Orna Raz

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After spending many years in the US, I live in Israel in a town next to Tel Aviv. I have a PhD in English literature from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I am interested in many areas but it seems that I write mainly about social issues, education, literature and women. You could see more in my personal blog : "Second Thoughts" http://razornabat.blogspot.co.il/

Welcome Back "Peace Process"

I started writing a blog in the Times of Israel in August 2014, during the war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. In the almost three years since that war I noticed a disturbing fact: the word "peace" was not one of the keywords offered by the Times of Israel to its  bloggers.

This was not a mere accident, in recent years peace has suffered an enormous fall from grace. First came the day of the Israeli elections on March 17, 2015 when the candidate Bibi Netanyahu forgot that he was also the nation's prime minister and warned "his" supporters against fellow citizens: the Israeli/Arab voters. Then in October 2015, the same Prime Minister announced at a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Meeting that "we will forever live by the sword.” Unfortunately even lately Netanyahu uttered a similar statement when he claimed on Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers 2017 that our lives here depend on the willingness to sacrifice and the bravery of our sons and daughters.

It has become clear that peace was no longer relevant, and every time we say "Shalom," we don't mean it. Even worse, peace has become a cynical political word that was associated with the  detested Israeli left.

For example, in response to an essay of mine essay about the  movement Women Wage Peace, which I posted on Facebook, I received quite a few disturbing comments. In that essay, I stressed the fact that since its inception in 2014, shortly after the end of Operation Protective Edge, Women Wage Peace has insisted that it did not wish to identify with any political party. It started as a grassroots movement which aimed to gather under its umbrella as many women as possible, and it has purposely remained within the consensus focusing only on universal, seemingly non controversial, values. It should have worked: is there a woman who’d admit that she didn’t want peace?

But in response one woman wrote “wishing for peace (shalom) has become just a way of laundering words.” She also insisted that “to say here (in Israel) that peace is not a political matter is either stupid or ignorant.” She wasn’t the only one other women wrote that a post about peace and women should  be removed. It seemed like many other universal values and principles in Israel today (among them, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and thou shall not covet), peace too is out of I

But something happened suddenly, perhaps  it is only me but I would like to think that it has something to do with the determination and creativity of Women Wage Peace whose members have been working tirelessly toward reaching a diplomatic agreement with our neighbors that will result in peace.

Since Pesach the women of the movement have been very busy:  In Hol Hamoed they boarded a Peace Train to Beit Shean, then they held a vigil opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv to demand finding political alternatives to war, they stood outside the Knesset and sat in the State Control Committee on the day when Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the conclusions of the State Comptroller regarding the war in Gaza, and in preparation for President Trumps visit to Israel  last Thursday they created a giant human sign that read from the air “Ready For Peace.”  On Monday here they were again reminding our leaders outside president  Rivlin's residence that Women Wage Peace expects our leaders to find a peaceful agreement. 

I am not sure what exactly happened but I  am happy to inform that when, for the purpose of this post, I checked the keywords in Times of Israel I found  “peace process” among the key words. We all know that words create reality. Thank you Times of Israel and welcome “peace process”

The essay was first published in the Times Of Israel 

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/welcome-back-peace-process/

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On Remaining Unpublished, or The Most Underrated Novelist of the 20th Century

What could you do if you suddenly fall out of favor, or somehow become irrelevant? A poignant example is the rejection experienced by the British novelist Barbara Pym (1913—1980) after publishing six novels from 1949—1960.

Barbara Pym did not write bestsellers, but she enjoyed a steady success (we have to take into account that in the 1950s most people borrowed books from the library: Excellent Women sold 6577 copies, Jane and Prudence 5052, Less Than Angels 3569 and A Glass of Blessing 3071), and got favorable reviews.

As a published author of six books, she must have felt that she had made it; that she could trust her readers to keep on buying, and reading, her new books. Pym had every reason to believe that her writing career was secure.

Then came a shock: in 1963 when her seventh novel, An Unsuitable Attachment, was rejected by Jonathan Cape, and she could not find another publisher for the work. For 15 years, all her new writings remained unpublished.

Pym was totally unprepared for rejection: as her own reality remained unchanged: she lived in the same place with her sister, went to church every Sunday and kept the same job, she could not have guessed that the world outside has changed. Somehow in 1960s Britain her writing was considered dated and and no longer relevant.

I cannot begin to imagine what she felt throughout that time, the insult, the dismay and distress. She must have started to doubt her whole perception of reality, how could she have been so wrong? What about her loyal readers? Had they stopped being interested in what she had to say? Moreover, writing was her whole life; she had never married or had children.

But like in fairy tales, Pym’ s talent, consistency and hard work were rewarded. In 1977 for its 75th anniversary, the Times Literary Supplement issued a list of the most underrated writers of the century, drawn up by forty-three eminent literary figures. Pym was the only living writer to be named by two people – the poet Philip Larkin, and the historian and biographer Lord David Cecil.

This nomination brought about a renewed interest in Barbara Pym and her work; her old novels were reissued and new ones were published. In 1977 Quartet in Autumn was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Sadly, like in Greek tragedies, in which the greater good always takes precedent over the fate of the individual: Pym was rediscovered too late, she did not have long to enjoy her success and died of cancer in 1980.

Pym was 50 year old when she first encountered this kind of rejection. I know from experience that around this age women start to feel irrelevant, even invisible. I wonder if Pym’s rejection has contributed to the heaviness of her later novels.

At any rate Pym kept on writing novels in her own style about people like her, anyway she was irrelevant, so she did not try to please anyone but herself.

I love Barbara Pym’s work: I wrote my PhD dissertation on her work and published a book about her novels (Social Dimensions in the Novels of Barbara Pym, 1949--1963)

But I especially admire Pym for her resilience and her sense of purpose. Thus whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I remember Barbara Pym and go back to work.

 

P.S. A quote from a blog written recently in the Times Literary Supplement blog by Toby Lichtig about the 1977 special issue

"The biggest winner from this special issue was Barbara Pym, chosen by both Cecil, who described her books as “the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past seventy-five years”, and Larkin: “the six novels Pym published between 1950 and 1961 … give an unrivalled picture of a small section of middle-class post-war England”. The story has now become a part of TLS, and wider literary, lore. Pym, who had been out of print for several years, really was brought in from the cold on the back of this support, and she went on to publish several more novels. She continues to be widely read, and enjoyed, today."

http://timescolumns.typepad.com/stothard/2015/09/reputations-revisited.html

The essay was first published in the Times Of Israel

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Barbara Pym's novels are so evocative of the spirit of her times that they are at least as valuable as the journals kept by others... Read More
Thursday, 25 May 2017 12:31
Orna Raz
Thank you dear Rosy, that is why she is such an inspiration.
Thursday, 25 May 2017 15:28
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Bereavement In Beit Jala

There is no real equivalent to the Hebrew word טקס Tekess in English. Of course there are the usual words like memorial, ceremony, commemoration, observance, and ritual. But as Tekess is much more than a word, it seems that none of English choices captures the formality, the festivity, the commitment, and the pathos, that make up this special Hebrew word. All those elements are present in the the two major טקסים Tkasim (plural for Tekess): Holocaust Memorial Day and Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers.

At my school in Haifa, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers was the most moving and significant event of the year. Every year bereaved families joined our Service. For this occasion a graduate of the school came back especially to sing for us Bab el Wad  (a famous song from Israel's war of Independence  1948 immortalizing one of the hard battles) in her beautiful and simple voice. That was how the ritual was conducted every year, northing changed, at least not for the six years that I attended school.

This memory is almost 50 year old and to this day hearing Bab el Wad still brings tears to my eyes.

Ever since that time I have tried to avoid going to Memorial Services, as nothing could ever match this poignant childhood memory. So this year again, I had no intention of going to any service.

We often hear about noble people who are ready to leave their family during a holiday in order to help others. There are those who volunteer to serve a meal in a communal Passover Seder instead of spending the holiday at home. This is how I view people who are willing to share their personal pain on Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers and attend an alternative joint Israeli/Palestinian Memorial Service (of the Parents Circle-Families Forum PCFF, an Israeli/Palestinian group of bereaved family members of those who died as a result of the conflict, and Combatants Of Peace). I admire them but find it difficult to do the same.,

But even I have my limits, when I heard that the bereaved Palestinian families were denied permission to attend that Memorial Service, which took place yesterday night in Tel Aviv, and that they assembled in Beit Jala to commemorate the dead, I knew that the right thing to do was to go there and express my solidarity, it was the least I could do. 

Unlike the impressive Service in Tel Aviv, the gathering in Beit Jala was very simple. A group of people Palestinians and Israelis congregated in a small hall to talk and to watch together the main event in Tel Aviv. Several Palestinians and Israelis spoke about the pain and the suffering of bereaved families on both sides, and about the fact that we were partners.

Few days ago David Grossman said on the radio that bereaved families are not expert on the conflict, and that they don’t know more about it than other people, but they do deserve respect, Grossman used the word “tact.”

I feel that by going to Beit Jala on the Eve of Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers I did just that, showed my respect.

This essay forst appeared in the Times of Israel 

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bereavement-in-beit-jala/

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Giv'at Haviva: Tikkun

A beautiful quote by Haim Be'er, a prominent Israeli novelist is especially suitable for this post. He said on the radio: Writing is a way of correcting insults. I agree. When we write about past affronts we can change the circumstances, and modify the outcomes. But every so often life itself offers a Tikkun and then it is both a privilege and an obligation to report about it in writing.

Last year I published  in the Times Of Israel  the blog post  titled "How I became an enemy of peace and Giv'at Haviva."  In that essay I described how my husband and I found ourselves the, not so proud, owners of a house in a settlement before we even knew that we were outside Israel. In the seven years that we lived in Oranit, on the wrong side of the green line, I had the opportunity to encounter first hand some of the consequences of being a settler.

We bought the house in 1998, but moved to Oranit in the summer of 2000, days before the Second Intifada. Because of the Intifada, most of our friends stopped visiting us. Although Oranit is less than 30 minutes drive from Tel Aviv it was considered a dangerous place, a war zone. In addition, at that time it was very hard to convince technicians and repairmen to travel the distance to Oranit.

For years, I have been volunteering in schools in the US and in Israel, and, upon moving to Oranit, I offered to teach English in the high school in Kfar Kasem my offer was declined..

Similarly when I applied to take part in a special peace project for Jews and Arabs in Giv'at Haviva I was rejected because I was a settler. Giv'at Haviva is a non-profit organization founded in 1949 as the national education center of the Kibbutz Federation in Israel. Their site maintains that "It is dedicated to promote mutual responsibility, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in Israel as the foundation for building a shared future and shared society – critical elements of a sustainable and thriving Israeli democracy."

Because of the good reputation of Giv'at Haviva, I tried to explain to the Israeli and Palestinian coordinators that it was important to include in the peace efforts Israelis and Palestinians from all segments of the population, they politely agreed, but still did not accept me to the project. I was quite shocked and upset.

But last January I decided that it was about time to give Giv'at Haviva a second chance. As an active member of the grassroots movement Woman Wage Peace, I heard from my friends many wonderful thing about Giv'at Haviva’s community activities and about their hard work to promote understanding between Jews and Arabs. .

Thus I enrolled in (and this time was accepted to) a photography course for Arab and Jewish women, “With Different Eyes.” I felt that this new perspective was exactly what I needed, and was proven right.

We are a group of 20 women, Arabs and Jews, and once a week we get together (with two photography teachers/artists) to learn how to take better photos. In addition, with the help of moderators we also learn about ourselves.

We formed a Facebook group where we post the photos and by liking each other’s work and giving positive comments we are strengthening our bonds and getting to know each other. It is quite amazing how much you can learn about a person from what she chooses to photograph and from the way she does it.

Giv'at Haviva looks like an old fashioned Kibbutz-- a large green campus with old houses scattered around  Being there I feel like I have gone back in time and arrived to the good old Israel (Eretz Israel Hatova) that our beloved singer Arik Einstein used to sing about.

Perhaps Giv'at Haviva is only a bubble, but I am delighted  that thanks to one of its community activities I was able to change my mind and to find a place where old values like humanism, simplicity and good-will still matter. It is a huge Tikkun.

The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel 

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/givat-haviva-tikkun/FullSizeRender

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