Tuesday, June 18, 2024

"Rakiya" Is Published!

I am excited to let you know that my new book is now available on Amazon in digital, paperback, and hardcover editions.

The first reviews have been posted on Goodreads:

"The stories in Rakiya are as varied as they are engrossing. Each tale is meticulously crafted and deeply affecting. Shuman's deft storytelling brings these characters to life, making their struggles, triumphs, and emotions profoundly relatable."

"Rakiya: Stories of Bulgaria is a masterful collection that will appeal to anyone interested in exploring new cultures through literature. Ellis Shuman's storytelling is both poignant and powerful, making this book a must-read.

"The wide variety of the stories, yet their ability to connect the stories to each other demonstrates how masterfully each story is woven. The vivid imagery and ability of the author to evoke such powerful emotions through his writing demonstrates his craftsmanship. If you are interested in exploring new cultures through literature, this is definitely a collection for you!"

Order your copy of Rakiya: Stories of Bulgaria here:

Amazon US   |  Amazon UK

Friday, June 14, 2024

"A brilliant short story collection" - review

Rakiya: Stories of Bulgaria is a short story collection comprised of eleven short stories designed to introduce the reader not only to a set of interesting characters, but also to the culture, politics and history of Bulgaria. Set against the backdrop of the city, the mountains and caves of significant historical value, Rakiya explores a variety of different stories that in certain aspects, every reader can relate to.

For me, the highlight of this collection is how Shuman intertwines multiple stories, either through characters, or through the historical/geographical locations explored. This added a layer of continuity and connection to the collection.

The wide variety of the stories, yet their ability to connect the stories to each other demonstrates how masterfully each story is woven. The vivid imagery and ability of the author to evoke such powerful emotions through his writing demonstrates his craftsmanship. If you are interested in exploring new cultures through literature, this is definitely a collection for you!

Read the full review on The Pen Not the Sword.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Spotlight Feature on the "Between the Lines" website

 "Today I’m sharing an extract from a book of short stories set in Bulgaria.  Rakiya – Stories of Bulgaria will be released on June 17th (published by GenZ Publishing) in digital format with a paperback to follow."

From the website:

A message from Ellis…’Allow me to introduce Bulgaria with a collection of short stories in which you’ll hear the voices of native Bulgarians as well as see the country through the eyes of those visiting Bulgaria for the first time. You’ll experience Bulgaria’s unique rich history and traditions and explore the country’s picturesque villages and stunning nature. You’ll get a virtual taste of Bulgarian cuisine topped off with the country’s traditional alcoholic drink – rakiya.

Read the post and an excerpt from the story "The Baker" on the Between the Lines website.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Relocation to Bulgaria at Age 52? Here’s What Happened Next.

My boss called me into his office one day toward the end of 2008 and informed me that my job was being relocated from Tel Aviv to Bulgaria. If I didn’t agree to relocate, someone would be chosen to replace me. I thought it was too late in my career to consider an offer of relocation, so this took me by surprise.

I told my wife that we needed to talk.

At the time, I was a division manager in an Israel-based company providing marketing and support services in the online gaming sector. I had been working at the company for four years. “We have one week to decide whether to relocate,” I told my wife.

Being forced to make a life-changing decision in such a short time was the deciding factor. If we had more time to think about relocation, we would have probably rejected the offer. After all, my wife and I had aging parents to care for and we couldn’t see being away from our children, even though they were already adults. And what would we do with our house? Our cats?

Bulgaria. We had never even considered traveling to the country on a vacation, less moving there to work. In a quick, somewhat impulsive decision, we accepted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I relocated to Sofia in January 2009 and my wife arrived three weeks later, in the midst of a ferocious snowstorm. Our new lives were about to begin.

Working in Bulgaria, Touring in Bulgaria

All my tasks and responsibilities as a division manager moved to Bulgaria with me. But now, I was managing my team in Tel Aviv remotely from Bulgaria.

My coworkers in Sofia were Bulgarians, but everyone spoke English in the workplace. They were all much younger than me – the age of my children. They spent their nights at Sofia’s bars and clubs, and their weekends on the ski slopes in winter, and on the Black Sea beaches in summer. My wife and I utilized our free time to explore the country.

We visited the picturesque villages. We learned about Bulgaria’s colorful culture and history. We toured Plovdiv and Varna, and the famous Rila Monastery. We dined on nutritious Bulgarian cuisine and made many new friends. And all this without learning anything more than basic Bulgarian.

And then before we knew it, our two-year contract ended, and it was time to return home.

In My Writing, I Return to Bulgaria Every Day

After resuming my job in Israel, I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about Bulgaria. But I soon found that I was able to return to Bulgaria every single day – in my writing. I grew up with the dream of becoming an author. Even today I write all the time. And it was my writing about Bulgaria, based on my experiences there, that really got my creative juices flowing.

I published my novel Valley of Thracians (January 2013). The book is a suspenseful tale of a Peace Corps volunteer who goes missing in Bulgaria, and of his grandfather who launches a search for him against all odds. My second novel The Burgas Affair (published in Bulgarian in 2016 by Ciela, and in English in 2017) is a fictional account of the aftermath of the 2012 terrorist bombing in Burgas, in which five Israelis were killed in the blast, along with their Bulgarian bus driver.

Rakiya – Stories of Bulgaria

I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, Rakiya – Stories of Bulgaria (GenZ Publishing, June 17, 2024). In the eleven stories of Rakiya, you'll meet a mother 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.

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

If I had not accepted the relocation offer and had not worked for two years in Sofia at age 52, I would never have become a published author!

Order your copy of Rakiya – Stories of Bulgaria today!

Monday, June 3, 2024

"Rakiya" - 2 Weeks Away

Two weeks until the official release of Rakiya - Stories of Bulgaria!

Pre-order your digital copy today! Paperback to follow.

Friday, May 31, 2024

First Review of "Rakia" Is In!

"Shuman's vivid descriptions of Bulgaria's beautiful landscapes and cultural traditions are a testament to his deep love and understanding of the country. Through his evocative prose, readers are transported to a land rich in beauty and history, gaining insights into the everyday lives and struggles of its people."

"Rakiya: Stories of Bulgaria" is a masterful collection that will appeal to anyone interested in exploring new cultures through literature. Ellis Shuman's storytelling is both poignant and powerful, making this book a must-read.'

Posted by Betty Taylor

Read the full review on Goodreads

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!

Related articles:

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

My Short Story "Boxes" Published in 'Door Is A Jar' Literary Magazine

I'm proud to announce that my short story "Boxes" was published yesterday in the Spring 2024 edition of Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine.

Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine is a quarterly print and digital publication of poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, drama, artwork and book reviews. Issue 30, Spring 2024, of the magazine is now live.

The new issue features the creative works of 44 contributors from all around the world.

Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine can be found on the newsstand in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and independent bookstores nationwide.

Copies of the magazine can be ordered directly from the website.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

"The Carpet Salesman" - short story

Business in the carpet department was slow; in fact, it was non-existent. Ziv sat behind his desk from the moment the store opened in the morning until it closed for the night, and looked out at the furniture displays with little to distract him.

Occasionally, shoppers walked into Ziv’s section of the floor and admired the classic handmade Persian carpets bearing certificates of authenticity, or the multi-colored Boho-chic area rugs with their handwoven geometric designs hanging from ceiling-high racks, but few expressed real interest. For long hours, Ziv remained motionless and undisturbed. His shift passed slowly, and he had to prevent himself from yawning and stay presentable at all times.

“It’s minimum wage, but you’ll earn substantial commissions,” the store manager had promised Ziv on his first day of work, three months earlier. “Our carpets are of the highest quality and sales will be good.”

But there were no sales. Ziv knew that the imported carpets were over-priced and apparently the customers were aware of this as well. Of all the departments in the store, Ziv’s was the least successful, yet Management insisted it was to be manned full time. As long as Ziv was available for shoppers, whenever they had questions to ask, and as long as Ziv didn’t complain, he would keep his job, and for this he was grateful.

When he finished work, Ziv boarded the bus for the journey to his small apartment in a quiet Ramat Gan neighborhood. He climbed three flights of stairs and unlocked his door. Immediately Charlie, his ginger-colored cat, rubbed against his legs, purring in eager anticipation of leftovers from the night before. Ziv couldn’t afford canned or packaged cat food, but Charlie didn’t seem to mind. Before feeding him, Ziv picked up the animal with affection, but Charlie had a mean streak and scratched Ziv’s cheek, drawing blood.

As Ziv stared into a mirror, holding a tissue to the wound, he wondered where his life had gone off track. He had grown up in a middle-class neighborhood with caring parents and three older siblings, but he had lost touch with them after his army service. They refused to support him when repeated failures in mathematics studies caused him to drop out of university. “Get a hold on yourself,” his father said to him the last time Ziv had visited home. “We love you, but it’s time for you to start your own life,” his mother said.

He hadn’t seen them since.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Introducing Max

When the cat died, we said that would be the last of our pets. Forty years of cats, and now it was time to start living. No responsibilities, no worries when out of the house, when traveling. Yet my heart called out for more. A dog.

In the past few months, my children sent me WhatsApp notices of puppies up for adoption. My granddaughters nudged me over and over – "When are you getting a dog? "Soon," I promised them. "Soon," I promised myself.

"We'll get a dog when the house renovations are finished," Jodie said to me. Three months behind schedule, but at last the majority of the work has been completed. It's time for a dog.

It's time for a dog

I joined a number of Facebook groups. Dogs for Adoption. Dog Lovers – For Adoption Only! Adopting Dogs Limited. Posts of available dogs were frequent, but, none of them were suitable. Jodie and I had made a few decisions. No puppies—we wouldn't be able to handle the training. We wouldn't pay for a dog. No pedigreed dogs. No dogs from shelter that could be suffering from traumas in their past. And, possibly most importantly for Jodie, the dog should not be a barker. In short, we wanted to adopt a dog from a family.

The first dog we interviewed for the position was a big, black, beautiful dog with white spots—Panda—who belonged to the brother of the person in charge of Neve Ilan's youth activities. Panda lived nearby. Panda was very friendly, jumping to lick your face when you first met him. But Panda was strong. Very strong. When we took him on a quick introductory walk, Jodie immediately realized she wouldn't be able to handle him.

How is Max with children?

I found a listing for Max on Yad2, the popular site where people sell, buy, give away, and search for everything from apartments for sale or rent, cars, furniture, and apparently, animals.

I called the phone listed with Max and a young male voice answered the phone. I asked a number of questions. "Does the dog bark?" "How is the dog with strangers?" "How is the dog with other dogs?" "With cats?" "How is the dog with children?"

"He's very good with children," the person said. "I'm a child."

"How old are you?" I asked.


That wasn't what I meant when I asked about children. Would the dog get along with my granddaughters? Would he be a good match for my four-year-old granddaughter?

Max was born and spent his puppyhood in Karnei Shomron. From there, two teenage boys traveled on a bus for 90 minutes with Max to their yeshiva in Jerusalem. The yeshiva informed the boys that they had 2 days to get rid of the dog. The boys were rushed to give Max away.

We planned to go to Jerusalem to meet Max on Friday morning at 11:00, with no commitment to take him. But then, the meeting with Panda was set up, so I informed the boys that we were considering other options, that we wouldn't be coming into Jerusalem after all. A few minutes later I received an SMS. "So, are you coming to Jerusalem?"

When the possibility of adopting Panda didn't work out, I sent another message to the boys asking them if we could still come. They happily agreed.

We immediately feel in love with him

We met Max in one of the boy's homes in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood. It was a religious household—their table was already set for Shabbat dinner at ten in the morning. Max was a little hesitant about approaching us, but he seemed like a friendly, healthy dog. We took him for an introductory walk and Jodie confirmed that she was strong enough to handle Max's strength. So, we took Max home with us.

To say that our family, especially our granddaughters, were excited about meeting Max, was the understatement of the year. They immediately fell in love with him, as did I. As did Jodie.

Max is beautiful. Friendly. He gets along with children. He likes other dogs (but not all male dogs like him). He has a healthy appetite. He is healthy, vaccinated, and has an identifying microchip embedded under his skin. He likes to take walks. He will soon be neutered. And, he also has a mind of his own.

"Max!" we call out. He races on.

Friday night dinner. Our entire family is enjoying our meal in Merav's new apartment above ours. Max stands to the side, sniffing at the good smells coming from the table. "No table scraps for you! Sit, Max!" And he obeys. Mostly.

The front door is left open a few seconds more than it should, and Max dashes out. He bounds down the steep steps and into the street. He runs into unknown territory. Maybe he's heading for his Jerusalem yeshiva? Or for his previous home in Karnei Shomron?

We all race after him. Reut and Gali run in one direction and then Erez and I spot Max up the street. He's fast! And, it's starting to rain. Max dashes into a garden. And the rain picks up. It's dark and we don't see Max. It's suddenly a downpour, and we are soaked to the core. We reach the street and follow Max into a four-inch-deep puddle. "Max!" we call out. He races on.

At last, Max turns into a fenced garden and I am able to slip on his leash. We head back to the house, where the entire family is waiting.

Max is back. Max is with his new family. Max is wonderful. Max is now part of our lives. And, we'll make sure to keep the front door closed for now.

(Two days after this story was written, Max escaped again. We really need to keep the door closed!)


# # #

Friday, January 26, 2024

Review of 'Bulgaria, the Jews, and the Holocaust' by Dr. Nadège Ragaru

The facts appear to be clear-cut. Despite Bulgaria's alliance with Germany during World War Two, its 48,000 Jewish citizens were not deported to the Nazi death camps. That said, 11,343 Jews from the Bulgarian-controlled territories of Macedonia, Serbia, and Thrace were 'cruelly loaded on trains bound for Treblinka, where they were murdered.' In the aftermath of these two parallel Holocaust storylines, many questions have been raised. Who rescued the Jews of Bulgaria? And, who is responsible for the deaths of the Jews from Bulgarian territories? The answers are not as simple as they may seem, and in fact, can be quite controversial.

These questions and more are raised in Bulgaria, the Jews, and the Holocaust: On the Origins of a Heroic Narrative by Nadège Ragaru, translated by Victoria Baena and David A. Rich (University of Rochester Press, October 2023). Originally published in French in 2020, this book is an exhaustive archival investigation into how the survival of Bulgarian Jewry emerged as the primary narrative of Bulgaria's Holocaust years, while the deportations and deaths of Macedonian, Serbian, and Greek Jews were blamed solely on Nazi Germany.

As recently as January 2023, 80 years after those deportations and murders, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture issued a statement praising 'the significant role of the Bulgarian state, its institutions, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and the Bulgarian people for this unprecedented act in Europe in one of the darkest years of our continent, when the Bulgarian people and state demonstrated tolerance, empathy, but also will and courage to save their Jewish fellow citizens.'

Yes, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, many brave politicians, and the Bulgarian people in general can claim credit for saving Bulgarian Jews, but, as the author points out, the Bulgarian state and its institutions were directly responsible for policing the occupied territories, for rounding up the Jews living there, and for sending them to their deaths in the concentration camps.

To prove this argument, the author presents an eclectic mix of rarely considered evidence. She first explores the Bulgarian People's Courts, set up following the war's end to prosecute representatives of the pro-Nazi governing elite responsible for anti-Jewish persecutions. Then the author turns to the Cold War partnership of Bulgaria and East Germany within the framework of a film coproduction.

The author next considers just 'a few minutes of documentary footage that contains the only recorded images of Jewish deportation from the occupied territories.' These images play into the story promoted by the Bulgarian socialist regime in the 1960s and 1970s, which glorified the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews. The following chapter focuses on the 1990s and the changing memory of the Holocaust in the post-Communist period. In a chapter devoted to the years between 2000 and 2010, the author explores the 'Jews' engagement in memory politics, and their contribution to greater awareness of how timely a discussion of Bulgaria's co-responsibility in Jewish persecution in the 'new' and 'old' kingdoms may be.'

This is not easy reading, and to be clear, this is not a history of Bulgaria during World War Two. Bulgaria, the Jews, and the Holocaust uniquely presents the Jewish wartime experience with a consideration of the political, legal, historical, artistic and memorial aspects from the changing decades of post-war Bulgaria. Ultimately, as noted by the publisher, the author 'restores Jewish voices to the story of their own wartime suffering'.

The book, exhaustive in depth and scope, annotated with sources in multiple languages showing the meticulousness of the author's research, will appeal primarily to historians interested in the varied archival materials presented on its pages.

Dr. Nadège Ragaru is a Research Professor at the Centres d'études internationales (CERI), in Paris, France.

Bulgaria, the Jews, and the Holocaust: On the Origins of a Heroic Narrative is available in Open access.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

"Pomelos" - short story

The war had been raging for 40 days when Eli reported to the orchards. Seven in the morning and he was the first one. The only one. Was he in the right place? Was he in his right mind to have driven an hour and a half from his relatively safe home in Tel Aviv to this remote orchard in the relatively unsafe south? All was quiet at this hour—no rockets, artillery, or jets overhead—but everything could change without a moment’s notice, and he was a bit nervous.

“It’s completely safe there,” he had reassured Batya the previous night when he announced his intention to volunteer at the kibbutz. “There have been no rocket alerts or incidents in that area.”

“Still, you’ll be very close to Gaza,” she replied, a worried look on her face. “You should go to some farm near Netanya instead.”

“I’m going where I’m most needed,” he insisted.

And that was that. He woke up before his alarm rang, put on the hiking boots he hadn’t worn since his hiking trip in the Bulgarian mountains ten years earlier. He took two pitot out of the freezer and made cheese sandwiches for his lunch. After packing a bottle of mineral water in his bag, he was ready to go.

“I should be back in the early afternoon,” he whispered to Batya as he kissed her on the forehead.

“As long as you come back in one piece,” she replied without opening her eyes.

They needed him; he told himself repeatedly as he drove south. Thai and Nepalese workers had fled from the country in the aftermath of that horrific Saturday the previous month. Who would work in the fields? Who would pick the crops? Volunteers, that’s who! And he had stepped up to the plate. He was sixty-five years old, but damn if he couldn’t help save Israeli agriculture.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Review of 'Malign Intent' by Robert Craven

Garda Inspector P.J. Crowe returns in Malign Intent by Robert Craven (December 2023), a sequel to the crime thriller A Kind of Drowning. As in the previous book, Crowe's career is in tatters, his position in the force uncertain. At the beginning of one shift, he is called to investigate when a body, dressed in outdoor gear, is found swaying from a tree at the edge of a forest.

"You are to close it off as a suicide," his boss, Chief Superintendent O'Suilleabháin, instructs him. "Official, like."

"Suicide, not proven," Crowe replies. For him, 'not proven meant doubt. Doubt implied a crime… He didn't like it, but Crowe had a murder on his hands.' Of this, only he is convinced, so he sets out himself to solve the crime.

Is Crowe up for the mission? His superiors believe he is 'still recovering from an adjustment reaction linked to the circumstances in which he finds himself.' His violent assault and battery escapades in a previous case are well known, leading him to avoid social media and its toxic trolling, but Crowe insists he is "calmer now… less extreme."

"I did what any good cop would do," Crowe reassures a fellow inspector. Solving this murder case is, for him, 'a solid piece of real police work… For the first time in nearly two years, Crowe felt the surge of intent. A reminder to him as to why he became a policeman. To protect the public.'

Malign Intent will appeal to readers who appreciate police procedural crime fiction. Capturing one's attention is the thriller's setting in rural Ireland. Ireland, with its rutted moonscapes and coastal fogs, and the vanilla and black thunderheads rolling inwards from the sea.

For Crowe, 'every crime has a window of opportunity; a golden few minutes, hours, and days before threads of evidence start to wither and go cold or disperse as life continues on without the dead.'. The long days of Ireland's Atlantic autumnal rains are coming, and the clock is ticking for Crowe to solve the crime. We are partner to his investigation, assured that no matter what its result, we anticipate meeting Crowe again in his future cases.

Robert Craven is an award-winning Irish author of thrilling fiction. His novel, Eagles Hunt Wolves was the winner of the 2021 Firebird Book Award for best Action/Adventure. His other novels include the Eva series (Get Lenin, Zinnman, A Finger of Night, Hollow Point, and Eagles Hunt Wolves); the Steampunk novel The Mandarin Cipher; and the crime thriller A Kind of Drowning. His short stories have been published in three anthologies and he is also a regular reviewer of CDs for the Independent Irish Review Ireland.