This is one of those questions that most writers are inevitably asked. For me, the answer is different every time.
The Last Days of Dogtown was inspired by a locally-produced pamphlet I found in a bookstore. The Red Tent grew out of many sources including Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” and my exposure to the tradition of Midrash.
Day After Night was hatched over eight years ago, in 2000, when my daughter was a high school sophomore spending a semester in Israel on the Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE), a program of the Reform Movement. My husband and I went to visit Emilia on the parents’ trip – our first trip to Israel.
We spent a good part of the week accompanying the students on their field trips (tiyulim) around the country. These were part of a semester-long comprehensive Jewish History course, which had included an architectural dig and a trip to Poland. By the time we arrived, the curriculum was up to the founding of the state of Israel, which meant bus rides to Haifa and Tel Aviv, to Latrun and to Atlit.
There, in the prison camp that has been turned into a living history museum, EIE director Baruch Kraus gave a spellbinding tour and history, which included the breathtaking and completely unfamiliar story of the October 9 break-out/rescue by the Palmach of all the prisoners to safety.
I remember thinking, “Now there’s a novel.”
I was fortunate enough to visit Atlit two more times after that to talk with the wonderful staff that runs the place and is committed to preserving the history of Aliyah Bet, the post- war immigration that brought nearly 1,000,000 Jews to the land of Israel. Only a tiny fraction of that million passed through Atlit, but it stands as a vivid reminder of the courage, luck, and perseverance of all those who survived the Holocaust and then made Israel their home. Atlit will always be a place that echoes with stories told and untold.