Flight of fancy jogging home

'While running, the strands of my thoughts come together to form an idea.'

Ehud Palmor (photo credit: BATSHEVA POMERANTZ)
Ehud Palmor
(photo credit: BATSHEVA POMERANTZ)
When autumn and the mild winter come, many Jerusalemites are out training for upcoming spring marathons. Yet when Ehud (Udi) Palmor jogs, his focus is on writing. His first novel, the Hebrew-language L’rishtah (To Inherit It) was recently published (Pardes Publishing), and the main character, Carmi, is also a jogger.
Palmor, 49, is a lawyer at the Jerusalem Municipality’s Criminal Department. After work, he dons his jogging outfit and runs from his office in Safra Square to his home in Gilo – three to four times a week, in rain and shine.
“Although my children quip that I’m a fast shuffler, it usually takes me about an hour and 15 minutes, which is not much longer than the bus ride during rush hour. Running home at the end of a workday is like a ‘start-up’ idea, combining the need to burn calories while advancing towards home. Each time I reach the peak of the mountain in Gilo, I’m excited to see the entire route which I did by foot, all internally motivated.”
During these runs, Palmor’s creative juices start flowing.
“Running releases the tensions built up at work and puts me in a meditative mood. While running, the strands of my thoughts come together to form an idea.” While the idea is fresh, Palmor pauses to scribble it on an app, to be downloaded at home and further expanded.
Palmor grew up in Kiryat Hayovel, facing the Jerusalem Forest. His parents, Yitzhak and Sara, were in Romania during the Holocaust. Sara’s mother’s family lost 72 relatives, most were murdered in the forests. Yitzhak and Sara married in Romania, were denied emigration and finally managed to come to Israel in 1961. As a second-generation survivor, Palmor is reflective, searching the meaning of life.
Yitzhak, a dentist, died suddenly in 2010.
“This was a crisis for me,” says Udi Palmor. “A feeling of emptiness, dissatisfaction with my work and life in general led me to search for meaning, to express myself creatively and leave behind something unique. I felt that the hourglass turned and time was running out.”
Shortly after his father’s death Palmor started writing the book.
“Writing helped me deal with the mourning process for my father,” relates Palmor. The book opens with Carmi attending the shloshim ceremony for his mother, 30 days after her death.
Carmi is a religious Jerusalemite orphaned from both parents at a young age. Throughout his painful adolescence, army service, law studies and government job, his stormy and reflective character are evident. Carmi struggles also with the clash of modern society with religion and tradition. He has dilemmas about faith, justice, the fervent prayer of his friends, Shabbat and technology, and the place of Halacha in the modern world.
In his search for a harmonious life, his first marriage ends quickly. Carmi then discovers a secret transmitted through his family over generations. This discovery of a remarkable biblical insight is brought on by an old parchment with five Hebrew letters of the word “l’rishtah.” The parchment was found by Carmi in his parents’ apartment.
Through soul-searching, assisted by some friends and family, Carmi finally does achieve stability, bolstered by the study of Talmud, jogging, and meeting his soul mate.
Palmor’s compelling writing highlights Carmi’s rich inner world. It is peppered with references to the Bible and talmudic wisdom – as well as NBA stars, songs of the Beatles, Meir Ariel, David Bowie and Lou Reed.
Jerusalem synagogues described in the book include Bayit Vegan’s hassidic Sochatchov synagogue, Katamon’s shtieblach, and the Yad Avi synagogue in Kiryat Hayovel.
“I unified different worlds: the Torah world; sports; pop culture; and feelings to create a mosaic of worlds,” says Palmor. “In the religious education of my generation, we were raised on stereotypes, and on people being black or white. But seeing people from different backgrounds more and more, I realized that people cannot be catalogued. For example, many good people are not religious, and being religious does not guarantee that one is good. I learned to see this complexity, as does Carmi. Today, more religious schools teach this complexity, but not all schools.”
Palmor notes that Carmi’s character and life story are partially based on his own past and personality. A few years ago, Palmor made a biblical discovery that illuminates the relationship between God and Moses, towards the end of Moses’s life. He relates, “The discovery is on the level of pshat and key words. [Pshat usually refers to the literal meaning of the text, as compared to midrashic interpretations or codes.] Based on my research on the topic, it’s hard to believe that this wasn’t revealed before. I could have written a scholarly essay about this and laid the matter to rest, but I felt a novel built around this idea would be more interesting. This way, the idea can be exposed to a wider readership, not only religious readers.”
Palmor is encouraged in his writing by his wife, Ruthie, who is the director of the psychology department at Alyn Orthopedic Hospital. Her father, the late Prof. Eliezer Jaffe, was the founder of the Israel Free Loan Association, and an expert on philanthropy. The Palmors have four children.
The book’s jacket portrays a relay runner with a plane overhead. Carmi lives near an airport for several years. Palmor explains: “Carmi becomes an expert on the airline logos on the tails of the airplanes seen during landing and take-off. For him, as well as for me, they represent freedom and seeing beyond the horizon.”
Ehud Palmor would like the book to eventually be published in English. In the meantime, his second novel is under way as he writes and runs on the roads of Jerusalem.
Old vs new
The following excerpt is Carmi’s description of Jerusalem’s older and central neighborhoods as compared to the newer ring neighborhoods.
“This attitude resonates with the city’s residents upon hearing that I live in Gilo. For many, Jerusalem ends at the start of the Patt-Gilo road – on a cultural and sociological level,” says author Ehud Palmor. – B.P.
It was a thought that always upset him, as he glimpsed the view, never imagining that on that mountain in the south, he would eventually spend the better part of his years. It was the feeling that Gilo, like its parallel neighborhoods – Ramot, Armon Hanatziv, Pisgat Ze’ev, Har Homa – this entire belt was not truly a part of Jerusalem.
The authentic Jerusalem, like a sandbox within boundaries, formed a nearly symmetrical square shape, with borders stretching from Ein Kerem, Kiryat Menahem, “The Monster,” the Pat Junction, to the slight protrusion of Katamon, Emek Refaim, Baka, Arnona, approaching the Old City. From there, in a straight line until the area of Ammunition Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Sanhedria, Bar-Ilan, the city entrance, through the small protrusion of Givat Shaul, Kiryat Moshe-Beit Hakerem, and ending in the ascent to Mount Herzl, Ein Kerem, Kiryat Hayovel. Within this square, which includes the slight incline of Gaza Road, Rehavia, King George and Straus, the plateau at the center of Givat Ram, together with the slope from Yefeh Nof to Bayit Vegan, on the one hand, and Malha via Ramat Sharett and the Holyland on the other, is where the Holy City is 1concealed.
This is where the pulse of the city is felt, the location of its secret, its ancient lanes, its narrow roads saturated with its past and its scents. This is where the dark tall trees slowly sway in contemplation, leaning heavily on solid trunks, thick at the waist. This is where its houses, courtyards, large stones and small stones, coarse and chiseled, the new as well as the ancient, have witnessed things during their lives, they tell a tale. All with the bluntness of age and seriousness.
The surrounding neighborhoods are too similar, planned ad nauseam, appear to be a false and somewhat appalling attempt to extend Jerusalem, to enjoy its radiance, to become inebriated by traces of its ambience, by placing a distant stake on the surrounding mountains. They are but a faint echo of the dense, thick, profound and magical essence of the city.