to democracy. A change in power without bloodshed. “No violence, no victims.” A silent revolution.

For Bulgarians, doors to the West opened overnight. Travel was no longer restricted; the future was possible elsewhere in Europe and in America. How would Bulgarians handle their newfound freedom?

The documentary film “Children of the Silent Revolution” centers on a tightknit group of eight classmates from the central Bulgarian town of Kazanlak as they finish high school in 1995 and take their first steps into a rapidly changing world. They were “18-year-old kids, drunk with youth, in love with life, and eager to grasp their future.”