Thursday, December 31, 2020


If there is anything Israel did right in this past year’s battle against coronavirus, it was in securing enough vaccines to start a massive inoculation campaign. At this stage, citizens over 60 and at-risk groups are eligible and an incredible 1/3 of that population (nearly 700,000 as of yesterday) has already been vaccinated.

Israel currently leads the world in vaccinations per capita, with 7.44 doses administered per 100 people. Bahrain is second, followed by the United Kingdom and the United States. Although there is a fear that Israel may run out of vaccines in mid-January, enough are being reserved for the second required dose for those who have already been vaccinated.

With such a huge rush to get vaccinated, my wife and I were worried it would be difficult to set an appointment. We had heard stories about people waiting on the phone for over half an hour before getting disconnected. But for us, the process was extremely simple and efficient.

Jodie registered us on our health care provider’s website and our vaccinations were set for January 6th. However, a few days later, the nurse on our moshav called to say that there were openings on December 30th. We would get our shots at a clinic in Mevesseret at exactly 14:09 and 14:14 on Wednesday afternoon.

We showed up at the clinic and walked right in, directly to the nurse’s desk. No crowd at the entrance, no waiting in line. The nurse took our details and within 2 minutes, I sat down for my shot. And then Jodie got her shot. We were told to wait outside for 15 minutes, to make sure there were no immediate reactions to the vaccine, and then we were able to go home.

Today we will set our appointments for the second dosage in three weeks’ time. Both Jodie and I feel a slight pain in our shoulders—nothing more serious than a muscle cramp—but overall, we are just relieved that we got our shots.

As we start 2021, our sincere hope is that everyone will get vaccinated so that we can put COVID-19 behind us!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Review of ‘The Devil’s Gorge’ by Dora Ilieva

Sam Angelov, a University of Toronto student, receives notification that he has inherited an apartment in Bulgaria from his grandmother. Accompanied by his friend, Ben, Sam flies to Sofia to meet with a local lawyer. While the inheritance paperwork is being processed, Sam sets out to meet a distant cousin, Kossara, and her father Kiril, a well-known history professor.

Sam and Ben travel with Kossara to the Thracian city of Perperikon in the Rhodope Mountains, where Kiril and a group of archaeologists are working at a dig. Perperikon sits high on a rocky hill and its history revolves around a temple of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility; and Orpheus, the legendary musician and poet. Kiril is convinced that two invaluable treasures from the ancient world are buried somewhere on the site.

The Devil’s Gorge by Dora Ilieva (2014) is an engaging archaeological thriller set in one of the most beautiful regions of Bulgaria. The settings described in the book are real, and as colorful and fascinating as described. The Nestinarstvo fire dancing tradition is still practiced in rural areas of Bulgaria.

The Devil’s Gorge of the title refers to the stunning Devil’s Throat Cave, through which Orpheus is said to have descended into the subterranean kingdom of Hades to seek his lost love Eurydice. The cave plays no significant role in this story, but perhaps Sam and Kossara will return to it in the novel’s sequel.

Dora Ilieva is a Bulgarian-Canadian author who grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and moved to Canada when she was twenty-eight. She is married and has three children. She works as a teacher and writes in her spare time. The Devil's Gorge, the author's debut novel, was followed by The Master and White Clay in the Across the Ocean series.

Monday, December 21, 2020

"The Bear" - short story

A 65-year-old man was killed by a bear in the Rhodope Mountains on Friday. The victim was in the woods collecting firewood when he was attacked, villagers said. More than 200 wild bears roam the forests in the Smolyan District, but this was the first reported case of a bear attacking a human.

“The bears are starving,” explained the mayor of the village.

“They may be starving, but that doesn’t mean we should be served as their dinner!” complained one of the terrified villagers.

“He killed a cow last year,” cried another.

“He’s a killer bear!”

“There’s no need to get alarmed,” cautioned the mayor. “The appropriate authorities have been contacted and they assured me they will deal with the problem.”

The appropriate authority was Anton Monev, head of the Regional Police Directorate. Anton called me shortly after being notified of the incident. He urged me to come, saying I could join him the next morning when he went to hunt down the bear.

Read the rest of the story on Potato Soup Journal.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"The Baker" - short story

“I’ve heard you have the best pitas in all of Sofia.”

“Who am I to argue with what people are saying?” Jamal said, looking up from the cash register to find a well-dressed middle-aged man drumming his fingers on the counter. “What can I get you?”

“Would it be possible to make an order for one hundred and fifty?”

Jamal stepped back, not surprised at the large order but rather that the man was speaking to him in colloquial Arabic. “I’m sure that can be arranged,” he said, turning to his brother for confirmation. Standing near one of the ovens, Amar nodded his consent.

“Good,” the customer said. “I will pay you now, in advance. Could you have the order ready if I come by tomorrow at three?”

Jamal rang up the purchase and handed over the change and a receipt. “Dovizhdane,” he said, instinctively saying goodbye in Bulgarian.

Shukran,” the man replied in Arabic as he left the bakery.

Read the rest of the story on Isele Magazine.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Mousetrap

We first sensed something odd in our kitchen when we noticed that the top part of a Shabbat roll had been pulled off. Maybe one of our granddaughters had torn the bag open as part of a pre-dinner “I am starving!” tantrum? The next morning, we discovered a damaged section of banana bread.

And then there was a fruit platter left out overnight. Pomegranate seeds were spilled all over the counter. A week later, a purple plum fell to the floor during the night. Maybe someone had bumped into the fruit bowl?

But when we found tiny chewed-up pieces of beet all over the side of the stove, we realized this was no accident. We had had kubbeh soup for dinner, so there were plenty of beets around. One of them, apparently, was left out on the counter and it had been attacked overnight.

The final straw was when we woke up to find that a ripe plum had rolled across the kitchen floor. It was chewed into small little pieces. We had a mouse!

We borrowed a mousetrap and primed it on the kitchen floor before going to bed. First, we tried a piece of yellow cheese. Nothing. And then half a plum. Nothing. A piece of chocolate. Chocolate coated in peanut butter. These all resulted in an empty trap.

Maybe the mouse was gone for good? We went about our normal business. On Friday morning, Jodie stood at the stove preparing chicken soup for Shabbat. She heard something and looked down at the floor. A tail! A very long tail!

The animal escaped into the front room and we set the mousetrap on the floor and closed the door. Suddenly, there was a noise of something falling! I opened the door and entered slowly. One of my daughter’s artworks on canvas had fallen from a small ledge. I put it back in place and closed the door. A short while later, the picture fell again! No sign of a mouse, but we knew it was in there, even though we couldn’t see or hear it.

We kept the door closed all day. When we needed to go into the front room—to take clothes out of the dryer, retrieve a cookbook, get onions, or to check the computer—we entered cautiously, closing the door quickly behind us. We were careful to avoid the mousetrap. Apparently, the mouse was avoiding it as well.

Dinnertime. We sat at the Shabbat dinner table and enjoyed our meal. After dinner, a quick check of the front room to see that the mousetrap was still empty. Dinner dishes washed and put away. Desert served. Family time in the living room. The family left, things quieted down, and we turned on the television.

And then, a noise from the front room.

It was in the trap, pacing back and forth. And it was much bigger than we had imagined, with a very, very long tail. This was no mouse!

“House mice measure 12 to 20 cm in length, including the tail.” On the other hand, “rats may grow to be as long as 40 cm or more and weigh considerably more than mice.”

We had a rat in the house! I found it quite cute, actually—standing in the cage staring at me with its curious eyes. Jodie found it disgusting. “A rat! Get it out of here!”

I put on heavy gloves, covered the cage with rags, and carefully carried it across the street. I bent down, opened the mousetrap, and the creature dashed out and disappeared under the bushes. Maybe the rat would survive. Maybe it would be attacked by the stray cats that hang around the trash barrels. Not my problem. It was on its own!

The rat is gone, our plums and beets are safe. Still, we will not leave Shabbat rolls or banana bread unprotected overnight. Maybe the rat has brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 23, 2020

My granddaughters just became Romanian citizens, and I’m ok with that

This week my three young granddaughters and their parents showed up at the Romanian Consulate in Ramat Gan and submitted their request for passports. The girls’ pictures were taken, and they waited—impatiently as it turned out, and the guard at the door asked them to go outside—while their father filled in the details on the application form. The clerk informed them that the passports would be sent in the mail.

Why Romania? My son-in-law’s mother, who passed away two years ago, was born and raised in Romania. According to that country’s rules and regulations, ‘you can apply for Romanian Citizenship by Descent if you have a parent who was a Romanian citizen at any point in their lifetime; or if you have a grandparent who was a Romanian citizen at any point in their lifetime.’ In recent years, many Israelis have applied for foreign citizenship, including those who took advantage of Portugal’s openness to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition.

Romanian passports are accepted in countries where Israelis cannot set foot. Romanian citizenship gives my granddaughters a wide range of possibilities, both in that country and all over Europe.

When I asked my eight-year-old granddaughter why she was getting a Romanian passport, she told me it was so that she could “go places.”

My daughter is not a Romanian citizen, but rather has dual Israeli-American citizenship. Because my wife and I are both American citizens, we registered all three of our children at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv shortly after they were born. Although there is a ‘grandparent clause’, we could only pass citizenship down to our granddaughters if we had lived for two years as adults in the United States.

But why does an Israeli need a second citizenship anyway? Is it an insurance policy that if things get really, really bad in Israel, there is an escape route guaranteeing a life elsewhere, where things are safer?

That is not why we registered our children as Americans.

My wife and I both made aliya with our parents as children. We were born American and it was not our choice, as minors, to move to Israel and become Israeli. When we reached adulthood, however, we were free to decide where to live and we chose to remain in Israel.

By registering our children as Americans, we knew that when they grew up, they would be free to choose as well.

My daughter and her family have no plans to move to Romania, as far as I know. But who knows? One day my granddaughters may make that decision. Or they may move elsewhere. They will have more than one option available to them. 

A second citizenship gives my granddaughters greater freedom when deciding where to live, whether in Israel or abroad. They will have additional places where they can study, more employment opportunities. They will be free to travel the world without the limitations of an Israeli passport. They will able to cross borders without the need of a visa. 

In short, like my granddaughter said, with a second passport they will be able to “go places.”

My granddaughters are both Israeli and Romanian. And that’s just fine with me.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Short Stories Ahead!

Lately I have focused my creativity on writing short stories and several of them are now on submission at various online literary journals.

I am proud to announce that two of my stories will be published in December and I’m eager for you to read them!

Here is a short description of the short stories ahead:

“The Bear” – an elderly man was collecting firewood in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains when he was attacked and killed by a wild bear. Two brothers set out to track down the bear, each for his own reason.

“The Baker” – a Syrian refugee starts a new profession in the Bulgarian capital where he is called upon to deal with a gypsy woman and her daughter, and meets an Israeli under unusual circumstances.

I will share these stories as soon as they are published, as well as any other story as soon as it is accepted.


Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review of ‘The Last Interview’ by Eshkol Nevo

The protagonist of The Last Interview by Eshkol Nevo, translated by Sondra Silverston (Other Press, October 2020) was supposed to be writing a novel, but instead he is answering a very long interview sent to him by the editor of a website. Faced with the typical questions given to a novelist, such as ‘Did you always know you would be a writer?’ the unnamed protagonist decides to answer each and every question truthfully, with nothing held back. 

Answer by answer we learn more about his life, about his broken marriage and his daughter who has run away from home. About his ongoing war with dysthymia and his chronic low-grade feeling of depression. About his childhood friend who has disappeared, and much more. Family and friends play a huge role in these answers and, as he keeps on writing, what was intended as a simple, but in-depth interview becomes a story itself. Not only that, the protagonist realizes that he has no idea where this story will end.

‘How autobiographical are your books?’ is one of the questions.

The readers of the protagonist’s novels want to know what is real, and what isn’t in his books. By asking this question, readers show that they are “determined to get to the biographical core of the book, based on the erroneous assumption that it will help them understand it.”

As readers of The Last Interview, we may be asking the very same question. While we never know the name of the book’s protagonist, his answers tell us that he is the grandson of Levi Eshkol, the third prime minister of Israel. Eshkol Nevo, the real-life author of The Last Interview, is in fact the late prime minister’s grandson. When asked in the book what legacy his grandfather had left him, the fictional author answers that no matter how hard he tried, he was never able to mourn him personally. Was this also the case in real life?

The fictional author, in his apparent role as Nevo’s alter ego, responds to his readers’ questions by saying “the more he ‘lies’, in biographical terms, the closer he gets to the deep truth that is beyond the facts.” And the opposite could be true as well, he says. 

The book’s narrative walks a thin line between truth and lies, between fact and fiction, but The Last Interview is far from confusing. In its unique format, the ‘interview’ provides answers that dig deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s life, with all its love and misery, friendships and heartaches, and the contradictory facets of his public and private identities. And in the process, The Last Interview proves to be a highly engrossing and page-turning read.

Eshkol Nevo is an Israeli writer who has published a collection of short stories, five novels, and a work of non-fiction. His novel Homesick was awarded the Book Publishers Association Gold Prize (2005) and the FFI-Raymond Wallier Prize at the Salon du Livre (Paris, 2008). Nevo is the grandson of Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, for whom he was named.

Sondra Silverston is a native New Yorker who has lived in Israel since 1970. She has translated works by Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, and Eshkol Nevo. Her translation of Amos Oz’s Between Friends won the 2013 National Jewish Book Award for fiction.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Intriguing Plotline That Is Chock-full of Significant Detail

There is a vivid, life-like element to Valley Of Thracians by Ellis Shuman. Perhaps it is because of the author's expertise on Bulgaria, or because of the timeline of history that is refreshingly accurate. Regardless of the reason, the end product has proved to be something quite special.

As the novel opens we meet Simon Matthews, a man on a mission. Simon's character evokes the reader's empathy as his heart-wrenching situation comes to light. He has traveled to Bulgaria to answer a question that had been plaguing him, what has happened to his grandson?

"It was a feeling he had -a gut feeling that was burning inside him and growing in intensity from day to day."

No body had ever been produced from his grandson's death. And as Simon begins his quest, digging into the truth behind the mysterious death, he uncovers something incredibly sinister.

"The bus speeds east through the dark and forbidding Bulgarian night. The rhythm of the tires on the asphalt pavement soothes my worries, and I close my eyes, eager to forget the strange happenings that have led me to this unexpected journey."

With the help of Sophia Ivanova, an expert in Thracian culture, he is able to traverse throughout Bulgaria on an amazing journey filled with the languid rhythms of culture, and subtle clues of muddled deception.

"Simon wiped away a tear that threatened to cascade down his face, something that surprised him each time he thought deeply about his beloved grandson even after all this time."

Shuman's writing style ensconces the reader in an intriguing plot-line that is chock-full of significant detail. His past experiences provide a compelling narrative. Valley Of Thracians is a riveting fiction debut that will enrich each reader to the savoir-faire of Bulgaria.

Originally published on Bookend Chronicles in August 2013.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Israeli Embassy in Bulgaria Promotes "The Burgas Affair"

2020 marks 30 years of restored diplomatic relations between Israel and Bulgaria. On this occasion, the Embassy launched an "I read Israeli authors" campaign—in posts and tweets—in which it presented books published in Bulgarian over the last three decades.

“We have chosen to present the works of some of the most prominent and world-renowned authors from Israel,” the Embassy stated. Bulgarians had already met in person many of the authors, the Embassy noted, including A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, Etgar Keret, and Meir Shalev.

In its series the Embassy highlighted The Burgas Affair. “It intertwines real facts from the investigation with fictional storylines to offer us a tense and intriguing thriller.”

Summing up the promotion, the Embassy said it hoped Bulgarian readers would “find their next read in the rich palette of genres, plots, and stories,” in the Israeli books published in Bulgarian.

Israel and Bulgaria established diplomatic relations in 1948, but Bulgaria cut diplomatic ties with Israel after the Six Day War. Diplomatic relations were restored in 1990.

The Burgas Affair was published in Bulgarian as БYPГАСКАТА АФЕРА by Ciela Books in 2016.

Israel in Bulgaria official Facebook page

Israel in Bulgaria official Twitter account

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Night I Chased a Pack of Wild Boars from My Garden

It was just before one in the morning when my daughter woke me up. She had heard noises outside and thought it was someone trying to break into our house. But then she heard grunts. Within seconds I was running to the back door, ready to confront the wild boars that were ravaging our garden.

I ran up our deck pathway barefoot, shouting, and suddenly I was surrounded. They were kicking up dirt, grunting, storming through plants and bushes. The boars were desperately searching for a way out of our fenced-in backyard.

I stood there, phone in hand, ready to take a once-in-a-lifetime photo of the wild animals racing around me, but my camera was mistakenly set to selfie mode.

In any case, it was too dark and I never really saw any of the boars clearly, only fast-moving shadows. 

My daughter, standing on our patio, called out a warning as more boars dashed out of the bushes behind me. Fearing they would attack her she went back inside. She said there were at least six of the animals, but she couldn't say for sure if they were big or small.

The gate we had put up at the entrance to our garden/the garden next door was open. I assume it was not closed that night, but even if it was, the boars could have forced their way through it. At this stage it was good that it was open because it offered the boars an escape route. One of them ran instead for the fence and dug its way out as I watched.

I was upset with myself for playing with my phone, but there was nothing I could have done better. The beasts were frightened by my shouting, by my stomping noisily up the pathway, and by my presence. I certainly didn't want to throw stones and agitate them further.

One neighbor did throw stones at them for ten minutes. The boars did not run away but they didn't go into his backyard. Our next-door neighbors were not so lucky. They have invested a lot of money in their garden and the boars thoroughly destroyed their grass (and this was the second time they've done this).

The boars were possibly digging for bulbs (they did not eat any flowers) but it was more likely that they were searching for water. The extensive damage in the neighbor's grass was surprisingly in a straight line, probably where the irrigation tubing was laid.

Needless to say, our neighbors were heartbroken the next morning. Our grass is not in as good shape as theirs and as they say, the grass is greener on the other side, so that is what spared us. Until next time.

This was not my first encounter with the boars who have made the hills and forests around Moshav Neve Ilan their home. I have written about them twice before:

Boars are a protected species in Israel, but they constitute a serious problem. There are neighborhoods in Haifa where packs of boars roam the streets, even during the daytime hours. Municipal councils are not allowed to set out poison or attempt to kill them in any other way. Boars have no natural predator in Israel, and as neither Jews or Muslims eat boars or pigs, there are no incentives to hunt them for food.

The video does not show the boars in my garden, but rather boars elsewhere on Neve Ilan the same night. The video was filmed by a neighbor and shared on social media.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Review of 'The Memory Monster' by Yishai Sarid

Holocaust studies have been mandatory in Israeli high schools since the 1980s and 11th graders are regularly taken on educational trips to the German extermination camps in Poland. According to a study of "Shoah Education in Israeli State Schools 2007-2009" presented by Bar Ilan University, "The journey to Poland is among the most important and effective aspects of Shoah education, highly valued by students, teachers and school principals."

But what about the long-term effects of these journeys on those who guide the students through the camps? Are they able to bear the emotional burden of walking under the iconic Arbeit macht frei sign at Auschwitz's gate time and time again? 

The subject of Holocaust education from the viewpoint of concentration camp tour guides is at the center of The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid, translated by Yardenne Greenspan (Restless Books, September 2020). The short, but powerful novel raises the question of how far we let the horrors of the past infiltrate our present day lives.

The book's narrative is presented as a report by a nameless historian to the chairman of Yad Vashem, the official representative of Holocaust memory in Israel. The report details the historian's career, how he at first considered Holocaust studies a burden and thought himself immune to the emotional stress. The historian prepared his PhD dissertation on the process of Nazis' extermination techniques—a topic covering the details of mass murder, gas chambers, and crematoriums—while supporting himself and his family by guiding high school students in Poland.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Review of “The Tunnel” by A. B. Yehoshua

In the opening scene of The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua, translated by Stuart Schoffman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, August 2020), Zvi Luria, a retired road engineer, is diagnosed with an atrophy in the frontal lobe of his brain. One of the first symptoms of Zvi’s incipient dementia is that first names are escaping him. And then he can’t remember the ignition code for his car. And when asked to pick up his grandchild from kindergarten, he takes home the wrong child.

Luria’s wife Dina, a pediatrician with health problems of her own, encourages Zvi to volunteer as an unpaid assistant on an engineering project “so that he could, on the advice of the neurologist, fight better, with the help of roads, interchanges, and tunnels, against the atrophy gnawing away at his brain.” Luria joins Asael Maimoni, the son of a former colleague, and the two of take on a project of planning a “secret road in the desert.”

The Israeli army has asked for a road in Ramon Crater, but it is unclear where this road will lead to. The one thing that is clear is that a “hill resembling a flattened cone” is in the way. The engineers could suggest bulldozing their way through the hill, but there is a problem. An archaeological ruin sits atop the hill and a family has taken up residence there.

The squatters, it turns out, are “West Bank Palestinians whose identity became confused.” They have no home to return to, and no future awaits them. The solution for the engineering team? Dig a tunnel through the hill.

Monday, September 7, 2020

"At the Bank" - a short story in 101 words

Back in April, when we were only beginning to understand how far, and how fast the pandemic would spread, I discovered a website soliciting 101-word stories. I wondered if I was capable of writing a story that short that could in some way express what was happening all around us.

The result was "At the Bank". I submitted it to 101 Words in April and apparently they lost the submission. I only received a rejection note now, 5 months later, but I think the story is still valid today. Here is the story and what they said in the rejection letter. (It was quite unusual to get an on-the-spot critique, instead of an impersonal form letter!)

At the Bank

A masked man walked into a bank early Friday morning. He was not there to rob, or to take hostages. He had come to withdraw hard-earned savings. He had waited in line patiently, keeping his distance from those ahead. When the guard finally allowed him in, he hurried to the counter, his eyes slightly lowered in embarrassment. After he stated his request, the teller punched a few keys, looked at a screen, and opened a cash drawer. Bills were counted and handed over, the man bowed in wordless thanks, and left. The teller shook his head and adjusted his own mask.

The rejection letter:

Overall, the current environment makes a situation like a bank customer closing their account an out of the ordinary situation. However, the main issue that I have with this story is that this situation just seems like an ordinary task, even with the Covid-19 kicking around. These are situations that bank tellers deal with all the time. If there was something unique that a bank teller happened to be involved in, it would be a different story.

# # #

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Journey into Bulgarian History and a Thrilling Crime Story

For many readers in United States, Bulgaria is a strange and mysterious land. A small European country with around 7 million population, most of them speak Bulgarian, a major Slavic language after Russian and Ukrainian. Only recently attain its democracy 20 years ago, joined the European Union at 2007. For most American readers, Bulgaria would probably perceived as just an insignificant country in Europe.

Yet, Mr. Shuman, former Editor in Chief of Israel Insider and’s Israel Culture Guide, told us how false our perception can be. In “Valley of Thracians”, we are guided into a wonderful journey into ancient Bulgarian history, a thrilling crime story and a memorable adventure.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Review of 'Three' by D. A. Mishani

There are three women at the heart of Israeli crime writer D.A. Mishani’s new novel Three, translated by Jessica Cohen (Europa Editions, August 2020). Orna is a single mother raising a young son still traumatized by his parents’ divorce. Emilia is a live-in caregiver from Latvia who is trying to find herself after the elderly man she cared for died. And Ella is married, the mother of three, who is writing her university thesis. Three women with nothing in common, except for the same strange man who comes into their lives.

Orna meets Gil on a dating site for divorced singles. After online chats they meet up. Orna is surprised at how patient Gil is, at how he seems like he has all the time in the world to develop their connection. He doesn’t pressure her, and their phone conversations are so short that Orna wonders why they are talking on the phone at all. Still, they continue to talk and when they meet on a date it is Orna who suggests that they become intimate. Gil’s seeming reluctance to pursue their affair makes one curious as to why their relationship ends up the way it does.

Emilia needs to look for a job after 84-year-old Nachum dies. Nachum’s wife and children assure her that she can remain in her small room until she finds new work. A part-time position opens up, but Emilia would have to do it for cash, without permits. Nachum’s wife suggests that Emilia talk to her son Gil, a lawyer. Gil, she says, will make sure Emilia doesn’t get deported from Israel. Gil asks Emilia to clean his apartment and she agrees. In her free time, Emilia goes to church services, trying to find spiritual meaning to her life. She asks herself if she should go back to Latvia, but what she doesn’t ask herself is why she let herself fall under Gil’s spell.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"The Volcano" - short story

“You need to come home. Now.”

“I hear you,” I reply, holding the phone at a distance. Maya’s voice comes across the line at a higher decibel level than usual. “Are you sure you’re feeling contractions?”

“Daniel!” It is nearly a shout. “I know what this is and I know that you have to be on the next flight.”

“Alright,” I say, wondering if this isn’t another case of false labor, like the symptoms that sent us to the hospital prematurely just two weeks ago. “I will order my ticket for tonight.”

“I don’t know if I can last that long!”

It is early afternoon so there’s plenty of time to make a reservation. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be an empty seat on the plane. Not many people fly from Sofia to Tel Aviv in the middle of the week.

Read the rest of the story on The Bookends Review.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Why I Run

I get up every morning at 5 am. Am I crazy? Although I’ve always been an early morning person, these days I am working from home and can get up whenever I want. Yet here I am, getting out of bed before the sun rises in the sky.

And the reason I get up so early is so that I can run.

Last year, I ran the 10-kilometer race in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Marathons. I am not an athlete at all, nor a professional runner, but I ran those races.

At the time, daily visits to the gym and running, whether indoors on a treadmill or outdoors on weekends, were part of my routine. Unfortunately, a number of physical setbacks as well as the rising cost of gym membership threw me off course. It's only in recent weeks that I’ve begun running again.

So, why do I run? Here are a few of the reasons:

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Boar Meet

I ran into a pack of wild boars the other day. Wild boars? Is there any other kind?

It was on one of my 5am runs that I encountered an adult boar and six piglets. The smaller creatures quickly vanished into the brush, but the adult turned to me and moved steadily forward. It grunted as it approached.

I have written about boars before, and how they became uninvited visitors on my moshav. The last time I saw boars was in the middle of the night a year ago, when two huge creatures ran across my path. But I knew they were still around.

Overturned garbage bins. Garbage on the street. Hoofprints in the garden. Uprooted plants. More garbage.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Sorry Americans, But You Just Won’t Understand This Hilarious Movie

You can be excused if you saw the Netflix film “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” and found the plot to be totally ridiculous. How could there ever be an international song competition with singers who care more about their outlandish appearance than about performing memorable songs?

But Eurovision really exists and this movie accurately presents the glitzy fanfare. As silly as it looks and sounds, Eurovision is serious stuff. After all, the competition introduced the world to Abba and Celine Dion. Broadcast all across Europe and elsewhere around the world, Eurovision is one of the most watched non-sporting events and attracts hundreds of millions of viewers.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The New Normal?

Yesterday some 500 new cases of coronavirus were detected in Israel, the highest number since April. The number of cases keeps going up. Health Ministry officials warn us that we will soon have over a thousand new cases a day, higher than Israel’s peak in late March/early April.

The second wave of the disease seems to be a direct result of the re-opening of the Israeli economy. Life has returned to normal, but a new sort of normal. Things are different.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

I Am Looking for My Next Book to Read

Here’s the deal: Having self-published two novels and a collection of short stories, I know how difficult it is for new authors to find readers and get reviews for their books. I want to help!

I am looking for a novel/s to buy and read. I will endeavor to post an honest review (on my blog, on Amazon, on social media). Honest review. This means clearly stating if I like or don’t like the book; what works in the book and what doesn’t; and whether it’s well-written (no spelling and/or grammar errors).

I am interested in a Kindle digital book that I can purchase and download from Amazon.

If you’re looking for a buyer/reader/reviewer – quite possibly you’ve come to the right place!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Hristo Botev Day

Today in Bulgaria is Hristo Botev Day, honoring the 19th century revolutionary and poet widely considered by Bulgarians to be a symbolic historical figure and national hero. The day also honors all those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and independence of Bulgaria.(Hristo Botev statue in Vratsa, taken on our visit in April 2009.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review of Apeirogon by Colum McCann

"An absorbing tale of hope and love against very great odds"

I recently finished reading an amazing novel by Irish author Colum McCann. Apeirogon is rooted in the unlikely real-life friendship born of tragedy between two fathers - one Israeli and one Palestinian. Together, through their painful stories, these two men seek to forge a path towards empathy, compassion, and hope for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

I never got around to writing a review of this very worthy book so I'll leave it to my good friend, Ranen Omer-Sherman. The following review is posted with his permission.


While there may never be a truly definitive study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the award-winning Irish writer Colum McCann’s astonishingly good Apeirogon surely succeeds more than most when it comes to creating an empathic, morally and aesthetically imaginative portrayal of the extent to which this tragedy has wreaked havoc on innocent human beings on both sides.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

RSVP Funeral

My mother-in-law died last week, but not from COVID-19. These days, that phrase needs to be added when talking about the death of an elderly person, especially one in frail health. Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, especially the elderly, but this was not the case here.

As my family discovered last week, the pandemic also affects the ways we mourn.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Review of ‘The Drive’ by Yair Assulin

Service in the Israeli army is mandatory for all Israelis when they turn 18. Exemptions are given for religion (Arab Israelis, yeshiva students, observant women), pregnancy, or conscientious objection. In addition, as much as one-third of Israeli males and 44% of females avoid being drafted into the military for medical or psychological reasons, according to recent media reports.

In the novel The Drive by Yair Assulin, translated by Jessica Cohen (New Vessel Press, April 2020), the unnamed protagonist is in the middle of his compulsory military service but things are not going well. He feels that the army is suffocating him, that he is enduring three years of slow death.

His parents find their son’s depression difficult to understand. His father admits that army service is not easy, but everyone needs to get through it and there is no choice. Still, the young soldier has no desire to continue and after many arguments with his base commander, schedules an appointment with an IDF Mental Health Officer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Somewhat Unconventional Thriller

Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria by Ellis Shuman is a somewhat unconventional thriller. Set in Bulgaria, it’s also part travelogue, and the “hero” is an elderly gentleman with a limp. Not your typical “noir” setting or private “I”! But that doesn’t make it any less suspenseful. From page one, I was hooked!

Shuman describes the cities and culture of Bulgaria with vivid detail– I wish I could describe settings that well! His main characters are fascinating and believable — a grandfather in search of his grandson who went missing after joining the Peace Corps and is presumed dead, and a mysterious female friend the grandfather meets in Bulgaria, who seems to good-naturedly want to help him. But does she have something to hide?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Historically and Culturally Significant Adventure Thriller

If you are like me, I do a lot of my traveling via books! Certainly, the setting for many fiction novels takes us to exciting places; however, Ellis Shuman who has spent time there, has taken special care in including much more than the usual, in writing Valley of Thracians.

So if you are like myself, as an average American who had no real "perception" or knowledge of this country, then I highly recommend you consider this much more than an exciting adventure thriller--consider it a significant historical and cultural novel from which you will learn much... While enjoying the familial love of a grandfather who refuses to believe his grandson is dead...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Political Leaders Behaving Badly

Our leaders have failed us at the time we need them most

During these difficult days, I no longer leave my home to go to work. I no longer shop, travel, go to movies, or eat out at restaurants. I am maintaining social distance from my grandchildren and have given up family dinners. I am staying in my house.

I am adhering to these restrictions because I must trust the leadership of my country to get us through this crisis together to better times ahead.

Unfortunately, our leaders have not earned that trust.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review of ‘Saving Israel’ by Boaz Dvir

In the years following World War II, leaders of the Yishuv in Palestine were tasked with two major challenges. Transporting displaced Jewish refugees to their new homeland was impeded by the British blockade and obtaining weaponry for the Haganah was restricted by international embargoes. As statehood approached, an imminent Arab invasion threatened the entire Jewish community.

Desperate to get around the British, clandestine operations were launched to airlift weapons and aircraft. The story of efforts to save the Jewish state before its birth is told in Saving Israel: The Unknown Story of Smuggling Weapons and Winning a Nation’s Independence by Boaz Dvir (Stackpole Books, January 2020).

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.