As varied is Israel’s North from its South are the voices of English-speaking olim who contributed to Love in Israel, Ang-Lit’s latest collection which came out in January.
The fourth anthology in the series features 65 short stories in honor of Israel’s birthday this year, by 45 writers.
Shelley Goldman, the books’ editor, divides the stories geographically, under the sections Jerusalem, Haifa and the North, Tel Aviv, Somewhere, Anywhere in Israel, the Kibbutz/Moshav and the Desert. As Israeli as the stories feel, they also express the struggle writers face daily of an insider-outsider syndrome, which comes with living in a country in which they were not born. They feel at home here, but they don’t always understand it.
“English-speaking Israel residents have a unique narrative; if nothing else, our four anthologies... reflect a small part of this multiculturalism,” Goldman says.
The writers, expatriates from the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa, India and other countries, centered their stories around the theme of love, in the broadest sense of that term, says Goldman, 60, who made aliya from England in 1982 and lives in Tel Aviv.
STORIES ABOUT a soldier falling in love with an American student (“The Situation” by Diana Bletter), a husband’s undying love for his wife who is killed in a suicide bombing (“Bus #Eighteen by Deborah Danan), and a surprising lesbian encounter in a gym shower (“Body Work” by Raquelle Azran) make up a few of the diverse, relatable and sometimes tantalizing short stories in the collection.
In Aaron Hecht’s “Masha Masha Masha!” a young American in an Ashkelon ulpan finds himself strangely drawn to an older Russian woman who served for 13 years in the Soviet Army, while Greer Fay Cashman writes in “The Brokered Wedding” about two young haredim’s anxieties over their arranged marriage to one another. Goldman also penned two stories for the Tel Aviv section, “All Talked Out” about a widower looking for love and “The Kiss” about a woman who is disappointed by her husband and becomes excited by an unexpected kiss at a party.
“It’s a short literary fix,” says Goldman, who founded Ang-Lit. Press with a few friends in 2006, a few years after the journalist – who worked at the Post for 16 years and then moved to Ha’aretz
– turned fiction writer, studied creative writing at Bar-Ilan.
The press provides a platform for native English-speaking fiction writers living in Israel. Their first collection, Jane Doe Buys a Challah (2007), the title of one of the stories, was followed by Tel Aviv Short Stories (2009), published in time for the city’s 100th anniversary, and Israel Short Stories came out 2011.
Goldman is planning to release Tel Aviv Short Stories Part II in 2015.
“For me, Israelis come in all shapes and sizes and I think that’s what the book shows,” she says. “I think the old stereotype of who an Israeli is passé and irrelevant. I think we also have an insider perspective that is different from somebody who lives abroad.”
The books are always arranged by setting, but the stories can be comedies, romance, mysteries or anything else.
“For us it’s the setting that’s important because I think that’s what’s essential to Ang-Lit. Press,” says Goldman.
PUBLISHING A book of short stories every two years is no easy feat, but with the help of dedicated volunteers who read and judge the stories and help with the books’ production, it happens.
“Big publishers can’t do such a size book in such a short time,” says Goldman.
Over the years she has built a large pool of writers, many of whom graduated from Bar-Ilan’s creative writing program, and some of whom write for local newspapers like The Jerusalem Post
(for example, Cashman, Danan and Hannah Brown) and Ha’aretz
. Writers submit stories, a team of readers judges them anonymously and those that receive the most “yes” votes are published.
The books are sold on Amazon in print and Kindle editions, as well as at Steimatzky bookstores. Goldman estimates that for each collection, 3,000 to 4,000 copies have been sold in Israel, not including Amazon sales.
She believes the main market is English-speakers in Israel or English speakers outside who are interested in life here – Ang.-Lit’s readership does not extend to native Israelis.
“Our genre is popular fiction,” says Goldman, “and there are lots of Israelis who are writing wonderful literature, and I don’t think that they would be particularly interested in the Anglo take on Israel.”
Then again, in the case of Love in Israel, with its universal theme, language is no barrier.