We’re excited to announce the fourth addition to our innovative eBook series, Ploughshares Solos (formerly Pshares Singles): “All of Us, We All Are Arameans” by Eileen Pollack. Our past Pshares Singles include “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet” by Timothy Schaffert, “Daydream Nation” by John Duncan Talbird, and “Phoenix” by Megan Mayhew Bergman.
Stuck with a plane ticket to Israel bought for her by a Polish Catholic ex-boyfriend, Eileen Pollack sets out on a hectic, solitary journey around the country, cataloging her responses to the region’s rich history, natural beauty, and troubled politics. In this darkly comic, incisive, and nuanced essay, Pollack upends the reader’s expectations as well as her own, exploring her conflicted feelings of gratitude, dismay, and reverence. A travel essay filled with bewilderment, outrage, humor, and faith, “All of Us, We All Are Arameans” takes us on a trip around Israel and the West Bank that few American tourists would have the chutzpah to attempt.
Available for $0.99 on Kindle and Nook
An excerpt from the essay:
Exhausted by the long flight, I took a shared van—a sherut—from the airport in Tel Aviv to the neighborhood in Jerusalem where I would be renting my room.
I schlepped my bags up three flights of stairs, the last two in the dark because Shabbat wasn’t yet over and the automatic timer didn’t give me enough time to reach the top. All I knew about the woman from whom I was renting a room was that she was a reporter for one of Israel’s English-language publications, so when the door was opened by a tanned, zaftig young woman in black Spandex shorts, a tank top, and a tattoo, I figured she must be my host.
Oh no, she said, she was only another visitor. She introduced me to her son, a heartbreakingly androgynous six-year-old with ringlets of long dark curly hair—he might have been King David as a child, strumming on his harp. Excited to have a visitor, the boy led me to the rooftop patio, where we stood surrounded by the pointy tops of slender firs davening in the breeze. Looking down, I saw the cemetery I assumed must hold the remains of the brave German-Jewish pioneers who had settled the neighborhood—why else would it have been called the German Colony? The sky turned indigo, and the woman in Spandex shorts counted one, two, three stars now visible over the Old City, which meant that Shabbat was over. My feet lifted from the roof, as if I were one of those gauzy brides in a lithograph by Chagall. Declaring the Sabbath over by counting three stars over Jerusalem felt like figuring out which direction was north by gazing out your igloo door at the candy-striped North Pole.
About Eileen Pollack
Eileen Pollack was born and grew up in Liberty, N.Y., the heart of the Jewish Catskills, where her grandparents owned and operated a small hotel and her father was the town dentist. A graduate of Yale with a BS in physics, Eileen later earned an MFA from the University of Iowa. She is the author of two collections of short fiction, The Rabbi in the Attic and In the Mouth (which won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award); a novel, Paradise, New York; and a work of creative nonfiction called Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull, which won a 2003 WILLA Finalist Award. Eileen’s second novel, Breaking and Entering, was published in January 2012 by Four Way Books and soon after was awarded the 2012 Grub Street National Book Prize and named a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection. Her novella “The Bris” was selected by Stephen King for the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories.
Interested in submitting a story for the series?
If you have a longer story or essay — roughly 6,000 to 25,000 words — please read our guidelines and submit online. Make sure you select “Pshares Solos: Long Story/Novella” from the drop down box under “genre.”