The Writer Kvetches about Place

I am a city mouse living the life of a country mouse. David and I live in Beit Zayit, a moshav west of Jerusalem. This place was our compromise because David does not like cities and I did not want to move far away from Jerusalem. It took me five years to get used to living in the country. Country living is highly over-rated, in my opinion. Where is the Me who used to love Nature, who lay on her back watching clouds? Now I need more stimulation, people, action. The writing life is quiet enough. I want to go outside and see people of all ages and colors walking to and fro, vegetable vendors and bakeries, pharmacies and post offices, all within walking neighbors
On today’s Morning Walk  in Beit Zayit,  I saw three other humans. One was running with a dog. One was walking with a grandchild who held the leash of a dog and the third drove  a Jaguar. The only other stimulation, other than the trees leaning into spring, were painted water pipes and decaying errata.
How did I get here? Why do city folk romanticize country living?
 empty frame
Beit Zayit used to be a farming community, ten minutes west of Jerusalem. Now it’s twenty minutes west of Jerusalem because there’s so much traffic. The Jewish Agency settled Egyptian and Yugoslavian Jews here on rocky terraces in 1949, built each family a chicken coop, gave them a few dunams for plum trees and said Good Luck.
 Sixty-five years later, wealthy Jewish businessmen from Israel, England, France and America are buying up the 3-dunam plots and building mansions. These are hubris houses that show no respect for the lay of the land. Beit Zayit is becoming Jerusalem’s Bel Air.
David and I are involved in a group of people aged 50-70 who want to create a co-housing community for active aging somewhere in Israel. I hope we’ll find an appropriate site in a city, soon, before I deteriorate from lack of local stimulation. Though city air may be more polluted, living with people is healthier for writers who close themselves up in rooms for hours on end. This writer needs a vibrant environment for stimulation and human contact, not more isolation.
But that’s just my opinion today at 10:45. What are your thoughts about this matter of isolation vs. engagement, city mouse vs. country mouse, a place full of people or empty streets?
 empty street

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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9 Responses to The Writer Kvetches about Place

  1. Jane Arsham says:

    I’m with you, Judy. A city mouse who goes to the country for a few days or a week– love my city life and all that it brings. And I’m not quiet. But I have my quieting practices and have many spots near me that are inspirational when I want some solitude. I remember going off to a singing retreat in the Berkshires with a fellow for the weekend– we were going to camp. It all sounded very romantic– it was anything but and the relationship did not last much beyond that weekend 🙂


  2. Dennis Roarty says:

    I want to live wherever there are people like Jane Arsham and Judy Labensohn.


  3. Nancy says:

    after almost 40 years in the perfect, luscious Tuscan countryside, next week we are moving into “town”. Of course the town is Firenze, but I can’t wait to leave the olive trees and replace them with the Duomo, David, big food markets and bookstores!! Starting in July there will be a direct flight from Firenze to Tel Aviv………think about it! Baci


  4. Thank you, Gail, for your comment. It could be we’ll never be 100% satisfied with any one place. Maybe the trick is to live in one place part of the year and another kind of place the other part. I also find myself talking to anyone, even dogs . . . All best.


  5. barbara gingold says:

    Write on, Judy! Not that I want to brag, but I’ve got the PERFECT compromise (as you probably know): my quiet little street in the German Colony, my peaceful, flower-filled balcony looking out over my huge garden — and all this within a 5-10 minute walk of virtually every urban pleasure one could want. Not to mention the park down the block (where people of the dog-walking persuasion, me included, and other strangers actually do talk to each other), and Givat Hatanach (Bible Hill), now a sea of wild irises and red poppies, a few minutes in the other direction. Okay, Nan, no David or Duomo (we can’t compete with that!) but Jerusalem’s Old City skyline is at the end of my street. So, Judy and David — how ’bout if we try to find that co-housing solution in this neighborhood? Maybe one of those rich foreign businessmen would like to invest (or donate one of their villas)? Of course, the food and the prices are better in Italy, and I’m already learning Italian, so if you happen to find the perfect place in Firenze count me in…


    • Dear Barbara, So nice to hear from you. You definitely have the best of both possible worlds. Don’t even think about moving. If you meet owners of a villa who would like to build 30 units, average size 65 square meters, on top of their villa, give them my email. Meanwhile, baci.


  6. Laura Ben-shmuel says:

    Come back to the city — it’s the best. Both with and without a dog — and I’ve been in both categories. Maybe rent a room to write in, a space of your own in the city, then go back to the country in the evening. Or the other way around. You’ll have the best of both worlds.
    Yours always, Laura


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