1. Where did the inspiration for the book come from?
I happened to read a short story a newspaper reporter wrote about his grandfather’s first day in Israel, and thought it could become a story. So I found his number, gathered all my courage, and called him to ask if I could rewrite this anecdote into a children’s book, and he agreed!
2. Why do you think it’s important to tell a multicultural Jewish tale?
I didn’t know I was writing a multicultural Jewish tale. I was born in Jerusalem. But both my parents were not, nor were most of the parents of my classmates or many of my classmates themselves. Most of them came to Israel from all over the world and they all had their own personal story of how they dreamed of coming to Israel. So I hoped this story would touch their hearts, as it touched mine.
3. What does Israel mean to you? What place does it hold in your heart?
I am so very grateful my parents made Aliyah and built their family in Jerusalem. I used to take it for granted – as if it is not the fulfilment of the dream of generations of Jews – but as I grew up, it became more and more awesome to me. When my parents were born, there was no state of Israel! I never thought about it when I was little, and now I think of it a lot. Israel is home. It is the goal of my people. And it is so very beautiful. Not easy, but worth every bit of effort. I do love all of this land, I’m in awe of the beauty, but my heart and soul belong to Jerusalem.
4. Can you offer tips or words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Try. No matter what, it is better to try than not. Listen to criticism, but choose only what helps you get better, and does not drive you away from what you love and believe in (in my case, this is easier said than done. I’m still learning …).
5. In what ways do you hope this story inspires children?
First of all I hope they enjoy the story and the lovely pictures Rotem drew. Second, I hope it inspires children to trust their dreams. With hard work, and great belief, they could come true! When I was little, I dreamed of writing stories, but I had so many spelling mistakes! Oh boy! I couldn’t get one sentence right. I still have spelling mistakes, but I write stories.
6. Which Jewish stories, or secular children’s books, did you love as a child?
When we were little, my mother used to read us English story books: Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows and many, many more. There was a lovely Hebrew book called: שלום לך אורחת that had a story for every Jewish holiday. I still love it.
7. Where do you stand on the ‘Own Voices’ debate? For a Jewish story, do you think it’s important to have a Jewish author? Could your story have been written just as well by a non-Jewish author?
I’m no expert, but I have learned that it is the details that create the world in which the character operates. Without the details, the story might be generic and boring. The more you know about the world you are writing about, the more truthful, honest and interesting it can be, and isn’t that what we hope for our stories?
8. What sort of hiccups did you run into your writing process and how did they affect you/the story?
In writing this story, I had such support and kindness, and I knew what I wanted to say, so it went well. But in writing other things, such as the TV show Srugim, for instance, we ran into many obstacles, for a few years because people did not believe in the story. Thank G-d they were wrong!
9. Do you think current understandings of Israeli geography affect how your story, or Jewish/Israeli stories in general, may be told?
Probably, yes. As I wrote before and have come to understand, the more one knows one’s world, the more interesting and unique the story and character can become, and therefore the more they can reach readers’ hearts.