A year in columns: Why put pen to paper? - opinion

I hope to be able to share more interesting topics with you, dear readers.

A child receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Maccabi healthcare center in Rehovot on Monday. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
A child receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Maccabi healthcare center in Rehovot on Monday.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

As the earth completes its orbit around the sun, I’ve been contemplating those things which have moved me to write about over the past year.

I kicked off with an article about Chaim Walder. Remember him? He was the celebrated, haredi author of children’s books who took his own life after a number of serious allegations of child abuse, and rape of women and children were made against him.

He’s probably someone who’s best forgotten, such were the horrific crimes which he wreaked on so many. He may be gone, but sadly, the scars that he left behind still linger for his victims. Even more bewilderingly, his books are still available to buy online.

If nothing else, let’s hope we can all learn from this appalling episode and ensure that abuse, in whichever form it takes, is snuffed out as soon as it rears its head and not covered up as it was in this case for so many years.

Then came an article titled “Get vaccinated or live with the consequences.” It’s hard to believe that COVID-19 was affecting our lives to such a degree as recently as the start of the year. Now its reach is peripheral at best, although some lasting effects, such as long COVID, are very real for many.

 SARAH AND the mother pose with the newborn child.  (credit: Sarah Seymour) SARAH AND the mother pose with the newborn child. (credit: Sarah Seymour)

COVID is something which also played a significant role in the rise of home births, the subject matter of one of my earlier columns. Whereas I’d never even contemplated such a thing when I had my own children, having spoken at length to a lovely, British-born midwife, Sarah, who specializes in home births, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out if I had my time again. My research for the article taught me to be open-minded and to listen to all the options before making a decision.

Aliyah tales

Aliyah is a subject which is close to my heart. The pain and heartache it can bring was a surprise to me when I started researching this topic for an article. Although we only like to think in positive terms when it comes to making aliyah, not every tale is one of success.

Coming to live in Israel isn’t for everyone, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need a place to live, free of the scourge of antisemitism. For many families, however, it can cause deep rifts and divisions, some of which never heal.

A British scandal

I THEN touched on the Royal Family, and the disgrace that is Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who was alleged to have participated in sexual activities with 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre, something he has always denied. In that article, I questioned whether HM Queen Elizabeth II should have spoken out in support of abused women in light of her son’s behavior rather than paying huge sums of money to get him out of trouble. The answer I received was a resounding: “No! She’s the Queen, she doesn’t do that sort of thing.”

It’s hard to believe that later this same year, I was writing about the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The end of an era and something which left its mark on us all, in one way or another.

February 2022 was the month in which Russia invaded Ukraine, heralding countless articles chronicling the Russian advance and the suffering of the Ukrainian people. We watched as scores of families left their homes, seeking safety in foreign lands.

For me, one of the most intriguing things was how expat Russians, living in Israel felt about the war. Their children would doubtless be serving in the army alongside their Ukrainian brothers and sisters in arms.

As part of my research for this article, I interviewed a Russian woman who had made aliyah with her family a number of years ago. Deeply ashamed of her country and what Putin was doing to their Ukrainian neighbors, she was happy to talk to me, but asked me not to reveal her identity; a testament to the hold that Putin has over his subjects, even those who have broken away.

Having The Jerusalem Post as a platform on which to publish my work has been wonderful, not least because of its reach. It has enabled me to highlight some very important and worthy organizations, such as ESRA, Israel’s largest English-speaking community network. The help and support which ESRA provides in all areas, including mental health is exceptional.

A candid exchange with Orna, who suffers from bipolar disorder and her friend and ESRA volunteer, Rika Meyerowitz, made for a very interesting and moving article, showing how anyone can be affected by mental health problems and how getting the right help can be a life-saver, literally.

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with and volunteering at Bet Elazraki Children’s Home in Netanya this past year. This amazing place, which is home to many children who have had a difficult start in life, has formed the basis for a couple of my articles, and I hope to share more about its achievements and programs with you all next year.

IN SPRING of this year, we suffered a spate of terror attacks in which 11 innocent people were killed; murdered as they went about their daily business. It was truly shocking. Sadly, the threat of terror is something we all have to live with. The most recent terror attacks took place in Jerusalem just last month, when devices were planted at two separate sites at the entrance to the capital, killing two Israelis – a 16-year-old and a 50-year-old father and wounding 20 others.

Although the cycle of violence continues, it’s important not to become complacent and to highlight the suffering – and remember the victims – whenever possible, as I did in a column earlier this year.

One of my articles was inspired by a visit to my hometown, Manchester. Whereas when I lived there, I’d barely venture outside of my comfort zone, now when I go back, I like to explore and make the most of my time there.

After a particularly lovely afternoon walking in the English countryside with my daughter, our friend and his dog, I felt moved to write about it. Seeing the old place through fresh eyes is something that I’ve enjoyed immensely these past few years. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Jews, or more pertinently, Israelis, and their love of tattoos has always fascinated me. So much so that I tackled this obscure subject in May. I was keen to debunk some of the myths which surround Jews and tattoos. For example, many still mistakenly believe that Jews cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery with tattoos. This, of course, is nonsense, although it was news to some, who even thought that any tattoos are actually sliced off before burial.

Later in the year, I tackled the serious issue of road safety. Like many, I’m appalled by the number of lives lost on Israel’s roads each year and feel that not enough is being done about it. Unsurprisingly, many others were of a similar mind. One thing we all agreed upon was that the causes of the problems on our roads are complex and the answers to them, equally so.

Babies dying in hot cars was another emotive subject which I examined. Again, many questions about how and why such a thing could happen were posed, and answers to the problem were proffered. Let’s all hope that with the advances in technology, such tragedies will soon be a thing of the past.

It wasn’t all serious stuff, however.

A slightly off-the-wall article came on the back of an invitation by our local rabbi, who also happens to be an old friend, to go to his shul in trousers, which I did. Well, you could have blown me down with a feather, the responses this article attracted.

People were mortified by the very suggestion of turning up to shul in trousers. Disrespectful and shameful, were just two of the words used to describe my behavior – and my attire. After that, I decided not to push my luck and I haven’t been back since that fateful Shabbat.

The above is a selection of some of the topics which have moved me to “put pen to paper” over the last year. Next year, I hope to be able to share more interesting topics with you, dear readers.

For now, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to read what I churn out and to wish you all, a very happy and healthy new year.

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Israel where she works as a journalist.