Thursday, May 23, 2024

"The Sandcastle" - short story

Black flags lined the shore, but we had no intention of going into the sea. Instead, we had plans to build a sandcastle, the biggest sandcastle on the Tel Aviv beach.

"Bring me more water," three-year-old Noa commanded me. "And then shells, more shells."

I picked up the orange bucket and went into the surf. As I bent over, I kept my eyes on my granddaughter, making sure she remained in the safety of the shaded area near the plastic beach chairs I'd rented. I stood up, adjusted my cap, and made my way back to her.

"Look, a tower!"

"Let's make it even bigger," I said, dropping to my knees on the cool sand.

"And show it to Imma!"

"We'll show it to Imma," I said, even though this was a promise I couldn't keep.

"Saba, does Imma like the beach?"

"Of course, she likes the beach."

"Then why didn't she come with us?"

"Because she's in the hospital, Noa. You know that."

Read the rest of the story on - The Loft Issue V, page 28 (download the PDF for free). Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Pre-order your copy of 'Rakiya' today!

I'm excited to announce the upcoming publication of my new book!

Rakiya – Stories of Bulgaria will be released on June 17th (published by GenZ Publishing) in digital format with a paperback to follow.

In this collection of eleven short stories, you'll experience Bulgaria's unique rich history and traditions and explore the country's picturesque villages and stunning nature. You'll hear the voices of native Bulgarians and see the country through the eyes of those visiting Bulgaria for the first time. You'll get a virtual taste of Bulgarian cuisine topped off with the country's traditional alcoholic drink – rakiya. 

You can pre-order Rakiya already now:

In the stories of Rakiya, you'll meet a gypsy pickpocketing tourists in order to support her daughter. An elderly war veteran ashamed of his actions during the Holocaust. Two brothers hunting a killer bear. A Syrian refugee working in a Sofia bakery. A femme fatale disappearing at an international writers’ conference. And two neighbors competing to see who makes the best alcoholic drink.

I hope you'll share my excitement in releasing this book and in reading stories that will give you an appreciation for Bulgaria that will leave you wanting more.

I look forward to hearing what you think!

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Israel at 76

Israel is at war. Memories of October 7th have been mostly forgotten outside Israel, where anti-Semitism is on the rise. We are losing support from our allies while Hamas still holds over 130 of our citizens hostage in Gaza. There is political turmoil at home and no trust in our government. Still, as my country marks its 76th birthday (celebrate may not be the totally appropriate verb this year), Israel is my home and I would live nowhere else.

Here are my somewhat random thoughts on Israel's current state of affairs. I am hardly an expert on anything, just an average Israeli trying to live a normal life.

And, that's the strange, surreal part – my life is relatively normal. I go to work each day, walk the dog, enjoy my grandchildren and family, continue with my writing, hike, run, read, watch Netflix—and everything is normal. But a short distance from my home (in the hills outside Jerusalem), there is a war going on in Gaza. Recently I was unable to fall asleep after hearing reports that thousands of drones were on their way from Iran to attack Israel.

My family is all well and safe. My son and son-in-law are too old to do reserve duty in the army. There were a few rocket attacks overhead in the early weeks of the war that sent us into the shelter in our home, and there have been occasional disruptions in school schedules but on the whole, our lives go on as usual.

We have been asking ourselves who is responsible for what happened last October. How could we, with the best army in the Middle East, and possibly one of the best intelligence services in the world, have been taken by surprise by such a horrific, bloody invasion.

I can’t provide any sort of explanation for Israel's military failures, but I do have an opinion on our current government. It is the most extremist, right-wing, anti-democratic, corrupt government we have ever had. And the person responsible for Israel's current situation is the man at the top, who will do anything and everything to stay in power.

Netanyahu is responsible

Netanyahu allowed the transfer of millions of dollars to Hamas on a regular basis. He has partnered with extremist rightwing settler parties who regularly attack the Palestinians in the West Bank and, with government approval, steal their land. He has teamed up with the ultra-Orthodox, who take more than their share of public funds to support their institutions while their men don't share the burden of serving in the army. He encouraged his ministers when they attempted to overturn the court system, including delegitimizing our Supreme Court – acts which would effectively end Israeli democracy.

All of this in addition to Netanyahu's being on trial on corruption charges. In a normal country, after the failures of October 7th, the man at the top would say, "I am responsible" and resign. Netanyahu has never accepted responsibility for what he allowed to happen.

There is no doubt in my mind that Netanyahu's actions led Hamas to believe that Israel was weak, giving them an opportunity to attack. And there is no doubt in my mind that had our government acted differently, those hostages who are still alive would now be free.

Netanyahu's government's decisions regarding Israel's ongoing war in Gaza, the fighting with Hezbollah in the north, and the crisis with the United States and our other allies, are due to political considerations—Netanyahu's attempt to stay in power.

One thing should be clear, however. Israel lives in a very hostile neighborhood. Even if Netanyahu was not the prime minister, Hamas would still be plotting to attack us. Iran's desire to destroy the Jewish State is not dependent on which party forms the Israeli government. Israel is judged more harshly than any other country in the world, when all (or most) of our military actions are self-defense.

Anti-Semitism has been around forever

Anti-Semitism has been around forever, yet it raises its head whenever there's a serious crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. Let's face it, Jews are not particularly liked in many parts of the world.

Our critics claim that Israel is an apartheid state, yet we have Arab citizens with full rights, including representation in the Knesset. I live near a Muslim Arab village and the contractor renovating our house is Muslim. Our doctors and pharmacists are Muslim. The women who take care of my granddaughter in kindergarten are Muslim. We are all on good terms. We are all good neighbors.

Still, there are Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (not all that far from my home) without rights or independence. For years, I have supported a two-state solution but unfortunately, I see no partner today on the Palestinian side with whom to make peace. Most of the Israeli public that previously supported the peace process have given up hope of ever reaching a negotiated end to our ongoing conflict.

There are as many opinions about the situation as there are Israelis, and it's hard to find a consensus about anything. That changed on October 7th when Hamas attacked all of us and Israel found itself in a war it didn't ask for. Israelis rose up to the challenge of defending their country. Soldiers and pilots who weeks before had been threatening to refuse service due to the government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, reported for duty without hesitation.

Civilians everywhere began volunteering their time and resources on behalf of the country. I personally found a place helping Israeli farmers in the communities near the Gaza Strip, whose foreign workers (mostly from Thailand) fled the country, yet were left with crops to harvest. I took days off from work to pick pomelos, oranges, clementines, red peppers, lemons, and to plant cauliflower and thin the fruit on peach trees. Thousands and thousands of Israelis helped in many other ways.

We are resilient

Israelis are resilient. Despite the ongoing war, despite the struggle to find our place as equals on the world stage, despite the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab countries, we live in a wonderful place, with so much history, religion, culture, traditions, high-tech innovations, superb health care and education, and stunning nature.

I am not a demonstrator. I don't wave the Israeli flag on street corners or carry banners calling for Netanyahu to resign, new elections, or 'free the hostages', yet I support those who do.

Israel has a horrible, corrupt government and prime minister, yet I wouldn't live anywhere else. As Israel marks its 76th birthday, I have no hesitation to say - Israel is my home and I'm proud to be an Israeli.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Cover Reveal: Rakiya

I am excited to share the cover of my upcoming book! Rakiya - Stories of Bulgaria will be published in the coming weeks by GenZ Publishing.

Full details of the release date and a link to pre-order the short story collection will be provided soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

I Run Tel Aviv Night Run 10 Kilometers in 59:26!

Tel Aviv Night Run 10 kilometers - I finished with an amazing time of 59:26 - a record run for me in a competition. This was 55th place out of 295 in my age category - but in that category, I was running against young men aged 60. Very hot in Tel Aviv! I enjoyed myself and am very satisfied with my result!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

End of the Avocado Season

The past few months I have been volunteering once a week (when I can) - helping Israeli farmers in the south after their workers fled the country last October. Four times I picked avocados in an orchard near Ashkelon but this past visit was the last time. 50 workers from Sri Lanka were set to come to work in that orchard. I enjoyed picking avocados - and the avocado ice cream that came as a tasty result of my efforts!

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Review of 'West Jerusalem Noir' – short stories

Noir fiction can be defined as crime fiction with dark themes, often featuring 'a disturbing mixture of sex and violence'. The stories of West Jerusalem Noir (Akashic Books, November 2023) are somewhat tamer; their protagonists are confronted with the dark complexities of living in a city filled with national, religious, and socioeconomic tension.

West Jerusalem Noir of the Akashic Noir Series is published simultaneously with East Jerusalem Noir, a companion collection that tells of the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of Jerusalem's Arab residents, their lives vastly different from those living in the western half of the city.

In West Jerusalem Noir, the story 'You Can't See the Occupation from Here' by Ilana Bernstein takes place on the Israeli side of the city. The protagonist works in a secret lab on Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus, where she's filling in for a translator on maternity leave. Working in the lab 'involves quite a few sacrifices,' she thinks. 'Those who come in here don't leave so quickly'. A Palestinian woman, complete with a 'floral pink and cerulean hijab' is reportedly the CEO of the company. But what about national security? the protagonist wonders. Nothing is as it seems.

In the story 'Arson,' by Ilan Rubin Fields, police investigate whether someone set fire to the trees flanking the gardens of Peace Park, near Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood. In possibly the best story in the anthology, 'Chrysanthemums' by Asaf Schurr, a father takes it upon himself to cover up his daughter Michal's crime. "You didn't kill anyone, you hear me?" he admonishes her. "I'll take care of everything, understood?"

The heroine of 'Murder at Sam Spiegel' by Liat Elkayam wakes up in a small room in the famed film and television school to find a student filmmaker 'on a swivel chair, his head hanging backward at a completely inhuman angle … a long river of blood snaking from his stomach'. This launches the protagonist into detective mode, but the investigation is more than she can handle.

In Elkayam's story, an entry ramp to the Jerusalem Cinematheque is sprayed with graffiti declaring 'Jerusalem – a city held together with masking tape'. The stories of the collection are taped together by their Jerusalem setting. While some readers may find the book disjointed, with unsatisfactory plots and endings, many of the stories are memorable and will leave much to think about.

The collection's editor, Maayan Eitan, says they take place in a 'concrete, contemporary, and complicated Jerusalem'. She is correct in stating that the 15 stories included in West Jerusalem Noir 'could not have taken place anywhere else'. Indeed, readers will have a 'chance to visit Jerusalem like they've never seen it before'.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

I Run the Jerusalem Marathon 10K and Finish in 18th Place in My Age Category

Perfect weather for a run through the streets of Jerusalem and the alleyways of the Old City. I last ran the Jerusalem Marathon's 10K race in 2019 and I was excited to do it again. The course is challenging, with a number of steep inclines, but I finished with a time of 1 hour and 6 minutes. This ranked me in 18th place out of 87 men in the 65-69 age category.

Amazingly, this was the exact same result as I had in the 2019 race, when I was in a younger age category. Overall, I finished the 10K in 3596th place out of 9,044 racers. I am very happy with my result!

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