Finding promise in a farewell to summer

At the local lifeguard station here in Israel, I savored the last few moments of summer with the Jews and Arabs who kept my beach safe.

This article appeared in Israel21C.org.

By  Diana Bletter  OCTOBER 11, 2021, 1:50 PMLifeguards at Shavei Zion beach, from left, Ali Srhan, Gabriel Perez, Bassel Hlwe. Photo by Diana Bletter

It was the last hour of the last day of the official summer season in Israel.

I biked over to the beach in the village where I live, Shavei Zion in the Western Galilee, to say goodbye to the beach employees.The staff of three Arabs and three Jews had been working together from sunrise to sunset, every day, since March 15. I wanted to talk to them, to thank them for a job well done.

There is rarely a day that I’ve missed going to the beach since I moved to this village in 1991. I’m drawn to that turquoise bluish-green water. Those startling white waves. The indelible line on the horizon where the sea meets the sky.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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“Shtisel” Star Michael Aloni On His Upcoming TV Series, Family, Love and History

PHOTO CREDIT: NATI LEVI

 I had the wonderful opportunity to be on the set of the upcoming TV series, “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” where I spoke to the actors, producers and director of the show.

Up in the hills of Safed, in a picturesque cobblestone alleyway, actors Michael Aloni and Swell Ariel Or stood together recently and hugged during the filming of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, a TV series based on Sarit Yishai-Levy’s best-selling novel. The story of the multi-generational Ermoza family, set in the early-mid 20th century, actually takes place in Jerusalem, but most of the series was filmed in Safed. The city’s ancient streets — without too many air conditioning units — make the vintage cars and costumes seem authentic. It was a chilly, drizzly day, the 70th day of filming, with 10 more days to go. During a pause between sprinkles of rain, actors who play extras walked up the narrow alley in period costumes, passing the signs plastered on building walls in the old-fashioned font of the time, and a clothing store filled with vintage clothes. The series starts in 1917, at the time of the Ottoman Empire, and continues through Israel’s War of Independence. The day’s shooting was now during the British Mandate and a large British flag fluttered by a shop window.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Looking at the director’s screen during an emotional scene of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” with Michael Aloni. PHOTO CREDIT: Diana Bletter
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Yom Kippur – Finding a Way Toward Forgiveness

I wanted to share my short story that was just published in the latest edition of Jewish Fiction. It is timely for Yom Kippur. Thinking about forgiveness, forgetting. You can find it here.

I revised the above story many times and watched it get rejected many times. And now it’s finally found a home. 

And posting my non-fiction piece on my quirky Jewish mother that appeared in Kveller.com here.

 

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First Place Winner in Moment Magazine’s Fiction Contest (Me!)

I’m honored to announce that my story, “What If I’ve Changed My Mind?” won First Place in Moment Magazine’s Fiction Contest, judged by Max Brooks, author of World War Z and many  other  books  and  articles.

This reminds me, once again, not to give up. I keep doing the work each day. Over the past years, I’ve gotten 12,397 rejections, but who’s counting? I never, ever thought I would win this contest. Best of all, I’ve got my imagination. I can travel anywhere while sitting in my chair.

Details for entering Moment’s Fiction Contest this year can be found here. I encourage you to send in your work. The deadline is September 1, 2020.

Fiction | What If I’ve Changed My Mind?

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Coronavirus and My Husband’s Shoelaces

Here’s my latest blog at Times of Israel on the Coronavirus and my husband’s shoelaces.

The other day, hours before Israel imposed a countrywide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, I rode my moped to a grocery store in the nearby town of Nahariya, and then took a few moments to search for a pair of shoelaces for my husband, Jonny. I always go to an old-fashioned shoe repair shop in a small side street. The repairman has worked magic on my four-inch high heels, and refashioned my orthotic inserts for my sneakers. Surely, he’d have shoelaces. But the government deemed his shop non-essential so it was shuttered, along with almost every other store except supermarkets and pharmacies.

At home, I scrounged up an old shoelace, convincing Jonny that he was now a fashionista in his work boots with one purple shoelace and one gray one. At least my husband has a job. For today. He works in the 200-acre avocado groves of our village, Shavei Zion, about 75 miles north of Tel Aviv and if you keep going for  twelve more miles, you’ll reach Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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Waiting 75 Years for Liberation from Auschwitz

I was honored to be a part of the ritual in our hevra kadisha, the village burial circle, to prepare my neighbor, Suzy, a survivor of Auschwitz, for her burial, on the very day that Auschwitz was liberated. Then I wrote about it for The Forward.

ou can go to the link here. https://forward.com/life/438978/preparing-an-auschwitz-survivor-for-her-final-resting-place/

 

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In Israel: Signs of Hope, Signs of War


At the same time that I was writing about Christian, Druze, Jewish, and Muslim women getting together in the mixed city of Akko, Israel on November 15, 2019 for a “Fridays with Women” event,  I was also writing about the dire lack of bomb shelters and protected rooms in kindergartens, nursing homes, clinics, and schools here in the Western Galilee, where I live, along the northern border of Israel and Lebanon. Two realities happening simultaneously.

The above photo is of Nafisa Shtawey, left, and Naama Burstein at the Friday Women Event in Akko.

The message for me is to hold onto the slightest glimmer of hope no matter what is going on around me. Here are the two articles, one in Lilith Magazine (see the blog post on the bottom left) and the other in the Jerusalem Post.

For more information on the exciting things that are happening in Akko, see my article about an educators’ kibbutz in the heart of the city here.

Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s count our blessings.

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At a Time Like This, It’s Important to Read About a Muslim-Jewish Friendship like Theirs.

Motke & MohammedAfter the hate-shooting in San Diego, California, in which Lori Gilbert Kaye was killed on April 27, I’m re-posting my article from The Times of Israel about these two 83-year-old friends, one Muslim and one Jewish, who still meet every Monday morning at a coffee shop in the Western Galilee.

It’s important to remind ourselves that there are people who respect one another’s beliefs and rise above religious differences. People who practice tolerance and acceptance.

Their friendship is also a reminder of the daily reality within Israel, where people live in peace and relative harmony. In spite of everything that goes on around us.

May Lori Gilbert Kaye’s act of bravery – she stood up to save the rabbi – continue to inspire us and give us the courage we need to act in these difficult times.

 

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Big Up Yourself: It’s About Time You Like Being You

BigUpYourselfCoverBig Up Yourself: It’s About Time You Like Being You gives you the easiest, smartest, and fastest tools to help you big up yourself. What does that mean? To like who you are. Right here and right now. You’ll learn about your four primary elements and how to take care of them in a simple, new way, for ten minutes each day. That is all it takes to learn how to big up yourself.
You’ll learn important rules to pull you along. How to dream big but to start small. How to go by the 99% Rule, (Even if you’re 99% right, you are a better person for apologizing about that 1% wrong). How to thank the people who annoy you (they’re your best teachers, you know). And how to discover who you are instead of waiting for the world to discover you.
“You can travel all over the world but you will never find someone who deserves your love as much as you do.” There is no truer statement yet you might not know where to begin. If you commit to devoting ten minutes of your day to nurturing your four elements, you will discover a new inner peace and strength. That is self-care, and it grows into self-love. You will also discover that if you approach life as a series of spiritual lessons, you will reach understanding and acceptance during difficult moments. Then you can transform pain into wisdom, fear into trust, and self-doubt into inner power. All this for only $2.99! You can order it here and here.

Life is too short to waste it feeling like you’re not good enough. Time to BIG UP YOURSELF. Enjoy what you’ve got.

 

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The New President and My Old Marching Shoes

Hello, everyone, in case you were wondering where I was, I have been busy revising my latest novel. I want to stay focused but don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, my faithful reader. Meanwhile, I wrote the following for The Huffington Post which I wanted to share.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ent…/5880bed6e4b0fb40bf6c46f7…
THE NEW PRESIDENT…AND MY OLD MARCHING SHOES
Diana at march.jpg

I went to my first protest march when I was twelve. It was 1969, and I walked down Great Neck’s main street in favor of a proposal to bus children from a low-income area to Great Neck schools. Wearing plaid bell bottoms, I carried my own handwritten sign, “They won’t hurt you, why should you hurt them? Give them a chance, too!” (There were even smiley faces in the letter O’s.)

As demonstrators march for and against President-Elect Donald Trump, I’m reminded of all the marches I’ve attended since that first protest. Moreover, I value demonstrations which don’t incite hatred or violence because they are hallmarks of a healthy democracy.

My mother, a first-generation American, instilled in me the belief that if I thought something was wrong, it was my obligation to speak out against it. In between long drags on her cigarette, she shared the Jewish adage: if you save one life, you save an entire world. Her interpretation? With your one life, try to do something.

She didn’t mind when I skipped school to attend demonstrations. To her, engaging in political activism was the best kind of education. I traveled to New York City to protest the Vietnam War, and also ventured to Washington D.C. for demonstrations in favor of women’s reproductive rights.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I attended a reproductive rights rally in New York. It was about the time that I’d become more religiously observant, so I carried a clothes hanger (to represent what women sometimes used for illegal abortions) and another handwritten sign reading, “Orthodox Jews for the Right to Choose.” A woman approached me, saying she wanted to join my organization; I admitted that I’d just started it and I was the only one in it. Afterwards, I went home on the subway. It was crowded and I squeezed my way out the car. I now apologize to that passenger, whoever she is, who discovered that I accidentally left my hanger hanging off her sweater.

Before the Iron Curtain fell, I marched at the United Nations on behalf of Jews trying to leave the Soviet Union. In 2000, when I was living in Westhampton, I again marched in Washington, D.C., this time in the first Million Mom March. My friend, Liz Liggon, and I took the Long Island Railroad into New York City and from there to the nation’s capital. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Liz, who is African-American, I felt a sense of strength and unity.

Sometimes, I admit, I’ve been misguided. At Cornell in the late Seventies, I joined Iranian students in their protest against the Shah of Iran. Then history unfolded. I am painfully aware that those students returned to an extremist Iran, where the revolution turned against them.

During the Israel-Lebanese War in 1982, I attended an anti-war protest in front of the Israeli Embassy in New York. A decade later, I found myself living in a small beach village in northern Israel, only twelve miles from the Israel-Lebanon border. I came to understand that certainty comes easier when you’re not living in the war zone.

Making my home in northern Israel, I am involved with a peace group — Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze women — and last October, we went to the Women Wage Peace March, on the Israel-Jordanian border. We walked along a snaking dirt path under a cloudless sky to reach a holy place near the Dead Sea, one of the lowest points on earth. It’s a baptismal site for Christians, with an Arabic name, Qasr al-Yahud, or the Jews’ palace, making it a convergence of all three faiths. Thousands of women gathered that day: Palestinian women in galabiyahs and hejabs walked arm and arm with Israeli Jewish women in tank tops and shorts, demanding that our leaders reach a peace agreement. Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who helped end the Liberian civil war, told us, “History will write this day.”

I hope so. Yet even if all the protests I’ve attended have not made a difference in the world, they have made a difference in me. How lucky I am to be able to publicly voice my opinion. Even when I disagree with other demonstrators, I still respect their right to be heard. That is a priceless gift of freedom. This is something I learned when I was twelve and this is how I’ve lived my life.

I just turned sixty and I’m still wearing my marching shoes.
In the photo is Jennifer Charm, Robert Raynor and I am holding the sign.
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