Michael Golding is the author of the novels Simple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, and A Poet of the Invisible World, now out from Picador. He will be blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.
In the spring of 2014, I was invited to teach two days of master classes in Beit Zayit, a moshav on the western edge of the Jerusalem Forest. I’d been to Israel in 1987, and was deeply moved by the experience. But while I was happy at the thought of going back, I also experienced a trace of fear. Over the years, the conflict in the region had only grown. The news brought stories of car bombings, bus bombings, mortar shelling, civilian stabbings. There was even a report, the year before, that swarms of locusts had crossed the border from Egypt — making it seem as if the tiny country had returned to biblical times. As the date of my departure drew near, I joked to friends that it was a suicide mission. But in truth, I began to wonder if I was crazy to go off to a land besieged by such random acts of terror.
When I arrived in Tel Aviv, that early June morning, there was a fragrance in the air that took me back to the youthful days of my first visit. And as I strolled the beach — and dined at the port — and roamed the ancient streets of Jerusalem — I felt as if I’d never left.
How could I have forgotten the splendor of the place?
How could I have stayed away for twenty-seven years?
Over the next two weeks, my head tried to remind me that Israel was a dangerous land. But my heart only experienced the joy of being in a place where the people were kind and the food was good and the air was sweet. My fears dissolved. I truly felt I was in “The Promised Land.”
A few days after my return, while I was in in New York to see my editor, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped at a bus stop in the West Bank and subsequently killed. Ten days later, an attack in the Golan Heights killed another Israeli teenager. The war that erupted between Israel and Palestine lasted for seven weeks. And the airstrikes and ground fighting resulted in the death of over two thousand people.
There are voices in my head that say, “Don’t go back; it’s too charged; too risky.” But I’ve been invited to teach again next year, and I’ve already booked my tickets. Because I know that whatever fear I may feel before going will dissipate once I’m there. Israel calls. And, crazy or not, I can’t wait to return.
Michael Golding was born in Philadelphia and educated at Duke, Oxford, and the University of California at Irvine. He is the author of Simple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, a translation of Alessandro Baricco’s stage play Novecento, and the screenplay adaptation of the best-selling novel Silk. His new novel, A Poet of the Invisible World, is out from Picador.
Michael Golding was born in Philadelphia and educated at Duke, Oxford, and the University of California at Irvine. He is the author of Simple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, a translation of Alessandro Baricco’s stage play Novecento, and the screenplay adaptation of the best-selling novel . His new novel, A Poet of the Invisible World, is out from Picador.