November 14, 2018

The Aliyah exchange, part 1: ‘We American Jews should fight for a pluralistic and democratic Israel’

“>Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land

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Dear Jessica,

Your book looks and begins like a feel-good, easy-to-read memoir about a young person moving to a crazy, quirky new country in search of adventure. But it ends on a much sadder note, with you leaving Israel heartbroken, with quite a critical attitude toward the Jewish state’s attitude toward the Jews whom it encourages to make Aliyah.

Our introductory question:

Who is this book for, and what would you like your readers to learn from your story?

Yours,

Shmuel

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Dear Shmuel,

The original impetus for writing Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land was a personal and private one. Writing was a healing process for me. It helped me work through my grieving and find a meaningful path forward. However, ultimately, the book became much bigger than just a personal journey. It became a way to turn my difficult and negative experience into something positive. Along the way, the book became a means to reach out to others who have suffered in some form or another from religious coercion in Israel. It was important to me to use this book to overcome the stigma that many people often feel in my situation and let others know that they are not alone. Lastly, I wanted to turn the book into a vehicle for positive change that can help raise awareness and potentially transform the current status quo.

As the book continued to evolve, I realized that I wanted the book to give an insider look into a country that daily captures people’s attention around the world – Israel. I wanted to give a human face to Israel for people who typically only see it on the news. Specifically for the Jewish community, I wanted to provide a more nuanced and honest view of a country that is so central to our lives and beliefs. I feel that as American Jews, we are often put on the defensive when it comes to Israel. With all of the negative coverage of Israel and public criticism of the country, it is often our instinct to protect the country. This can prevent us from objectively analyzing other aspects of the country and developing opinions that could lead to positive change. I hope this books shows, that as American Jews, it is not only our duty to defend Israel, but it is also our duty and right to support it in living up to its promise as a Jewish, pluralistic, and democratic state.

One of the main conflicts in the manuscript is the personal devastation I suffered by the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over Judaism in Israel which causes a lack of Jewish pluralism in the country. Thanks to the activism of Women of the Wall and other groups with similar missions, the Jewish community has become more aware of some of the impact that is caused by the lack of religious equality. In fact, this issue has become one of the hottest political topics of the Jewish American scene. However, I think that there is still room to better understand the day-to-day ramifications caused by this lack of pluralism – it does not stop at the Kotel. I believe that my experience, and my book, help to provide a face to these issues at hand.

Covering a serious topic, but written with a tongue-in-cheek tone, Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land is a book that I believe Jewish women, who typically enjoy memoir, travel, and even sophisticated chick-lit genres, will embrace. However, I have already received very positive feedback from male advanced readers who have said that they also thoroughly enjoyed the book. Being a universal story about searching and finding self, I think that most people, whether Jewish or not, male or female, will identify with the book.