Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Mosque, a Synagogue, and a Church

My wife and I have traveled quite a bit in the Balkans and we enjoy learning about different cultures and seeing new places. Sometimes, though, the most beautiful places of all are right at your doorstep.

This past weekend, we vacationed in Israel's north, traveling around the Galilee and taking in the rolling hills, the pastures full of grazing cattle, the neat rows of vineyards, and the picturesque communities. We walked through the artist colony of Tzfat (the mystical city of Kabbalistic Judaism also known as Safed), and visited the renovated historic village of Rosh Pina.

We drove north, toward Israel's border with Lebanon. Here the scenery was even more beautiful, full of dark green forested valleys. We had never traveled these northern roads before and every turn exposed us to new vistas. Our journey on the cloudless October day would take us to see a mosque, a synagogue, and a church - three houses of worship quite unlike those we had seen in the past.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joy of Kosher, a Tasty but Slightly Salty Review

I don't cook, let's make that clear, but I do enjoy eating. Does that qualify me to review Jamie Geller's new cookbook? I think so!

How does someone who doesn't cook review a cookbook? By enlisting the wife of course. My wife selected a number of dishes from Geller's Joy of Kosher cookbook for our Friday night dinner and I, of course, volunteered to eat them.

But first, a word about the book. Geller's previous cookbook, Quick & Kosher - Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing, was published in 2007. That book was called an "autobiographic cookbook" by one reviewer on Amazon. This cookbook is a worthy sequel, as Geller's family takes center stage. It features Geller's husband and her five children in pictures and stories accompanying the various sections of the book.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How I Sold 910 Copies of My Book in One Week

Not to brag, but rather to share and encourage…

During the entire month of September, my self-published suspense novel Valley of Thracians sold a grand total of four copies. This was despite the fact that the book had received favorable reviews on Amazon; it had been featured and spotlighted on many book blogs; and I had written guest posts on various authors' websites.

My marketing strategy since publishing the novel at the end of January included its being part of the KDP Select program, making it available for Kindle exclusively at Amazon. During the month of March I ran a five-day free promotion, and the book was downloaded by over 8,000 readers all over the world, making it a 'bestseller' for three days, if you can define a free book as something that 'sells'. But after the digital book went back to its normal price of $4.99 a copy, sales dropped off steadily, reaching a new low with the four books sold in September.

Clearly, potential readers were not being enticed to buy the book. I needed to do something to increase sales.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Taste of Coexistence at the Majda Restaurant

A restaurant in the village of Ein Rafa played host to celebrity travel chef Anthony Bourdain. My friends and I dined there on tasty food that was a fusion of cultures.

Bourdain's recent broadcast from Jerusalem of 'Parts Unknown' on CNN received some flack due to its purported Palestinian bias. Bourdain opened the show by acknowledging that his visit would be seen by many "as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse." But, putting politics aside, the travel chef treated viewers to the tastes and culture of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Highlighted on the show was a visit with a mixed-marriage couple who run a restaurant in the village of Ein Rafa. As he ate outdoors, Bourdain talked with the owners, Michal and Yakub. The food looked so good that it resulted in an intense desire on my part to dine at this unusual restaurant, whose name is Majda.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Paratroopers, Peace Plans, and Prayers

Yossi Klein Halevi's Like Dreamers is an epic narrative of modern Israeli history, detailing the transformation of Israeli society following the Six Day War.

In June, 1967, Israel stunned its Arab neighbors and the entire world with a swift victory against seemingly insurmountable odds, capturing east Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. Just six years later, Egypt and Syria launched coordinated attacks on Israel's northern and southern borders, catching IDF commanders and government leaders by surprise and destroying the myth of Israel's invincibility.

Years of euphoria immediately following the Six Day War were replaced by a period of uncertainty that not only questioned who was responsible for the Yom Kippur War failures, but also how Israel should relate to the appropriated territories. In many ways, Israel is still facing the consequences of those two wars today.