Tuesday, July 21, 2009

15 Books

OK, so I don't usually do these things because they are usually about pop stars or movies or stuff that just doesn't do it for me, but books, well, you got me there, I mean, I certainly live with enough of them.

"Don't take too long to think about it. List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends. "

So, off the top of my head, here goes:

1.Watership Down, Richard Adams
2. Only Yesterday (Tmol Shilshom), S.Y.Agnon
3. Adjustment of Sights, Haim Sabbato
4.The First Circle, Alexander Sozhenitsyn
5. Night, Eli Wiesel
6. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
7. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
8. If This is a Man-The Truth, Primo Levi
9. 1984, George Orwell
10. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
11. The Little Prince, Antoine St Exupery
12. Yoni's Letters, Yonatan Netanyahu
13. Fear No Evil, Natan Sharansky
14. Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
15. My Beloved, My Friend (Dodi Vere'i), Naomi Frankel

Thursday, July 02, 2009

When you hear them cuckoos hollerin'

The cuckoos in the tree by my balcony took me straight to Leah Goldberg. I've always loved her poetry and I guess this one just got right under my skin:

(my rough, lousy translation from Hebrew)

Here I will not hear the voice of the cuckoo
Here the trees will not adorn themselves in a turban of snow
But in the shade of these pines
All my childhood relived


Maybe only migratory birds know
When they are suspended between land and sky
This pain of having two homelands

With you I have twice been planted
With you I grew, pines
And my roots are in two landscapes

Goldberg was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia, and came to Tel Aviv as a young woman. From this poem it seems she never found any cuckoos in Israel. But then Tel Aviv was never really known for its rich flora and fauna, even in the 1930s.

Well, I knew she was wrong about the cuckoos, had known for some time. I guess she was no birder. Or perhaps with much less reforestation in her day, there really weren't so many cuckoos around. Either way, kind of weird to have one over on one of our national poetesses when it comes to knowing the Land of Israel.

Then again, the species of cuckoo in my tree doesn't actually say cuckoo.

Go figure.

Which brought me to Ahinoam Nini (Noa) and her adaptation of Goldberg's binational angst to fit the modern torn identity of so many Israelis growing up in other countries:

I remember those snow-capped mountains
And a song on F.M. 93
Oh my darlin', I have grown with you
But my roots are on both sides of the sea

Which brought me to myself.

I've called three countries home in my life and while I may think of words like affection, loyalty, pride and happiness in conjunction with the other two, only Israel gives me that bone deep, soul searing love for her landscape and language.

The other two are good places to live, countries I admire, care for, care about, but my connections to them are accidents of history, politics and economics.

When I am away from them I don't ache for them like a piece of me is missing.

They are not my destiny, spreading back through the ages, through countless generations of my ancestors, praying, yearning, dreaming, burning the memory of her nature and views into the hearts of our nation wherever we wandered.

My other two mother countries are places of nostalgia, memory, fond reminiscences of pebble beaches in autumn, red brick houses illuminated in the short, dark days of a north European winter, clapboard ranch houses full of small children at birthday parties and windswept rolling green mountains and lakes.

But still, they don't radiate home the way Israel does. Their beauty and my love for them pales beside rugged rocky hillsides covered in thistles and almond trees, olives groves and vineyards planted in terra rosa soil, rocky red, yellow, white deserts and neglected old Jerusalem stone fronted houses.

I can't swear that circumstances may, against my will, lead me to wander again.

I can't swear that there is only one place I'll ever call home.

Truth be told, I don't think I will ever truly have one place I think of as home.

Maybe it's the fate of a wandering Jewish ancestry, maybe it's just that the landscape of my life is scattered over three continents, but part of me will always feel fragmented, spread too thin, not quite completely at home in any one country, always something of a stranger wherever I am.

But given a choice, I know which one feels most like home.

I know which vistas scroll through my dreams.