Jes­samyn Hope is the author of Safe­keep­ing, which has received crit­i­cal acclaim from The Boston Globe, The Globe and Mail, and Tablet Mag­a­zine. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Council’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series. 

My debut nov­el Safe­keep­ing takes place on a kib­butz in north­ern Israel over the sum­mer of 1994. The world has changed a lot since then, and Israel, being such a young coun­try with unique socio-polit­i­cal chal­lenges, trans­forms at a par­tic­u­lar­ly quick rate. Some of the changes that have come to Israel over the last two decades mir­ror those found in oth­er coun­tries: the sea change that came with the Inter­net; cell­phones stowed in pock­ets instead of asi­mon­im (phone tokens) or tele­cards; and no more smok­ing while brows­ing clothes in the Dizen­goff Cen­ter. Many changes, though, have been dis­tinct to Israel. Over the com­ing week, this blog will explore six of them. Here are the first three:

1. Tele­vi­sion

When I was a vol­un­teer in 1994 on my great-uncle’s kib­butz, I watched tele­vi­sion only rarely on his fuzzy tube TV. The view­ing options were slim. All the anten­na caught were three choic­es: a stat­icky Arab soap opera com­ing from near­by Lebanon, and the only two Israeli sta­tions at the time, both gov­ern­ment owned — the Israeli Broad­cast­ing Author­i­ty and the apt­ly named Chan­nel Two. Tele­vi­sion came late to Israel, in 1966, and only then as an edu­ca­tion­al tool for schools; and although cable came to the coun­try in 1990, the vast major­i­ty of homes still did not have it in 1994. Now Israel dig­i­tal­ly broad­casts over nine­ty nation­al chan­nels, and Israeli tele­vi­sion is in midst of a gold­en era, with shows like Hatu­fim and BeTip­ul being adapt­ed in the Unit­ed States as Home­land and In Treat­ment.

2. Cars

While an ulpanist on anoth­er relative’s kib­butz near Haifa, I had a crush on a young kib­butznik who would take me on day trips by sign­ing out one of the kibbutz’s white Sub­arus. Near­ly every car in the kib­butz lot, and seem­ing­ly every car speed­ing down the roads of Israel, was either a white Sub­aru hatch­back or a white Sub­aru mini-truck. Why all the white Sub­arus? For many decades, the League of Arab States boy­cotted any com­pa­ny that did busi­ness with Israel. Since the Arab mar­ket was much larg­er than the Israeli one — today it’s 450 mil­lion peo­ple ver­sus 8 mil­lion — many com­pa­nies, such as Pep­si and McDonald’s, agreed not to sell their prod­ucts in Israel. And this was the case for all Japan­ese cars except the Sub­aru. Since the mid-nineties, a major­i­ty of Arab coun­tries have aban­doned the boy­cott, and today Israelis dri­ve cars of var­i­ous brands, and only a quar­ter of them are white.

3. Road Signs

Want more time trav­el? Tune in to the next post. Or if you can’t wait, trav­el to 1994 Israel with my nov­el Safe­keep­ing.

Jes­samyn Hope’s short fic­tion and mem­oirs have appeared in Ploughshares, Five Points, and oth­er lit­er­ary mag­a­zines. Born and raised in Mon­tre­al, she lived in Israel before mov­ing to New York City. Read more about her here.

Relat­ed Content:

Jes­samyn Hope is the author of the nov­el Safe­keep­ing, win­ner of the J.I. Segal Award and a final­ist for both the Rib­alow Prize and the Pater­son Fic­tion Prize. Her mem­oirs and short sto­ries — orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in PloughsharesThe Com­mon, and else­where — have received two Push­cart Prize hon­or­able men­tions, been named a Best Amer­i­can Notable Essay, and have been anthol­o­gized in Best Cana­di­an Essays, The Broad­view Anthol­o­gy of Expos­i­to­ry Prose, and The New Spice Box: Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Writ­ing. She grew up in Mon­tre­al, has long lived in New York City, and is spend­ing the year in Tel Aviv.