Diary of a Country Mother
I wish it were a nightmare. Our days are worse than nightmares. There is a helicopter directly over our heads right now, and it seems to be spinning slowly as it showers the neighborhood with bombs. Maya is pretending to be strong. I want my pink bag, I love it. We were running, and I was assuring her that God would send her new toys, nicer toys. I was insisting and trying to assure her that I would buy her more beautiful things that she could choose herself. The door leading out of the basement to the street outside.
Photo courtesy of Nivin Hotary. She repeats it, over and over again. In the darkness last night, a voice came from a small child while he was sleeping. They chase our kids even while they are dreaming. We are a big crowd stuck in one little room.
But the night never calms. The barrel bombs and cluster munitions keep falling. Passage out of the city? And in spite of all this, there is a silence, a media blackout. We are not all right. Once, in the early days of the revolution, when I was still in my old house, my son and I were relaxing in the middle of the day when I heard the sound for the first time in my life, a sound like the sound of an elephant, a sound that leaves your heart in your throat. He was six years old. She was only an embryo, still inside me. Unfortunately, it would not be the last time we heard that sound.
Sometimes, the fear of hearing it is worse than the fear that comes when you have actually heard it. I heard that sound several days ago, when I was standing by the cellar door trying to get cellphone reception. A cluster bomb fell and there were explosions all around me. One explosion was only about a meter from the cellar door. I saw a big fire and heard a deafening sound. I ran down the steps, and the fire followed me.
Again and again and again, death comes by for a visit and then leaves. And again and again, we resolve not to let our hope die. On a night not long ago, rockets fell somewhere nearby. The pressure of exploding iron spins you around. Even if they destroy all of Syria, she will remain ours. She will belong neither to the house of Assad, nor to Russia. To the free people of Syria no matter their faith, their mullah [ Ed. Today is a Friday. This might be my last post. The catastrophic situation is now well known to all.
We have said it all! Yesterday was indescribable: chlorine and cluster bombs, barrel bombs and rocket fire. They tried everything to bury us alive in the basements. The last thing I want to say to all people everywhere is that our regime is criminal, and one day it will answer to all of its horrific acts, but your governments are even more criminal. They are watching in silence and not lifting a finger to help. They accuse us of being terrorists and Islamists to relieve their conscience! The Syrian regime might kill us all.
How would you ever find peace after that? A silent revolution existed in the heart of every student who was denied a place in school, only to be replaced by a student who was related to someone in the regime. Wonder where they usually hide. Full of joy of life, laughing and continuously talking in high pitched voices, cracking small black seeds and throwing shells on the floor of the bus. A picture builds of what life was like in the then recently established State of Israel as seen through the eyes of a former Sabra, who has become somewhat of a stranger in her own land.
Many of those Naomi meets are keen to move elsewhere, struggling with the harsh daily existence they face and believing there to be more opportunity overseas. Emotions certainly ran high within Israel itself too. Bystanders said he was allowed to sell his products in the main street, but not in the market. Further on I heard terrible cries, saw a young fellow who had slashed his own throat in protest at having had his cart full of vegetables taken to the police station.
Apparently, he too had no permit to trade in the market. Keen to share my wonderful discovery, I wrote a story about the diary and submitted it to an online Jewish literary journal. Concerned, however, that the excerpts I had provided were a little short and unfulfilling to the reader, the New York-based editors suggested instead that I expand an entry or two to make it the focus of the piece, as well as a complete, stand-alone story. That particular journal publishes three genres of creative writing — fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.
So what exactly is creative non-fiction and would I be able to produce a story in that genre based on the diary? Having begun my writing career in academia, I had later switched to journalism, working for a Jewish community newspaper.
Since then, I have continued to fine-tune my editing skills and have kept on writing articles, essays, whether personal or not, memoir… but creative non-fiction was a new challenge. In other words, the writer produces factually accurate prose about real people and events in a compelling, vivid and dramatic way. And so I embarked on a quest to learn how to write creative non-fiction, teaching myself to write in scenes. I have found creative nonfiction to be liberating in that it enables the writer to use literary or fictional techniques, such as description, dialogue, and point of view, striving to immerse writer and reader alike in the action so that we are able to picture what life in Israel must have been like for my mother at that time.
In so doing, I have turned Naomi into a character in her own story, changing it from first to third person. In the process of writing this book, I learned a great deal about Israel in the early days of the State. It was often like putting a puzzle together, one piece at a time. Books about s Israeli social history were particularly pertinent to my research, while other sources included films, newspapers, music, novels, even Google maps … there was an abundance of enriching resources available.
Along the way, I was helped by many, from the former owner of the Dagon Inn, one of the first hotels in the South, who painted such a vivid picture of the Ashkelon of his childhood for me to the archivist from the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, who provided me with photos and programs from the era.
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After all, it provides a portrait of Naomi as I never knew her: a young passionate woman searching for intelligent companionship and the man of her dreams. At the same time, and especially in the wake of the most recent deterioration in relations between Israel and the Palestinians, it is sobering to read a personal account of the early trials and tribulations, anguish and vulnerability of the new State of Israel.
Sebban includes both personal and archival photographs, and the juxtaposition of the two amplifies the inter-connectedness of the personal and national narratives. The Israel that Naomi inhabited was a country brimming with young people and potential. So what did a young, educated, and single woman do in Israel in the mids?
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It was a largely secular and urban life, with perhaps the only traditional element being the expectation that a young single woman must be looking for a husband. Readers who are hoping for a story of spiritual-awakening and efforts to make the desert bloom will be severely disappointed. Readers who wish to engage with the energy of young people eager to establish their roots in a new home will find abundant inspiration. As Sebban has tried to stay true to her source material, the narrative sometimes feels choppy or distant. Rather, she gives her readers a priceless gift — the hint of a personal narrative that makes us question and want to explore more fully the lives of those we hold most dear.
We will never know the whole story, but we can try to find connections that will support our shared memories, and allow us to better understand ourselves. BooksandBlintzes received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review. In that, she is just one of many. But this book is set in the s! It is the story of a young woman in her twenties and the experience of being in an emerging country, not yet 10 years old.
There is much written and published about the birth of Israel say from to , be it in historical fiction like O Jerusalem or The Source as well as shelves of historical and personal accounts. At the other end of the spectrum is more recent works especially those discussing the political and historical and even economic history of Israel from the election of Begin in until today. What is missing is observations of those years between and the Six day War of It helps give some of the answers to questions they could no longer ask their mother. It is a labour of love. Naomi Moldovsky was born in Palestine but had settled with her father in Melbourne.
In , she had an opportunity to study Economics in Jerusalem [and to become reacquainted with her mother who lived in Tel Aviv]. The book is a series of short vignettes describing events and feelings about what is going around Naomi. It is also set in a time while she is still single for it is only in that she does marry. She describes how lonely she felt as a single person in Jerusalem. Israel then is not he Israel of today.
The Labor Party of David Ben Gurion was firmly entrenched at all levels, not only of government but throughout society. His diary continues: "This visit to the manor has me quite worried. A good first impression could spell success of my plans for a youth club and sports program. The count's influence and wealth could help me to achieve them.
In the Priests diary he writes, "He's said to be hard on his farmers, and he's no model parishioners. Why has he so quickly become the so desperately rare friend, ally and companion? He tells the Priest, "Don't be in too much of a hurry. Let them take the first step. There is no urgency. He then starts to say, "Would a little more understanding from Miss Louise His face hardened. The priest meets the Countess when invited into the manor by their servant. She then says, "Your parishioners worry you a good deal, Father. Yet, it's such a small parish. It's a strange task you've been entrusted with.
How little we know what a human life really is. I was first struck by this disease six months ago," he writes in his diary. When seeing him Delbende tells the priest to go home and get some rest and he'll give him a call. Delbende says to the priest, "You and Torcy and I are of the same race, an odd race. The race that holds on. And why does it hold on? No one quite knows. As a schoolboy I came up with a motto for myself. I ask you. I'm not one to go around babbling about justice.
From whom should I ask it? I don't believe in God. While laying there the priest thinks to himself how doctor Delbende has a deeply wounded soul as Delbende informs him that there's nothing he can do for his illness. It says: "Seraphita worries me a lot. I wonder sometimes if she hates me.
She torments me with such exceptional maturity. Seraphita rudely runs away but not before throwing her book bag onto the ground. Another writing in his journal: "Yes, I scold myself for praying so little and so poorly. But do I have time to pray? Torcy tells the young priest that the Bishop must be hard up for priests to put a parish in the young Priests hands.
He says, "I've known pupils who'd solve the toughest problems, just like that, out of spite. Just like a hornet in a bottle. But I think you have the spirit of prayer. Besides you have no common sense. Your great schemes don't hold water. As for knowledge of men, the less said the better. Face to face with a new parish, you cut an odd figure.
The handwriting in the book was the exact handwriting of the person who sent him that anonymous letter. God has left me. Of this I'm sure The next few days the priest hears the tragic news of Dr. After the service Torcy tells the priest that Delbende was a very disheartened person because his younger colleagues spread the word that he knew nothing of antiseptics and he lost several of his patients. When the priest asked Torcy if he thinks Dr. Delbende killed himself Torcy says, "God is the only judge. Delbende was a just man, and God is the judge of the just.
We're at war after all. One must face the enemy.
Category: Stories from my mother’s diary
This abrupt and cruel ordeal may have upset my reason, my nerves. But my faith remains. I can feel it. I stool up with the feeling. The certainty, that I had heard someone calling me Yet I know I wouldn't find anyone. Chantel tells the priest that her mother the Countess is watching her and how much she hates her mother and would like to tear her eyes out, kill her and then kill herself. The priest asks her, "Have you no fear of God? Chantel starts to say how she's always hated her mother and how she is a fool and a coward. Chantal gives him the letter and says, "You must be the devil!
It's outside your personal experience. Are you yourself afraid of death? Besides, the governess has no money. Perhaps he's been too attentive, too familiar After putting up with all these infidelities, suffering absurd humiliations shall I now, as an old woman to which I'm well resigned, open my eyes, put up a fight, take chances? For what?
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Shall I care more about my daughter's pride than my own? Let her put up with it as I have. Of whom? Of you? Let's not melodramatize. Such thoughts don't dictate my conduct. There's nothing in my past to blush out. Are you trying to worry me? Well, you won't. I have too much sense. Anyway, we'll be judged by our acts. What have I done wrong? God took my son from me. What more can He do to me? I no longer fear him. The coldness of your heart may keep you from him forever. This is madness! Nothing can part us from those we have loved more than life, more than salvation itself. Love is stronger than death.
Your scriptures say so. He is love itself. If you would love, don't place yourself beyond love's reach. You must resign yourself.