Here’s an unexpected centennial salute to the first Hebrew city: 52 new stories written in English. A reader can’t help wonder who the 38 writers are, and happily, each one (except for the author of a gay-themed story) is introduced through a short biography and a photo. They generally have origins in North America, the U.K., or South Africa, and most have careers other than writing fiction.
The particulars of Israeli life are here: the religious and the secular, terror bombings, army duty, Filipina caregivers to the elderly. Some stories deal with universal situations from an Israeli perspective, like the differences between an immigrant generation and its native-born children. And still others have timeless themes that could play out anywhere, like dating, infidelity, jealousy, revenge, and murder.
The best selections, like Ruth Glick’s meditations on fate and mortality, convey rich detail and palpable conviction. Unfortunately, too many of the stories ignore the injunction to “show, don’t tell.” They devote pages to exposition, or else they seat two friends in a café to relate narrative through dialogue. And too few of the writers have a reliable sense of le mot juste. One uses the phrase “animal garnish” to describe dog droppings, and elsewhere has a character say “my ears glazed over.”There are surely better word choices.
Nonetheless, these perspectives of English- speaking olim offer a kaleidoscope of cosmopolitan Israeli life to the curious reader overseas.