Banff Centre

The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity sits above the Bow River and the town of Banff. Started in the 1930s as a project to give people in the arts some paid work, it is now a lively institution that houses retreats, workshops, concerts, a library, theatres and art galleries. I am here for the Summer Writers Retreat. With temperatures hovering around 14 degrees C it doesn’t feel very summery. While I thought my stay here would be rather monastic, I meet daily with some of the 18 other writers here, either at the cafeteria meals or at workshops. But mostly we work, emerging from our rooms looking slightly dazed.

One arrives and registers at the Professional Development Centre.

 

 

 

 

Our rooms are in Lloyd Hall:

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The library and the bar are in this lovely building:

photo: D. Martens

What do you do at the retreat? This question is very similar to What do you do all day? Writers write, which does not make for interesting conversation. What we do at the retreat: Write. And edit and revise and research and write some more. Attend group sessions with the mentors in the afternoon, if one wishes. Some of the craft topics we’ve discussed: what is the difference between a story collection, a linked collection and a novel? How do you create or maintain tension in your fiction? What is a novella? Does an image tell a story? Are agents worth their fee? Persevere. Write some more. And if that doesn’t work, go for a walk to think while looking at the beautiful scenery — just watch out for bears.

photo: D. Martens
Mentors Lori Hahnel and Lee Kvern

 

Wherever I turn, a mountain in shifting light:

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Improbable

The summer in East Jerusalem is hot and dry. Windows left open, surfaces in the apartment are coated in dust. Yet as I slowly go about daily activities, I see these little beauties blooming. For me they are like bits of joy caught in one’s peripheral vision. And just as I am illiterate in this country of Hebrew and Arabic, I do not know the names of  these flowers — except the bougainvillea and poppies. Identifying comments welcome.

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Hebrew Words for Gaza

By Taken from CIA World Factbook website on 15 August. - Gaza Strip from CIA factbook, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=591

This Is Not an Ulpanbased in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, offers Hebrew and Arabic lessons of a different sort than I’ve experienced. The classroom lessons are thematic and sometimes take place as excursions — you go to a cafe to speak the language of cafes. They are committed to engaging with our surroundings. For example, at the beginner level, Eat Ivrit combines cooking and food culture with learning Hebrew. Advanced Hebrew learners can take Human Rights in a Conflicted Society. I approve, and subscribe to their newsletter in the ever optimistic hope that a course will fit my level and schedule. The newsletters are lessons in themselves, such as this one on the situation in Gaza, which offers first a brief explanation of the situation in Gaza now, and second, and this is great, pertinent vocabulary.

With their permission, here is an excerpt from the May 2, 2018 newsletter from This Is Not an Ulpan:

What’s Going On in Gaza?

The March of Return began on March 30th and by the end of the first day, 15 Gazans had been killed and 1,416 wounded. Since March 30th, over 40 Gazans have been killed via sniper fire from Israeli Defense Forces. Not a single Israeli has wounded nor has a single rocket been fired from Gaza.

Left-wing protests have been raising the question of whether or not it is moral to shoot at Gazan protesters: The March of Return is not an act of war, the protesters are not militants nor have they killed or injured a single Israeli soldier, so why does it appear that the IDF is shooting to kill?

Some Background Info

Currently the Gaza Strip is in a state of despair. There is only enough electricity to last a few hours, limited food and clean water supplies, many children without living parents. Due to the Israeli fear that Hamas will continue to smuggle in rockets and weapons, there is blockade on trade and economic opportunities, resulting in an unemployment rate of 63%. In the past, Hamas has misappropriated funding from the UN and other organisations to build tunnels into Israel and develop is military capabilities, giving legitimacy to Israeli fears. The March of Return marks one of the first civilian-led protests from Palestinian-Gazans meant to be nonviolent. It is of popular opinion that as Israel continues to use force against Palestinian protests, tensions will rise and lead the IDF and Hamas into another violent conflict.

Words To Know

Tsalaf – Sniper – צלף

The majority of Gazans have been killed by sniper fire from the IDF located a distance from the fence. Those killed by sniper fire include two reporters who were wearing press jackets, several minors and a man on crutches.

גדר – Gader – Fence

The wall separating Israel and Gaza. The IDF claims that people are being shot because they are a threat to the stability of the fence or are attempting to jump the fence and infiltrate. Tactics employed by Gazans choosing to engage with the IDF and fence include tire burning, Molotov cocktails and most recently a kites with a fire bombs flown over the wall.

Mafgin – Demonstrator – מפגין

All Gazans participating in the March of Return think of themselves as demonstrators against the terrible and inhumane conditions of Gaza as well as the desire to return to their previous homes. 70% of Gazans identify as refugees from the 1948 war, meaning either they or their grandparents were removed from their homes.

מחבל – Mehabel – Terrorist

The Israeli media has been quick to label the Gazans who have been killed by the IDF terrorists, often linking them directly with Hamas.

פרספקטיבה – Perspektiva – Perspective

There are multiple perspectives on The March of Return. In a simplification, Gazans see the protest as a fundamental right to return and humanitarian health issue. Many Israelis see this as a serious security issue and will do everything everything in their power to protect the State of Israel and themselves.

Copyright © *2018 This Is Not An Ulpan*, All rights reserved.

Story Fun from Terrible Minds

An easy one. I’m giving you ten random titles chosen from various random generators about ye olde internet — pick one, let that be the title of your new story. Any genre will do, list at the bottom of the post. Length: ~1000 words Due by: Friday, March 2nd, 2018 Post at your online space, link…

via Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose A Title And Go — terribleminds: chuck wendig

Expat Mobile

 

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Sometimes when I look at the view from the various hilltops where I live, I feel disbelief. (Disbelief in the most religious city in the world!) How can this be the view when only weeks ago it was lush gardens, clean parks, red buses, brollies and rain? The most sunny day in London could not match this brightness –the light in this photo is at the end of the day, around 5:00 PM.

Since coming to Jerusalem I’ve thought often of Playmobil dolls, the small plastic dolls that come in themed boxes. The farm-girl doll with her sheep and sheaf of wheat. The racer with his car and wrench. The knight with his horse and armour and spear. Because we lived in a country with castles when our daughter was Playmobil aged, we bought many knights. I think of them now, here, because of the crusades. Did she have crusader knights? Whether we thought they were good guys or bad guys didn’t matter, because she discovered that you could pull off not only their armour and helmets but also their hair. The brown-haired knight would, pop, become the blonde knight. All dolls swapped roles.

That’s how I feel when I look at the view here. Like someone picked me up out of my London theme and dropped me into ancient religious-land theme, and popped the top of my head off en route. Pictured on my box would be the wall (both the wailing one and the one that makes you weep) and the Dome of the Rock and Orthodox Jews and friendly Arab shopkeepers and me holding a pomegranate.

And you thought I was going to write about a car, the expat version of the popemobile.

Here’s another view, of the garbage-mobile:

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Look at the King the King the King

How could I resist an exhibition called “In the Valley of David and Goliath”?  The exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem displays artifacts excavated from 2007 to 2013 at a 3,000 year-old site today known as Khirbet Qeiyafa, in the Elah Valley. But maybe, just maybe, it was the city of Sha’arayim, mentioned apparently in the bible story of David and Goliath. Why would it be that city, quite apart from its location between the Philistines and the Judeans (near the battlefield where David slew Goliath and thereby created the infinite Hollywood trope of clever little guy against big bad guy)? Because, the museum display posits, Sha’arayim means two gates in Hebrew, and the archeologists found two gates in the walled city they were excavating, and not many sites from that era have two gates, for security reasons obviously. Therefore…. Does this sound like a logic exercise in a philosophy class?

Despite my discomfort with finding biblical quotations as bonus information to the exhibits, I was fascinated. It is pretty cool that archeologists can gather up a bunch of chewed olive pits and use carbon dating to place the site in time. From the Bible Lands website: “Carbon14 dating, on charred olive pits excavated from the foundation layers of the site have determined that this city existed between the late 11th century BCE and early 10th century BCE, the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.”

The Kingdom of Israel is also referred to as the Kingdom of David. I mention these kingdoms because I felt like someone was trying too hard to convince me. For example, a hand print on a clay wall could mean A or B, depending on what interpretation you bring to it and its context. This exhibition is presenting the artifacts as support for another city belonging to the Kingdom of David (and therefore Israel), although, to give the museum credit, the interpretation is presented as questions: Could this be etc.?

Item: a piece of pottery with Hebrew writing on it.

Item: three small shrines or houses for idols, one of which apparently resembles the biblical description of King Solomon’s temple and palace but looks like a doll-house to me.

Item: or the lack thereof. Bones were found in the food areas, but no pork bones, and the Philistines ate pork so they couldn’t have been living here.

Item: clay pots with thumb prints on the handles. Taxation? Valuation? These along with the walls of the town suggest an organized state.

Proof that this was the site of a city built at the time of King David or thereabouts? Maybe. Even the book about it by archeologists Yosef Garfinkel, Igor Kreimerman and Peter Zilberg leaves it open to question: Debating Khirbet Qeiyafa: A Fortified City in Judah from the Time of King David (Israel Exploration Society and Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

But tell me why do I hear Danny Kaye singing “Look at the king the king the king” as I write this?

Jerusalem

First impression, as someone at the handle end of a taut dog leash: walls, fences, and broken glass. The beige stones of the low walls have holes in them, look old, but they still block us from that apparent field of wasteland, from the hidden courtyards, from everything except this glass strewn uneven sidewalk.

Once the dog has found some dry [cedar? pine?] needles on which to relieve herself, I can notice local life. The people standing on the corner are not pub overflow, as in London. They have come to buy the oval bread a woman is selling from a basket. There is also a basket of eggs. Men speak to the dog but we do not understand. Across the street, a man splashes bottled water on the windshield of his parked car, while the wipers flap, removing dust. For there is dust.