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Monday, December 28, 2009


Leicester Shul

Bringing Mummy home was strangely comforting.
Not because I wasn’t very sad that my Mother had died, not because I wasn’t shocked at her unexpected death. But because her final requests had been fulfilled and Hashem had enabled us to do what she had been asking for a long time.

Over the years Mummy had continually stressed two extremely important requests over and over again .
The first was that despite the fact that she loved us all, her daughters, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she only ever wanted to live on her own, in her own home, under her own roof and nowhere, absolutely nowhere, else.
The second one was that she wanted to be buried next to my father who had died 32 years earlier.
The first request I tried not to comment on. The best I could say was that I hoped so / if it were possible/ if she was well enough / circumstances permitting etc .
But the second condition we promised , unless totally unforeseen circumstances occurred.

I was no stranger to the cemetery where my father was buried. I had left the town of my birth almost 40 years ago and had been living in Israel for 25 years. But, almost every time I returned to London to visit my mother, I had spent a day to traveling to Leicester, the city in the Midlands, the center of England , where my parents had settled in war time, and where I and my sisters had been born and brought up.
My mother's happiest years of her life were spent in Leicester and although, after my father died, she agreed to move to London, where all her children were then living, her heart had never left this city.
From the bus station, I would take a taxi to the cemetery, ask the driver to wait half an hour and I would visit my father’s and grandparents’ graves and say Tehillim .
When I returned, my mother, who had not been mobile enough to make this journey for many years, always asked me if her ‘spot’ was still waiting next to my father and I always assured her it was.

It never occurred to me, when we had this conversation in the summer, how soon her wishes were to be fulfilled.
A fall in her home and a badly broken leg meant an operation and hospitalization..
In the ensuing time in rehabilitation, severe breathing problems had set in. After two months the doctors decreed that she would have to be released to a facility offering 24 hour medical care.
We dreaded breaking the news to her. Our hearts and minds were mangled with guilt at not being able to avoid what she most dreaded.
Outwardly Mummy appeared to accept the inevitable. We thought she was being kind to us but in retrospect it must have been that her unwavering faith in G’d’s kindness led her to be sure it simply would never happen. .
Twelve days later, as we were trying to arrange for her to be transferred to a Home that we desperately hoped would be acceptable to her, she passed away, calmly whilst sitting in her chair in the rehabilitation ward.
Hashem in His kindness had granted her wish.

Now as my sisters and I tore our shirts in mourning and watched as her body was laid to rest next to my father’s, I could only think, “Mummy, we’re going to miss you terribly, but your wishes were granted and we’ve finally brought you home”.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I was visiting Acre recently and although I went mainly to see the renovated Old City and the Knight’s Halls, I decided to also take in, once again, the section of the fortress which had served as a prison for our underground fighters, during the time of the British Mandate, before the founding of the State.

While I was there a group of students, girls in their late teens, arrived.
Throughout their visit they were chattering amongst themselves, sometimes listening to their guide, often not. There were many Ethiopian girls for whom I understood that this was their first taste of pre-State history.

They were on a special two day tour entitled “ From the Holocaust to the State” taking in a variety of sites commemorating the Holocaust ( Yad Vashem, Hannah Senesh’s home, Lochamei HaGetaot,) and sites and memorials connected to the War of Independence ( Atlit transit cap, the Yechiam Convoy, Acre )

From talking to their teachers I understood that despite all the preparations and studying, they hadn’t really succeeded in making the Ethiopian students feel that this was part of their history, and not just ours .

We reached the stark gallows room where several Jewish freedom fighters were hung and the woman guiding the group asked three Ethiopian girls to stand next to the gallows.

Handing them a sheet of paper, she asked them to read the last words of Avshalom Haviv, Yaacov Weiss and Meir Nakar, three fighters who were sentenced to death and hung in this room, after the break-out in 1947.

The courageous and inspiring last words of these brave fighters had a profound effect on the girls. One by one the girls broke down and started to sob as they tried to finish reading the words in front of them.

It was an ingenious idea of the guide . Watching and listening are totally passive activities and can only have a limited effect on making you feel a part of something . But when you step into the role and ‘become’ a part of history – then the effect is much stronger.

I would guess that these girls continued their tour with a far greater feeling of identification with their new home’s history.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


“Thick darkness” was a concept I had never understood until I visited an exhibition called ‘Dialogue in the Darkness’ in Holon.

The visit was part of a general tour of Holon, showing how this town, which was once only famous for its sand-dunes, has now become a paradise for children.
So, after wandering around story-time playgrounds and a hi-tech children’s library , I was totally unprepared for the stark contrast of our visit to this temporary international exhibition which was brought to Holon for a few months and has stayed for several years.

The bare, windowless, corrugated metal hut, compared to the other fun colored and interesting shaped buildings, gives you an idea of its no-nonsense interior.

Before entering, we were each assigned a locker and told to leave our bags there and also to remove all watches and cell-phones, anything which could light up the darkness. We were also warned not to carry anything which could fall, including unpinned kippot.
“If it falls, that’s the end of it . You can’t look for it because you won’t be able to see.”

And with that we were each handed a white stick

“You’ll be guided by the voice of your blind guide, Motti. Listen to him carefully and he’ll tell you where to walk. This stick will help you move around. Move it to the left and right along the floor in front of your feet. Don’t raise it or you may hit the person in front of you If you get stuck, call Motti . He ‘ll find you . He know s how to get around in the dark – you don’t.
And with those words we entered the pitch blackness.

I was terrified.
I had never dreamed anything could be that dark. My eyes were open but they hurt as I strained to see, but couldn’t. Nothing. Not even my own body. Total, complete and utter, thick darkness.
It was easier to just close my eyes and pretend that if I opened them I’d be able to see.
Motti’s soothing voice calmed us down. As we groped in the darkness he greeted each of us by touching our stick and asking our name. He explained that we would be going through several everyday experiences but we would have to use all our senses except sight to find out where we were.
We shuffled slowly along. Suddenly we realized that we could hear birds, we felt the wind on our faces and then –my face brushed against something. I shuddered and put my hand up and felt a branch of a tree. The ground became rough and gravelly and I realized that we were ‘outdoors’.
Suddenly there was a shout from one of the group.
“Motti I’m scared, I can’t move. I think I’m going to fall over. I feel really dizzy.”
“Hold on - don't worry I’m coming” he called, and we all stood still as he made his way over to Sophie the elderly lady in our group. I heard her gasp of relief as she grabbed hold of his arm.
“ Don’t worry it’s quite common to lose your sense of balance when you can’t see” he assured her.
“OK” he told the rest of us. “Turn left when you feel the wall in front of you.”
We shuffled left and felt the wind get stronger.
“Well” he said, We were in the forest before. Now where do you think we are?”
We listened hard and heard a different type of bird – and then there was a familiar smell of …..what was it ………. Then someone called out ‘it’s the sea.’
“Yes”, said Motti, “We’re going for a ride on a boat.”
I won’t ruin your visit by telling you any more.
It’s an amazing, if unnerving experience.
You’ll need to book your tickets well in advance, days, maybe even weeks.

Dialogue in the Darkness, Peres Park Holon.
Telephone 1599 585858 / 03 6503005
Entrance to over 9 year olds only .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


At least once a year many magazines run an article along the lines of “How many children can you afford?”

In cold, objective figures the writer informs readers just how much it costs to feed and clothe a child, provide him with toys, games, hobby equipment, extra curricular activities and put him through school and college. Then there’s the cost of a large family car, mortgage for a large house and how many kilograms of meat a teenage boy eats.

My first reaction is to laugh, my second is one of anger.

As I think of our family of 7 children, I know that if I had allowed such articles to influence our ‘family planning’, on our income , we should have stopped after child number one.
Maybe that one child would have had more toys, more vacations, more pocket money and more designer clothes. But then I think with horror what life would have been like without the other 6, who have brought us and so many other people so much joy and happiness, who are such wonderful people and who have so much to contribute to ‘klal yisrael’ and who are now going on to have families themselves that, according to this article, ‘they can’t afford’.

Some things can be reduced to dollars and cents, but not life. No one has the right to try and convince another human being that he can’t afford children. Publishing such articles runs the risk of making lower income, and even many middle-income, families worry and, especially in today’s precarious financial climate, could easily make young couples decide against having children.
But those figures don’t by any means tell the whole story.

People on lower incomes manage to afford children by making them a priority in their life. Prioritizing is something we do all the time. Making choices, usually involves either time or money. There are the simple everyday choices made without thinking too hard; what to buy in the supermarket and what meals to cook, whether to eat out or at home , whether we can afford to go on vacation this year and if so whether it will be a hotel, youth hostel, apartment swap or camping.

There are the far-reaching decisions such as where to live, whether to buy or rent a home, what type of education our children will have.

Sure having a large family on a lower income means that designer labels are rarely seen in our closets. Clothes were handed down, as were games and toys .Out of school activities were limited and only a small amount of pocket money was given to the younger children, just enough to teach them the difference between spending it all at once and saving it a few weeks to buy something they really want.

We rarely eat out and vacations are on a tight budget. When they were old enough, all of our children were encouraged to earn some money either by babysitting or other jobs that don’t interfere with their school work but give them a small measure of financial independence.
The joys of our family far outweigh any of the drawbacks . There is always someone to play with, someone to help with homework, someone to share the chores with, to share good times and difficult ones, someone to borrow clothes and make-up from, someone to share a joke and a tear with, someone to help change the car tire or paint the bedroom, someone to ask dating advice from.

So please don’t tell me or anyone else how many thousands of dollars we need to have in the bank before we can afford children, or how much must be put aside every month for our children’s future.

Children are precious and priceless. They should never be viewed as a liability, as columns of numbers to be added up and totaled. They are not bills to be paid but gifts worth more than money can ever buy .

It’s all a question of priorities.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Blog?

Since I started my blog last month , by far the most common questions I’ve been asked are:
“Why are you blogging?”
“If you’re paid to write why give work away free?”
“ I'm a writer. Should I blog?”

The reasons I set up a blog are:

1. As an interim website.
So far I haven’t got round to building a website and I wanted somewhere online to upload and link my published articles.
Now when I send a query to a magazine I can give the link to my blog where they'll find a selection of my published articles.

2. To show that I can blog.
Online blogs are becoming more and more common and many companies hire bloggers to write for them.
The only way you can prove that you can write a blog…… is to write one.
Blogging is different from regular article writing in that it requires regular, original, often short, interesting content.
Unless a prospective employer can see that you can and are blogging you’re unlikely to be hired to do so.

3. To share unsold essays.
I always ‘sell’ my articles by query before I write them, but the every nature of essays means that the editor needs to see the finished piece before deciding if it’s suitable for his publication.
Not all mine have been sold and so occasionally I’ll upload one as part of a blog .

4. I love writing and a blog is another way to share things with readers.


If you’re a writer should you blog? That depends ….

If any of the above reasons that I blog apply to you then why not consider it.

If you have published a book or an ebook then a blog is a great way to advertise and increase sales.

If you have never had any articles published yet, then a blog is a way to show you can write. When you query an editor you can provide a link to your blog to see samples of your writing. But make sure that what’s up there is your best work.