Archives for the month of: May, 2015

‘Who is Eshkol Nevo?’ most South African’s and Australians would ask. He’s an award winning Israeli author who was in South Africa last week, participating as an international author at the Franschoek book festival. If only I could have gone. However I was lucky enough to hear him speak about his latest book Neuland at the Cyril Harris Community Centre in Johannesburg with a friend. We both left his talk feeling intellectually stimulated to the point that we would have loved to step onto a street of vibrant coffee shops where people chat over cups of coffee, glasses of wine and mugs of beer. Discussing life, hopes, dreams, politics and words.

Eshkol is softly spoken and yet strong and passionate about his work. Going to Eshkol’s talk reminded me what a clever society Israel is. A place, as my New Yorker friend described to me in amazement, that has a public library van on the surfie Tel Aviv beach front. A country where books are not only read but valued. Where their authors are national treasures. As Eshkol Nevo is.

Reading Eshkol’s books such as Neuland (which I’m still in the middle of. I’ve read his World Cup Wishes eons ago as well) is a great way to learn about Israeli society. Every day Israelis, such as his main character Dori who treks through South America in search of his missing father, are described in skilful literary, realistic detail. So that we have access to a collective memory and experience that we don’t know much about as Diaspora Jews. Yet we can also relate to and see ourselves in them, as our shared Jewish memory is explored and hinted to through Dori’s journey.

Meanwhile I would have thought that such a well known author would be politely unreachable. I tried my luck anyhow and chatted with him whilst he signed my freshly bought Neuland book (which is translated from his original Hebrew version). ‘I’m making Aliyah in June and I’m a writer,’ I said. ‘Really,’ he said. And he gave me his email address and said he would help me, to my delight and surprise.

‘You’re making Aliyah? Welcome’, is the overwhelming response we have received from Israelis. That is, after the ‘Why? Why are you making Aliyah?’

This exuberant welcome is both humbling and exciting. It’s like realising that we’re part of a special club. The entrance into it requires a pair of wings of faith. Staying and thriving requires serious, first class elbow grease. But there are the coffee shops, open late at night. Where people drink milky coffee and glasses of giddy wine, and mugs of bubbling beer, and that is my romantic ideal where I hope to go and sit and write and speak about words. After I’ve finished washing all the dinner dishes of course.

I always struggle with my romantic dream that everything will work out in life with the least amount of effort. Coming back from Israel is hitting reality hard. There’s a LOT to do in order to move countries. Life becomes condensed into a list; call embassy, get passport photos, fill out dog forms, declutter house… It’s a bottomless list. Of course I have to remember to look at it.
These days I find myself becoming quite overwhelmed so I end up taking myself out for coffee or making myself a quiet cup at home. This is when I need to remind myself of the ‘doing’ rule. Just choose three things for the day and do it. It’s not about perfection, it’s about ticking the item off the list. The novel of paperwork isn’t so insurmountable as long as I pick up the pen and begin. Getting all our birth certificates apostilled isn’t impossible, even though it requires a Fedex courier to Sydney for certification in my case; it’s just a visit to the post office. That is as long as you have ALL the birth certificates. We lost one and had to reapply for a new unabridged birth certificate.

Lesson learnt – make sure all documents are up to date and in order.

Of course writing this all out is fun. I get to leave out the lengthy phone calls, the dramatic, frustrated tears. The beads of sweaty worry at entrusting the most important documents of my life to Fedex. No one needs to know about it do they now.

Of course there is help along the way. A lot of help. The Aliyah department has a wonderful, dynamic team who are very welcoming. They outline everything that’s needed to make Aliyah, they break it down, and help make it doable. They have a mine of contacts and information to aid every issue that seems like a mountain. What’s also lovely is that it’s a mini Israel where everyone speaks Hebrew to each other. We picked up some Hebrew slang, just listening into a heated conversation. It’s worth visiting the Aliyah department as soon as you’re thinking about making Aliyah.

My friends in Jerusalem who have made Aliyah warned me, ‘You have to be organised.’ This made me shake in my Camper boots. Organised. I know I can be organised, but it’s not quite my thing. I remember once telling a psychologist friend that I struggle to keep an organised house. She replied, ‘Writers aren’t known to be the best homemakers.’ I guess when I die I’d rather be a writer than a Vogue home maker. But this doesn’t help us make Aliyah. So I’ve had to roll up my sleeves and hyper focus on getting all birth certificates in order, fill out the bountiful forms, and when I just can’t anymore, make myself a cappuccino.