Greetings, my lovely friends! I have a few exciting things to tell you:
#RBRT Award Nomination!
By Light of Hidden Candles received positive reviews from two reviewers on Rosie’s Book Review Team (Barb Taub and Olga Núñez Miret), and it was just selected as a finalist for the RBRT Awards in the category of Romance! If you’d like to help it win the award, you can vote for it here by December 15th!
The other big thing is that I think I have completed the first draft of what may very well be my next book. (!!!)
I think, because it’s a collection of interconnected short stories surrounding the evacuation of a fictional Jewish settlement in Gaza, and I thought I was done last week after completing story #10… and then, the next day, I got a tap on my shoulder: “Excuse me, hi, I’m story #11, will you write me please? Kthnx”
So… no guarantees there won’t be #12 or #13!
Here’s my one-paragraph summary:
On August 18th, 2005, Israeli forces entered the Jewish settlement of Neve Adva to evict its residents from their homes. These are the stories of eleven people whose lives were turned upside down that day: from a left-wing journalist covering the evacuation, to the rabbi seeking meaning in it; from an ex-religious soldier who must evict his long-lost first love, to a Holocaust survivor haunted by memories from his past; from a widow escorting her husband’s body to a new grave, to a pair of sisters torn apart by the choice to leave; from a retired midwife displeased with her strange new neighbors, to a young Palestinian girl looking for hope among senseless destruction. Their perspectives come together to form a harrowing panorama of the events of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza: one of the deepest–and most overlooked–political crises in the history of the Jewish State.
I’m very excited about this project, for a few reasons. This topic remains woefully unexplored, especially by the secular and international communities. The only people who seem to still be talking about it at all are the dati leumi (religious Zionist) sector in Israel–as a Tisha-B’Av related topic, listed among the great calamities that befell the Jewish people in that period along with the destruction of the Temple, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the adoption of the Final Solution by the Nazis. While I am dati leumi (and a settler!) myself, it bothers me that this seems to be the only perspective on the event that is being relayed and retold and passed down. I was always very torn about the disengagement and never completely agreed or disagreed with one side or the other. I think that fact, and my ability as a writer to step into the shoes of people who have very different perspectives than mine, put me in a unique position to write this book. I feel that the literary form I chose–short story cycle/composite novella, a collection of interconnected short stories–is a really good way to express my wildly different and sometimes conflicting feelings about this topic.
So, even more than it is an expression of the deep fractures the disengagement cut into Israeli society, Disengagement is an expression of the fractures the event cut into me. To quote Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook of blessed memory: “Those who have said of me that my soul is torn–spoke well. Of course it is torn… and blessed be God who made me this soul.”
I am now editing and tweaking the stories, and waiting on some feedback from the amazing Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Palestinian-American humanitarian activist and fellow TOI blogger who grew up in Gaza and who kindly offered to help me with the story about the Palestinian girl. Next I’ll probably be sending it to some beta-readers for more feedback, and then we’ll see…
A Debate on Whether Interfaith Dialogue Has a Place in Orthodox Judaism
In other news, remember the reviewer I mentioned in my TOI article about interfaith dialogue, the one who was uncomfortable with my “respect for Christianity”? She read that article and wrote to me about it, and we had a discussion on the topic, which she posted on her blog here (with my permission of course). It’s very long, mostly because she quoted a lot of sources in full, but I think you won’t miss much by skipping them. I feel we got a little sidetracked by the debate about how Judaism views Christian theology, because that’s not the most important point I was trying to make. I’m interested to know what you think.
Attending–and Running a Workshop at the NbN Desert Writers’ Retreat
Lastly: next Thursday, right after Chanukah, I’ll be off to the Negev Desert for a two-day English-language writers’ retreat subsidized by Nefesh B’Nefesh! It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. In the application form, I was asked whether I’d be able to run a workshop, and I offered to run one on the topic of coping with rejection, because hey–that’s my expertise, right? 😉 I was contacted by one of the organizers yesterday to discuss the details, so it looks like that will be happening! I’ll let you know how it goes–and will hopefully have someone video part of it to put up on my YouTube channel.
Wishing joyful holidays to all!