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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gaza

I haven’t written for a while. Away in Israel during the month of June, and busy for the past two months with the last editing sequence of the Hebrew version of my memoir, I was too busy to write. That, in spite of the events that precipitated the current cycle of violence that is raging between Israel and Hamas. Then the war broke out and I was reluctant to write about it. Not only because much has been already written and spoken about the war, but also because I find it too hard emotionally. It brings me back to the day I was widowed during the 1967 war. As if time hasn’t passed. As if I haven’t successfully rebuilt a fulfilling life for myself.

But I can’t remain silent. Not after the odd ceasefire proposal that Secretary of State John Kerry submitted to the parties on Friday. 

To be sure, there have been enough reasons to speak up, from the moment three innocent Jewish Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, by two Palestinian terrorists disguised as religious Jews, and the Israeli government’s response to the kidnapping. I was in Israel then, affected by the grace of the missing children’s parents.

Two weeks after their abduction their  slaughtered bodies were found. That followed by the horrific murder of a Palestinian boy by a few misguided avenging extremist Israeli Jews, and all hell broke loose.

Israeli cities have been bombarded by Hamas with thousands of rockets and missiles to which Israel had no choice but to respond. Additionally, Israel discovered over thirty underground tunnels Hamas had built in order to penetrate Israeli towns, for the purpose of abducting and killing Israelis. That discovery has suddenly posed a strategic challenge for Israel it hasn’t known before.

Israel is facing a cruel, stubborn, sardonic enemy that is gaining from the suffering of its own people. That is how terrorist organizations operate. They rely on political gains resulting from widespread sympathy after massive retaliation that is expected from the party they had harmed in the first place. You can read about such tactics in any introductory textbook on the subject of terrorism.

Still, no human being can be oblivious to the horrifying pictures that come out of Gaza. They are not helpful to American interests, nor to Israel’s. But American cities are not bombarded and hundreds, if not thousands of terrorists that could infiltrate US borders through underground tunnels do not threaten its citizens. Witness the outcry in Congress over the infiltration of undocumented youth through American borders. Can you imagine what the US would do if the infiltrators would be terrorists that openly call for your country’s destruction rather than undocumented immigrants?

That is why Israelis are so upset with Secretary Kerry’s ceasefire proposal. It took into account all of Hamas’s demands, neglecting Israel’s legitimate concerns, and it designated Qatar and Turkey, two countries that are extremely hostile to Israel, as emissaries.
You do not have to be a right wing Israeli to be shocked by such a proposal. No one who knows me can accuse me of being one.


The suffering needs to stop. The pictures of Israeli mothers and fathers burying their sons, and those of pregnant widows, like I was so many years ago, break my heart. So do the images that are coming out of Gaza. In spite of that there is no moral equivalency here.


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Monday, May 5, 2014

BLOG HOP: Write On!




When my writer/friend Linda Rosen invited me to join this blog hop, first I was overwhelmed. I hesitated because of my busy schedule, concerned that I’ll have something else to do in addition to teaching, grading, writing, editing, and what not. But being thankful for the opportunity, I immediately accepted Linda’s kind invitation, thinking about the chance she has offered me to become part of a community of bloggers. You may already know Linda from our blog connection. Nonetheless, let me introduce her to you:


Linda Rosen lives in New Jersey with her husband.  When she’s not teaching fitness classes or working with private clients, she enjoys creating stories for readers to devour curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea.  Her unpublished novel seeking representation, FLOURISH, was a semi-finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She has been published in 201 Family Magazine and The Dying Goose. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association, NYC chapter, co-coordinator of Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month, and has a website, www.linda-rosen.com, which links to her blog, The Literary Leotard.

As for me, Since 1986 I have taught a wide variety of courses in Political Science at Queens College. Throughout my academic career I have been actively participating in numerous conferences and I have been an invited guest speaker to many lectures.
In 1995-1996, as a Fulbright scholar, I went to Israel and the Palestinian Authority for my post-Doctorate project, interviewing Israeli and Palestinian women affected by conflict and war. I presented my finding both in writing and lectures.
In 1996 my book Israel on the Road to Peace: Accepting the Unacceptable was published (Westview Press), as were my book reviews, book-chapters, and articles. Currently I am writing a women’s fiction. As I mentioned earlier, I hope my memoir will be published both in English and Hebrew soon enough.
I live with my husband in New York City. I love music and the opera, ballet and the theatre, but mostly I love to spend time with my two lovely grandchildren. I intend to return to my painting sometime in the future. And when I will find the time I will go back to my painting.


1) What am I working on? I have just completed my third version of my memoir No Laughter in Winter, and sent it for yet another round of editing. My Hebrew version of the book is with Orion Publishers in Israel. Hopefully the book will be published by the end of this year, or early next year.
My task now is to work with the editors of both versions of the memoir. In between I hope to return to my women’s fiction (no name yet).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I guess every memoir is unique because each tells a story about an exceptional life experience.  We all use the term “voice,” using our own and giving voice to others. In my memoir I not only tell my own tale of love, loss and triumph, but I give voice to women who have suffered the consequences of war and its aftermath; young women who had been preyed upon by men, often experiencing the double standard with which their societies have judged them.

My women’s fiction tells the story of a fiery aging woman who refuses to live by the rules.   

3) Why do I write what I do? When a friend, to whom I was lamenting about the difficulty of publishing my book in the traditional route, asked me why is it so important for me to publish my work, to which I dedicated six or seven years of writing, rewriting and translating, I answered: “Because I have an important story to tell.” I have known for years that I’ll tell my story. Most importantly, it is a story I believe in.

4) How does my writing process work? I’ve written academically, but creative writing is completely different. No advisers, no “readers.” No one taught me how to write creatively. I just write, then rewrite, and write again, till I say to myself “it’s time to know when to stop.” Since English is not my native tongue, I am not always sure about the exactness of the words I choose: Is this the right use of the word? Is there a better one? Should I try to be more sophisticated? Is simplicity the answer? Then I follow my intuition, while allowing myself to make mistakes, as I am certain you’d notice. I have become much more self-forgiving when I make them, and I go on. As for style, I like the combination of long, sometimes run on sentences, and very short ones. I like to use color and smells, and detailed descriptions.

I’d like to thank Linda again for inviting me to be part of this Blog Hop, and to introduce my friend Barbara Sutton Masry to you.



Barbara is a screenwriter and a playwright, but she also writes short stories. She produced and co-wrote the short, “A Wake-up Call.”  She served as assistant producer for the historic, award-winning short, “Equality” about the first women’s liberation march and the prize-winning short, “The Most Dangerous Animal.”  Her full length feature, “A Wake-up Call,” is in development with attachments from the actors, Mira Sorvino, Dermot Mulroney, Ashanti, Peter Jacobson, Dan Hedaya and Amanda Setton.  She has a second feature in development,” Love Potion No. 10,” a romantic comedy. 

 Previously, Barbara was an educator and community activist while playwriting and producing. She produced her play, “Rewriting Her Life,” as an Equity Showcase at The 411 Space in Manhattan, and in Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Summerfest.  Her play, “Kika” was given a reading at the cell theatre in honor of the League of Professional Theatre Women’s 30th Anniversary. Among the plays she has written and produced,  “A Fettucini Affair” was published by Samuel French.   Other plays include the musicals, “Womansong” and “Suburban Serenade.” She has also written and produced shows for Cable TV and the videos, “My Paris, “ and “A Day in Pre-K.”  Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, and other Long Island newspapers.  She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, NYWIFT, (New York Women In Film and Television,  IFP, (Independent Feature Project) and The League of Professional Theatre Women.  She was named to the Town of North Hempstead Women’s Roll of Honor.   Her website is: awakeupcallfilm.com.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Memorial Day

A while ago I returned from the Memorial Day service honoring fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorist acts, which was held at the 92nd Street YMHA in Manhattan.

Tonight and tomorrow, throughout the Day of Remembrance, Israel will somberly remember its fallen. Tomorrow night, at the end of the day, the country will begin to celebrate its 66th Day of Independence.

The moving ceremony I attended today, and those I have attended for the last forty-seven years, is very personal for me: My first husband Yigal was one among the 23,169 Israeli soldiers who fell while in military duty since the beginning of the struggle for Israel’s Independence.  Close to 2,500 more were victims of terrorist acts.

Yigal was burnt beyond recognition on June 9th, 1967, when a Syrian missile hit his armored vehicle as his brigade began its ascendance to the Golan Heights, during the Six-Day war.  He died thirty-six hours later at the age of twenty-eight. I was twenty-three and pregnant, but I lost our unborn child because of the shock I endured seeing him minutes before his death.

Nearly half a century later I still sobbed when the cantor sang the somber Jewish prayer for the dead “God Full of Mercy.” When a bereaved brother recited the “Kadish” prayer, I solemnly recalled the unbearably painful expression etched on Yigal’s father’s face whenever he recited that prayer for his dead son, by whose side he remained until Yigal stopped breathing his insufferable loud, choking breaths.

“Yigal will always be the most important man in your life,” Stephen, my husband of nearly forty years then, told me in the autumn of 2010, after reading in Lilith Magazine, my chapter “A Knock at the Door in the Darkness of Night,” which was excerpted from my memoir “No Laughter in Winter,” to be published this year or next.

“How can you say that?” I protested. “I am married to you for almost forty years, whereas I was married to Yigal for three years only. You are the man with whom I decided to share my life far away from my family and the country I loved. We have a daughter and two grand children, and a shared history that is unique to us.” Then I admitted that losing Yigal so abruptly, seeing his scorched body and face and hearing his last breaths, all against the advice of his doctor, who feared the effect the sight would have on my pregnancy, is the most important experience of my life, our marriage and the births of our daughter and our grandchildren notwithstanding.

The last time I saw Yigal before he went to war he hoped would not break out he looked attractive and composed. While a military truck was waiting for him we said our goodbyes. We hugged and kissed for a long time, and then he put his hand on my stomach and held it there as if to protect his child. I always try to remember him the way he looked. But I can’t help remembering me standing by his side, unable to recognize him, his beautiful face erased by fire as if it never existed; the man whose loveliness will remain only in the memory of those who loved him.

This morning I woke up with a nightmare. It was nothing compared to the reality of the early hours of June 11th, 1967, that will forever remain with me. Inexplicably part of the rich and rewarding life am able to live.


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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Preview

It’s been exactly two-years since I created my blog. My first entry “Traditional or Self Publishing” spoke to the dilemma writers, new or established, face in the cutthroat industry of book publishing. While many writers are reluctant to self-publish because they want to be recognized by a traditional publishing house, the trend of self-publishing is growing.

It took me two years of agony to finally decide to self publish my book No Laughter in Winter (formerly titled War Widow), both in English and in Hebrew, the latter in Israel, where the publishing industry is even more restrictive than in the U.S.

“Liberating,” is the word some authors with whom I have spoken termed their decision to self-publish.

When a friend, to whom I was lamenting about the difficulties publishing my book in the traditional route, asked me why is it so important for me to publish my work, to which I dedicated six or seven years of writing, rewriting and translating, I answered: “Because I have an important story to tell.”  I have known for years that I’ll tell that story. Most importantly, it is a story I believe in.

It is a story about a young girl born in Tel Aviv, Israel. My childhood years were marked by my mother’s severe recurrent depression. Like other children I blamed myself for my mother’s illness. Nothing original about that.

Like many more children around the world, I grew up in times of war.

Like other  women, I fell madly in love with a man too popular among the opposite sex and got married young in spite of doubting my decision. Again, nothing unusual.

Like other women I suffered two miscarriages: a girl, who was too small to survive after twenty-two week of pregnancy, and a boy who lived for thirty-six hours after twenty-six weeks of pregnancy. Years later technology would have him survive. I went through a corrective procedure, and was "as good as new," planning another pregnancy.

Becoming a young war widow is not extraordinary either. But, seeing your husband burnt beyond recognition and hearing his deafening last breaths, your body succumbing because of the shock, suffering a near death experience, being medically abused in the hospital where you stay while trying desperately to save your pregnancy, loosing your unborn child after your husband's death and blaming yourself for depriving your in-laws of the grandchild they wanted so badly, is not an ordinary tale.

Having been “discovered” as a young widow by men for your “beauty”, is a story many young widows can probably tell. Stories about relationships with famous married men have too been portrayed. Having fled from a smothering love affair to a far away land may also be considered commonplace. Having been raped by your fallen husband’s best friend may not.

That all these things happened to one young woman, who persevered in spite of the dark fears she endured before healing, became an activist, and successfully rebuilt her life, is unique.

That is why I wrote my book. Not to be pitied or admired. But to inspire men and women who faced life’s most difficult challenges. To give voice to the women who influenced my life, to the severely depressed and their families and to young widows who face double standards in the societies in which they live.

Today I live in New York City with my American husband;  I am a mother of a special daughter who is married to a devoted son in law, a grandmother of two who fill my life with joy, a lecturer at Queens College/CUNY and a recipient of Fulbright scholarship. Currently I am working on a woman's novel in between re-editing my memoir. 

I hope you care to read my book once it’s published, for I am committed to tell my story.


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