(A Minyan of Lovers)
A MINYAN OF LOVERS is a book of interlinked novels unveiling
the life of an out-of-the-ordinary woman in a changing Israeli
reality. The prism is that of the Jewish Anna, yet the book
closes with the amazing journal of the Israeli Palestinian
A Cyclopean eye blinking on the electric machine:
"This is Shlomi speaking. I'm in your son's unit. You can
call me at my parents' house, I'll be there later tonight.
Call us, we have a message for you."
"Call me, this is Shlomi. This is a second message. Call me."
Pressing on switches, mechanically, with efficiency borrowed
from the world of actions. Light and soul focused on the telephone.
Leafing through the diary, to find the father's home phone
"Yes, I know. I let Robin take care of it. They told her not
to make a big stir. Alright, alright, I'll come to the lawyer's."
She punches the pillow like a face; he knew and didn't tell
her and she hasn't been told all day. Quickly, she washes
the tears off her face, to focus on the actions.
The telephone rings.
"Robin. I want to come to the meeting with the lawyer."
From the taxi the street seems full of noisy carefree people,
whole families, rushing to get to the shops before closing
time. Head leaning forward, like someone swimming with a child
on her back, she answers the driver, who wants to know who
he's got in his car, this job is always such a danger, who
doesn't come into this car, drugs, criminals, whores, I could
write a book. And this one, what's the matter with her. Running
out of the taxi, disappearing into a stairwell. On drugs?
book tells the universal story of childhood in times of upheaval,
as conveyed by some of the most extraordinary international
woman writers. Done mostly on location, these intimate encounters
mirror a rainbow of human existence shaped by injustice, turmoil
and struggle, and still victorious: six year-old Russian Svetlana
Vasilenko awaiting death while caught between the Powers dueling
with nuclear bombs; the little Italian child Dacia Maraini
starved in a Japanese concentration camp; twelve-year-old.
Belgian Am?lie Nothomb, reading by candlelight in a Bangladeshi
lepers' house; five-year-old Leena Lander living in the Finnish
prison for delinquent boys where her father worked as a supervisor,
contemplating in fear and horror her sexually mangled doll
found thrown in the forest; the Israeli Esterl Ettinger yearning
for grandparents murdered in the Holocaust; eight-year-old
Palestinian Anissa Darwish torn by war from the Malkha village
of her sweet childhood - all and each of the writers in this
book map the way to survival and hope.
They ask us also to take a second look at our own life, and,
well informed, to make sure the right decisions are taken
in all that concerns this precious little world.
As a literary form, ONCE SHE WAS A CHILD is a hybrid: it owns
the genes of literary fiction, with its attention to language,
ambiguities and symbols, carved out by the author's mostly
invisible questions, and editing; and it carries the genes
of narrative nonfiction as those are real life stories of
real, and most impressive persons, showing how gloriously
they've survived Evil. Glimpses from The Past, of childhood
recollections, set, like pearls on a string, with the author's
journal as the connecting thread or background. The reader
is invited to absorb. At the end of the book s/he'll discover
in a separate section, as an addendum, how far they've reached
in The Present.
Hebrew Publication Date: Spring 2003
Rights information can be obtained by e-mail.
IN THE BEGINNING
When my children were little we were standing one day at the
bus stop. It was very hot, August. Suddenly, across from us,
two children, suddenly one of them cried to his friend: 'You
I looked at my children startled. The younger was then three,
the same age I was when I came out of kindergarten and they
threw stones at us and cried, 'Jidans, go away to Palestine!'
Children I'd played with the day before.
I wanted my children to know that 'Arab' was the name of a
people, not a curse.
So I made contact through friends of some friends with members
of the Arab intelligentsia who lived in a village in the Galilee
and we visited them, they visited us, a contact was made.
Mahmud and Lutfia Diab, from Tamra, two hours from Tel Aviv.
That was in 1970.
Three years later Lutfia's younger sister, Amal, married her
teacher, Munir Diab. And Munir began in those years to manage
there the first Arabic community center. So in 1975 the idea
occurred to me to arrange a meeting between educated youths
from Tamra and from a neighboring Jewish settlement with Jewish
and Arabic artists. Munir loved the idea and thanks to him
it really happened. We had meetings and conversations with
Aharon Meged, Anton Shamas, A. B. Yehoshua. Once every two
weeks. One time in Tamra and one time in Shlomi. Finally we
had an evening of theater improvisation with the late Peter
Fry. He came several times and prepared them.
From the start I'd limited my involvement in that for only
half a year. I would come there every two weeks. Shlomi is
located eight hundred meters, half a mile, from the Lebanese
border. At that time terrorists murdered at night a mother
and her two year old daughter, in Dovev. And still people
came to the meetings and participated. Very willingly. But
in one of the meetings, in Shlomi, someone said, 'Fine. Only
you are returning to Tel Aviv and we are staying here not
knowing what terrorist will roll upon us at night from the
In my apartment in Tel Aviv we lived at the time five people
in a space of four hundred and twenty square feet. No room
of my own, there wasn't even a bedroom.
Then I thought, if there was a place to which artists would
come for a stay of some weeks or months so they can be free
to create, then both the artists and the community would benefit.
It would answer to the needs.
I returned to Tel Aviv and began telling all kinds of people
and organizations, that that was what they had to do. Some
said, How come, and some would say, 'Why not, do it.' In those
days the world was divided for me into dreamers, and doers.
Two separate groups. Me, do? I come up with ideas, and they
should do. But all the time it still bothered, burned in my
bones. In 1984 I suddenly got up and said, 'I am acting to
found such a place.' Now I understand that in that moment
I turned from a child citizen into an adult citizen. Very
difficult. You need to go to the world, and bow down. It's
impossible without money.
Within all these hardships, in Europe as well as in the United
States, I would go into bookstores, to find solace. And I
would think, So many books, So many woman writers! Who are