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Saturday, 8 May 2021

From Patient to Therapist Via the Aikido Path

Rachel Kling’s ** story is that of a ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’:

Aikido

 

After an abusive childhood culminating in severe catatonic psychosis during her early twenties, she first found refuge and healing in the Japanese martial art, Aikido and then trained as a psychotherapist.

Aikido, a complex combination of self-defence, philosophy and religion, is considered controversial in the world of Mixed Martial Arts as its critics claim it is ineffective and can cause small joint injuries. This, indeed, happened to the author who accomplished some of her training in a cast!

Her memoir is short, running to fewer than 100 pages. I suggest it would be better served either as an even shorter Aikido manual with a full glossary of the relevant Japanese terms or alternatively, as a full-length memoir in which she fleshes out the characters and backgrounds of her Jewish Communist parents, other family members and acquaintances.

** My Walk on the Aikido Path is available from Amazon in Kindle or paperback format.

 

© Natalie Wood (08 May 2021)

Monday, 26 April 2021

Three Rabbis – and a Rom-Com!

The idea of linking a 20th century comic British film, two ancient Talmudic sages and some serious Torah study sounds like a work from the theatre of the absurd.

But hang on  …

Lights! – Camera! – Action!

Gil Nativ

 

Enter centre stage, Rabbi Dr Gil Nativ, the immediate past incumbent of the Kehilat Hakerem Masorti Synagogue, Karmiel, whose Sabbath morning sermon to a mixed crowd of regular congregants and visitors on a Masa Israel trip, combined the day’s Torah reading, local 3rd century CE celebrity savants, Bar Kappara – with ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’!

Rabbi Nativ, a third generation Israeli who fought as a paratrooper during the 1967 Six Day War, was speaking barely three kilometers (about two miles) from the Bar Kappara family tomb in the suburb of Givat Ram.

6

 

Noting that those in the Masa Israel crowd would not have been born when the movie was first released in 1994, Rabbi Nativ explained that the Torah employed ‘unique’ Hebrew terms to list sexual offences like homosexuality, bestiality and intercourse with two women (mother and daughter), all of which sins carried the death penalty.

He added that Bar Kappara expounded on the words’ meaning at the wedding of Rabbi Simeon ben Rabbi – “An amazing similarity to the wedding speech of Hugh Grant in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

Rabbi Nativ may also have observed that the movie presented a gay relationship of  stability and affection that was in stark contrast to those of the brief, faithless heterosexual affairs around it.

This is exemplified in the funeral oration given by the surviving partner  when his lover dies and he recites ‘Funeral Blues’, a universally loved poem by Anglo-American W H Auden – also a homosexual.

Indeed, Hugh Grant, as Charles says:

“Ladies and gentlemen, l'm sorry to drag you from your desserts. There are just one or two little things I feel I should say, as best man. This is only the second time l've been a best man. I hope I did OK that time. The couple in question are at least still talking to me. Unfortunately, they're not actually talking to each other. The divorce came through a couple of months ago. But l'm assured it had absolutely nothing to do with me. Paula knew Piers had slept with her sister before I mentioned it in the speech. The fact that he'd slept with her mother came as a surprise, but I think was incidental to the nightmare of recrimination and violence that became their two-day marriage. Anyway, enough of that. My job today is to talk about Angus. There are no skeletons in his cupboard. Or so I thought. I'll come on to that in a minute. I would just like to say this. I am, as ever, in bewildered awe of anyone who makes this kind of commitment that Angus and Laura have made today. I know I couldn't do it and I think it's wonderful they can. So, back to Angus and those sheep”.

Four Weddings

 

The film was conceived and written by Richard Curtis, whose father was a Czech refugee of Italian heritage and whose own long-time partner is Emma Freud, great granddaughter of Sigmund.

© Natalie Wood (26 April 2021)

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

A Government of ‘Concerned’ Israelis

Israel’s Yesh Atid Party leader, Yair Lapid continues to call for a government of consensus, based on pluralism and mutual respect.

Yair.Lapid

 

Responding to a ‘scathing’ and ‘insulting’ media debate concerning the political bias of any new government, Lapid has retorted in a message to party supporters:

“The answer is that this will be the government of concerned Israelis. Those who think … it is much more important to take care of livelihoods and peace at home in Israeli society. Suspicion will lead us nowhere. We must make a ‘leap of faith’, he urged and so build a government that is based on the fact that we believe that other people, who think differently, also want it to be good here”.

Mr Lapid, who has offered Yamina Party chief Naftali Bennett first crack at a rotating premiership in any putative joint government, noted that while incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu had been given the mandate to form the next government, “that does not mean we stop working.

The goal was and remains … to form a national consensus government, which will address the deep crisis we are in”.

The government Lapid proposes would include three “distinct right-wing parties (Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beiteinu), two centre-right parties (Yesh Atid and Blue and White) and two left-wing Zionist parties (Labour and Meretz).

“This means that no-one will get everything they want, but there will be a balance that will force us to focus on practical goals: the budget, health, education - the urgent need to lower the flames in Israeli society. Along the way, we must also change our flawed system of government.

“No-one will abandon his ideology, but right now we have more urgent problems. The children have not been in school this year; hospitals are collapsing. We need to prepare for the day when hundreds of thousands of Israelis will stop receiving unemployment benefit. These problems are not of right and left, but of real people who have real lives. They will not be resolved by headlines but by ministers who come to work”.

 

© Natalie Wood (07 April 2021)

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Why This Writer Turned to Crime!

There is nothing professional writers enjoy more than some serious literary research.

Today, for example, I have followed an intense social media thread about the use of apostrophes with plural possessive nouns and now I have the pleasure of hosting a piece that includes the word ‘up-lit – a genre of which I was previously unaware.

Miriam Drori

 

All thanks for this new knowledge is due to my friend and fellow Anglo-Israeli MIRIAM DRORI, who was born and brought up in London and now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and one of her adult children.

Miriam has written romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, ‘up-lit’ and crime, not all of which are currently available. She says that she writes to entertain readers. If they also learn from her writing, that’s an added advantage.

Below is a first-person account of Miriam Drori’s writerly journey and how and why she’s produced her latest book. **

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Why Write? Why Crime?

Back in 2002, when I was almost fifty, I added my name to a list of ‘old girls’ of my school. I didn’t expect anything to come out of that, but it led to a few new friendships and a series of daily emails with another former pupil, in which I wrote, among other things, about problems I’d had since our school days, and she told me about social anxiety.

I joined an online forum for people with social anxiety and the posts I read there created in me a passion to raise awareness of this common but little-known problem. Writing was clearly the way for me to do this. I was a technical writer at the time. I knew I could express myself in writing, better than I ever could in conversation.

My first project was a guide to social anxiety, explaining what it is and the different ways in which it manifests itself in different people. I included numerous quotes from people I met online, who agreed to let me use their words as long as they weren’t identified. This book was eventually published as Social Anxiety Revealed.

Why did I move on to writing fiction? I suppose I thought that would be a better way of attracting those who thought the topic had nothing to do with them. In reality it affects everyone, because we’ve all met people who have been restricted by social anxiety. Everyone should know how to react to them and with them. I didn’t limit myself to writing only about social anxiety, but I didn’t lose sight of my passion.

Little did I know what I was letting myself in for. The more I read about creative writing, the more I realised how much I didn’t know. And yet, I found myself enjoying the process. I used lunchtimes and travelling times to do the exercises from my latest how-to-write book, and I discovered things about myself. The most important thing I discovered was my imagination. I thought I didn’t have one, but I think everyone does. If yours is hidden, you should find it, because when you do, you’ll discover yourself.

After writing romance, historical fiction, ‘up-lit’ and more, why have I now turned to crime? It came from a “what if” question that wouldn’t go away. When I first tried to write a novel, I conjured up a main character with social anxiety and a plot that wasn’t very exciting. Fortunately, I wisely discarded that novel, but it taught me a lot about writing, and gave me a character who remained with me. Two “what if” questions niggled at me:

· What if he was accused of committing a murder?

· What if he was sent to Japan to represent the company where he worked?

The second question won, and turned into my novel: Cultivating a Fuji. But the first question kept crying out, “Me, too!” until I was forced to listen. I couldn’t use the same character in a crime novel, so I changed him. I put him in Jerusalem, instead of Bournemouth, UK. I changed his name, to Asaf, and his profession, and brought in new characters to interact with him … or to try to interact. One of those characters is just as much, if not more, of a main character as Asaf is. Nathalie is a new immigrant from France. She’s intelligent and feisty, and refuses to listen to the advice thrown at her from all directions.

Style and the Solitary

 

** This crime novel, Style and the Solitary, will be published by Darkstroke Books on 26 April 2021

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Miriam Drori may be found online at https://miriamdrori.com/ and on social media.

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© Natalie Wood (03 March 2021)

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Murder, Mayhem – but No Medicine!

Fans of Israeli detective novelist, Sivan Kish call her ‘the Israeli Agatha Christie.

Sivan Kish

But it may be an even greater compliment to dub her ‘the Israeli Josephine Bell as the latter was not only a British ‘queen of crime’ and a co-founder of the Crime Writers' Association but also because Kish, like Bell, is a doctor.

However, unlike Bell, Kish reveals that despite ten years in Italy during which she graduated with a medical degree from the University of Rome, she has never practised as a doctor.

Instead, she explains: “I decided to return home to Israel where my life took another direction from that I had originally planned as I got married and had a baby.

“You could say that I am the doctor who ‘never put her hands on a patient’ because I ended up doing other things, one of them being homeopathic medicine, which I studied for four more years here in Israel.

“Today when I look back on my life, I realise it was all meant to be like this; to bring me to my real destination in life – not to practise medicine, but to be a writer”.

Now living in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Kish is the youngest child of mixed Polish and Libyan parentage.

She says: “I have a brother who lives in New York, USA and a sister in Giv’atayim, Israel. I am the youngest in the family by many years, so I kind of grew up alone with my imagination and creating stories to keep me company.

“Since I had almost no friends until I was aged eleven, I used to sit alone in the school garden at break time and again, made up stories. The heroes were my imaginary friends and companions and when I returned home from school I wrote everything down”.

Kish adds: “As a child, I read all the time - everything that was in the local library - and there came a point when there were no books left in the children’s section for me.

“My favorite poet was and still is Rachel. Even now I read a lot and gain inspiration from writers including Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Robert Ladlum and Dan Brown”.

But despite her great empathy with English language writers, Kish reflects: “I write in my books about Italy, and the stories all take place there, in a police station in Rome. So I believe that if I hadn’t gone there to study medicine, I wouldn’t have become an author and wouldn’t write these books”.

She adds: ”Writing now is like going back to Italy in my imagination. I always knew that I wanted to write a detective novel and since everyone told me I had a talent for writing poems, I thought I must also be able to write novels.

“So I wrote one page and when everyone in my family thought I had copied it from somewhere, I understood its worth and since then I haven’t stopped writing. When I work, I often feel that it’s not me writing but that the stories’ characters write themselves. They live in my head and I can see them and hear them very clearly in my imagination. They are like my second family”.

Does Kish, as an Israeli whose son has completed IDF service, ever tackle Jewish or Israel-related themes?

She says: “In my second book I include characters from the Jewish community in Rome while in my third the heroes visit Israel to resolve an important archaeological murder mystery in Jerusalem that is based on a real-life discovery”.

And future plans? Does Dr Sivan Kish see a change of professional direction? Would she consider writing in a different genre; use her medical knowhow or publish in English?

She says: “I have a hard time seeing myself writing anything different from a detective novel. But you never know and can never say ‘never’ in life. A couple of months ago, for example, I started to write my fourth book – about a murder in high society …”

Meanwhile, there are outline plans for her first book, ‘Despicable Fields’ to appear in English translation in the United States – but not in the immediate future.

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Book purchase and delivery details are available on Sivan Kish’s website: https://www.sivankish.com/

© Natalie Wood (16 February 2021)

Friday, 5 February 2021

The Road to the People on the Beach

People-on-the-Beach

To scan the first pages of

The People on the Beach is to be drawn into a Holocaust story with all the hallmarks of a compelling thriller.

But because much of what Rosie Whitehouse writes has been documented elsewhere, her book’s immense power lies not only in her effort to find remaining survivors but in the highly personal and conversational tone in which her material is penned.

Whitehouse, an award-winning ‘road trip historian’, here employs her investigative skills to trace, meet and interview the ageing remnant of more than 1,200 refugees, who in June 1946 had entered Mandate Palestine as illegal immigrants after a voyage from Italy on the Josiah Wedgwood, a converted Canadian corvette disguised as a banana boat.

Such is her attention to detail, the author’s travels take her to Vado Ligure, the secluded north Italian port from where the Wedgwood sailed and where she chats to an elderly fisherman working on his nets and extracts vital details of the incident from his fading memory.

She uses a similar technique when meeting survivors in Israel; painting vividly entertaining portraits of their homes, their characters and their warm hospitality.

Then there are painful accounts of visiting Poland and the Ukraine; meeting some of their barely existent Jewish communities and walking through the Sosenki pine forest (the scene of the second ‘Babi Yar’) with its recently vandalised memorial.

Next comes the half-forgotten and cosmetically disguised former death camp at Sobibor; also the house, Whitehouse believes, that is wrongly marked as having belonged to Israeli laureate, Amos Oz’s maternal family in Rovno and then on to Auschwitz and its grey mass of often wholly uncomprehending tourists.

Whitehouse, in private life the wife and mother of foreign correspondents, Tim Judah and Ben Judah, discussed her book earlier this week with another journalist, Mancunian Gita Conn during a Zoom-streamed event hosted by the Menorah Cheshire Reform Synagogue’s ARK group.

The event attracted about 70 people.

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“Like Clay in the Hands of the Potter”

It is perhaps pertinent to conclude here by examining the man for whom the refugees’ ship was named and who is still memorialised via street names in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa and also at Gan Yoshiya, a moshav in central Israel with almost one thousand members.

Col Josiah Wedgwood

 

Colonel (later, Baron) Josiah Wedgwood
, the great-great-grandson of the celebrated Staffordshire potter, was a highly complex individual and an outstandingly gallant old-school English gentleman who agreed to take the blame and so faced undue public opprobrium in an adultery case after his first wife left and later divorced him.

Although recalled generally as both a Liberal and Labour politician, the international Jewish community will forever regard Lord Wedgwood as a fearless, devoted Christian Zionist following his initial contact with the Zion Mule Corps while serving during World War I.

It was about a year later, he said, that he began to learn about Zionism as ‘a creed’.

Col Wedgwood first visited Palestine in October 1926 and subsequently challenged the British Mandatory government's policies there, accusing the administration of hindering the country's social and economic development.

In 1942, during the height of World War II and so the Holocaust, he wrote the preface to a booklet, Stop Them Now, the first English language public report about the non-stop destruction of the Jews in Nazi Europe.

In it he wrote:

"The Huns and the Mongols, Tamerlane with his mountains of skulls, all these demons of long ago were patterns of chivalry compared with the pureblooded devils into which Hitler has converted Germans”.

Baron Wedgwood died in 1943 and three years later the HMCS Beauharnois was renamed as an Aliyah Bet (illegal immigration) ship in his honour. Later still, it became part of the Israel Navy, named INS Wedgwood (K-18).

© Natalie Wood (05 February 2021)

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Not Bedtime Reading!

The stories in Tamel Wino’s debut collection** start in an sinister emotional twilight and peak at what Tennessee Williams’s fans may see as a “lurid nocturnal brilliance”.

Ekleipsis

 

All bar one of the pieces in √Čkleipsis is written in the first person; most include a scene in a building’s basement and each is reminiscent of an old-fashioned ‘true crime’ melodrama. You couldn’t make them up? Hang on! The new Canadian kid on block just has!

It is always refreshing to discover a new natural-born writer and while Wino makes some mistakes, the stories are a damned good, extremely frightening read. But not at bedtime!

** √Čkleipsis is available from Amazon in Paperback ($7.99) or on Kindle (FoC).

© Natalie Wood (30 January 2021)