English literary magazine spearheaded by olim publishes first edition

Much of the publication’s work comes from olim, but anyone is welcome to submit work in English.

 TAMARA ROSIN (R) and Mia Hancock (L) at the launch of the publication she started with a group of olim. (photo credit: Eva Bellaiche)
TAMARA ROSIN (R) and Mia Hancock (L) at the launch of the publication she started with a group of olim.
(photo credit: Eva Bellaiche)

A group of olim is carving out a place in Tel Aviv’s art scene for English-speaking artists: a handful of them launched a literary magazine last month.

The magazine was formed in a short five months, born of a desire to inspire artists and create a platform for English-speaking artists to publish their work.

WRITE-HAUS is an English literary magazine based in Tel Aviv, with submissions in art, short stories, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Much of the publication’s work comes from olim, but anyone is welcome to submit work in English.

The launch of WRITE-HAUS’s first print issue took place at Simtat Sholosh 19, a community center in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood. Piano music, courtesy of pianist Itay Yaacoby, livened the open space with a mix of old and new acoustic pop songs.

Artists mingled with WRITE-HAUS creators, local supporters of the inaugural publication and passersby pulled in by the sounds of live music. A table with magazines for purchase stood in the corner of the airy room, and photographs from the magazine filled the walls and floor space of the room on stands.

“This feeling we’re trying to articulate is actually universal.”

Tamara Rosin

Run by olim

The editorial staff of the publication are all olim. While some members have been in the country for over 25 years, others have only been in Israel for a couple of years.

 PAGING THROUGH the literary magazine while live music plays in the background. (credit: Eva Bellaiche) PAGING THROUGH the literary magazine while live music plays in the background. (credit: Eva Bellaiche)

Tamara Rosin, WRITE-HAUS editor-in-chief, is a poet who edited for the Illumination Journal during her time at the University of Wisconsin.  After coming to Israel, she realized she was missing the creative writing community she had been part of while living in the States.

Realizing others might be facing the same struggle, she created the Writers Collective of Tel Aviv.

Rosin wasted no time. At the Collective’s first meeting, she suggested starting a literary magazine – one for people like them: people who may be new to the field, only speak English or just need somewhere to publish their work.

Many in the group loved the idea and they began developing the magazine in February; by March, they had released an open call for submissions.

Rosin said the group wanted to “create a platform for emerging writers and artists. [We] wanted to do something that might be more attainable to these people.”

After reaching out to people online, over 200 submissions flooded the editors’ inboxes, who then narrowed down the pieces they would publish.

All submissions in some way had to connect with the theme of the first issue: “Here, there, everywhere.” Picked by Rosin, a self-proclaimed Beatles fan, the theme was welcomed by the other members of the staff.

Tania Azaryad, the magazine’s design director, immigrated from Turkey 27 years ago and struggled with the transition during a time when Whatsapp and social media could not bridge the gap between her friends at home and her life in Israel.

“I feel like this is my home, but I still have my family and friends [in Turkey]. I’m here. I’m everywhere. I have my culture [with me] every day,” Azaryad said.

THE OTHER EDITORS and staff identified with the theme, as well.

Maia Dori, an editor for WRITE-HAUS, noted that all olim have a transient connection to home. Those connections affect their work in unique ways, which was part of why they were so drawn to the theme. Dori noted that the olim who have worked on WRITE-HAUS hail from the US, Turkey, Ukraine, Colombia and England.

“It’s not just olim that feel this way,” Rosin said about the theme. “This feeling we’re trying to articulate is actually universal.”

Joshua Peleg is one of WRITE-HAUS’ members from England, where he had run a publication in college, and is now a strategic adviser for the organization.

“We’re trying to figure out where our home is, where our home was and what our home might be,” he said. “It’s about that feeling of displacement, and coming and going.”

Miriam Sivan, one of the writers featured in the magazine and recipient of one of the four awards for outstanding work, related to the “everywhere” part of the theme.

Her friend had sent her the open submissions call for WRITE-HAUS, and suggested she try and contribute.

Hailing from New York City, Sivan’s creative nonfiction piece reflected on when she traveled to India and was confronted with Hinduism for the first time. She recalled experiencing culture shock at the traditions and ceremonies involved in the religion and being bewildered at the differences. However, she realized that people she knew had experienced the same kind of shock and puzzlement at her family’s Jewish traditions.

Literary magazines are not part of the status quo anymore – another part of why the creators and Sivan felt so special creating one.

Sivan laughed as she said it feels like she is “20 years back in the past.” And while she is no stranger to her work getting published, every time it happens she says it feels just as surreal as the last.

“Oh, they gave me a tushy,” Sivan said when she saw the photograph on the page right next to her piece, “Maybe they’ll think it’s erotic and read it.”

Alon Sanders, who attended the event, read out his roommate’s poem to a handful of people around him right outside the venue. The title of the poem, by Elizabeth Ruty Shehter, is called “When I realized the small fact that I’ve only ever lived and will only ever live in this body.”

As someone who had never held a personal connection with a contributor to a publication, it was a new experience for him to see the work of his friends in print. He was there to support his two roommates: Shehter and the designer of the magazine, Mia Hancock.

“Having two people who are really close to me actually be able to contribute to something like this is really meaningful,” he said.

Her piece, the first of her work published in print, is about her relationship with her body.

“Right now, it’s more clear to me than ever that female bodies are this thing that’s being completely imposed on,” she said. “Female bodies are this beautiful thing that need to be protected and respected, and I think this piece is a culmination of how I‘ve grown up with my body and how I feel my body is represented in the public forum.

”TO FINALLY have a piece come out in print has been a meaningful experience for Shehter. “Even if I didn’t feel before that it deserved this [attention], now it’s taking up physical space so whether you like it or not, it deserves it.”

Like Shehter, WRITE-HAUS’ first issue was the first time photographer Nimrod Gross saw his work in print, which he said was exciting for him.

Gross, who is a nature guide and science teacher, started taking his photography passion more seriously during the pandemic, and has been growing and redefining his photography on Instagram.

Nude bodies were the theme of Gross’s work at the WRITE-HAUS launch party.

“I really feel the simplicity in nudity. A lot of photos today or people are usually coming to sell something: the outfits, the jewelry,” Gross said. “There’s a lot of layers on the person being shot. It’s so simple for me to just show the human body and its beauty.”

The first image that entrants came across in the space was a photograph of Gross’s: a naked man curled into a ball in a body of water. The subject of the image is a good friend of Gross’s, whose younger sister had committed suicide a month before the photo was taken.

Gross wanted to help his friend express his feelings about what was going on in his mind. “We went together on a journey to seek Sinai.”

To take the photo, Gross free dove and couldn’t see exactly what he was shooting, so he was “really happy to see that it turned out to be so powerful and so beautiful.” And his friend said that the photo expressed what he was feeling at that moment.

“That’s genuine emotion, that’s what I really loved about this photo, you can see how he’s so alone in this big space,” Gross said.

During the event, guests were able to view the art published in the magazine, as well as buy prints.

“We’re honestly so grateful that these local artists and writers put their trust in us in this first issue and allowed us to take their work and their words and make something amazing out of it,” Dori said.

WRITE-HAUS’ members hope for the future of the organization to “be a hub for people who want to get involved in the arts,” Peleg said.

Currently, the staff is hoping to print a total of three issues this year before they move to release the magazine quarterly.

The group plans on holding writing, art and painting classes, in addition to holding artists’ talks and readings. All of this is being planned with the goal to “broaden the art and writing scene here,” Dori said.

Shehter is looking forward to watching WRITE-HAUS cultivate Tel Aviv’s English-speaking writing and artist community. “This is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so excited to see it emerge and happen.”