Into the Land of Flip Flops and Tank Tops

I’ve finished the memoir I’ve been working on intensively over the past three years and less intensively over the past thirty-three, but I’m still playing  with titles. I’m up to thirty-three possible titles, one for each year. My goal is to reach fifty and if the book does not find an agent and/or publisher by then, I will write a short piece about the fifty titles. That, surely, will find a home. Stringing along with titles is my way of dragging out the process of letting go of the memoir, which is about—no surprise here—letting go.

My friend Susan descending Wadi Daraja

I could have written a doctoral thesis during the past thirty-three years, reviewing all the literature about LG. I could have become a neuro-surgeon or a computer engineer or a painter or an Egged bus driver. Instead, I climbed down ladders into my psyche and described scenes along the way, as one might document the descent at Wadi Daraja overlooking the Dead Sea.

Sometimes you fall into a pool of refreshing water. More often you scale the edge of a cliff, going down, breathless, towards the Dead Sea. Each time you complete the descent and walk out of the wadi in one piece, you feel emboldened. That’s how I felt after I completed each chapter of my memoir:  strengthened, secure, accomplished, my self-esteem rising to several centimeters above the Dead Sea.

Another metaphor for finishing the memoir is having turned myself inside out. In this writerly acrobatic act, what gets dropped onto the page are tears, sweat, blood and guts. No wonder I’m thinking about a vacation.

So much has happened since I finished my memoir. I’m relearning the vowels with Imri, my newest grandson, who is almost three months old and lives in Tel Aviv. I have decided to move to that city so that I will see this grandson and his older sister more than twice  a week and so that my trip to Haifa to visit my three grandchildren there will only be 90 minutes instead of three hours.

Moving to Tel Aviv might be as scary as writing a memoir or descending Wadi Daraja, but I am up for the challenge. Why? Because I’m turning seventy (!?!) next week and my own mother, may she rest in peace now that the eleven months of mourning are over, moved from Cleveland to Sarasota when she was seventy. If she could make a move from cold Cleveland to hot sticky weather at seventy, I can leave the Judean hills for the damp coast. I can’t wait to live my life using my legs as the sole means of transportation, plus the occasional train or bus. Good-bye car; hello bike.

I can’t wait to watch the ocean open up into the sky in all its glory and at the same time open up something inside me. I want to fly into the sunset. In Beit Zayit I do not have a sunset, only stars, vineyards, trees, birds, jackals, hills, and an annoying cemetery beckoning opposite my living room window. Its persistent whisper Nu? Nu?  make me want to run away into the land of flip-flops and tank tops before those whispers morph into demands.

In Tel Aviv I will recreate The Writing Pad, which has become a necessary venue on the Anglo Israeli writing scene for so many grateful writers and teachers. I’m looking forward to this challenge and to hosting my Jerusalem writer friends in the flat city of  Bauhaus and cockroaches.

Meanwhile, the whole world is changing: gay marriages are in, the Confederate flag is out and ISIS is salivating on our borders.  Change is in the air and I am joining the fray.  In Tel Aviv I will complete my next three books, which, at my pace, should be ready for publication in 2048, just in time for Israel’s centennial and my own 103rd!


About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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24 Responses to Into the Land of Flip Flops and Tank Tops

  1. Judy Foner says:

    Dear Judy,

    I have just read your latest Post with great enjoyment and a keen sense of disappointment at the same time. I am sorry to hear that you are moving to Tel Aviv although I understand your reasons for doing so. I attended your last class at Tmol Shilshom, which was *my *first, and was looking forward to a continuation. Sadly, this is not to be. Nevertheless I wish you success with your move. It can’t be an easy step to take.

    I have recently written a partial memoir, just up to my marriage, and have self-published it. So I know what you are talking about. So far I am getting very positive reactions. I suppose I don’t get to hear the negative ones….

    With best wishes,

    Judy Foner


  2. Jane Arsham says:

    So excited to hear this, Judy– all of THIS, the memoir completion, the move to Tel Aviv, the next book in the offing :)…so glad to be on this journey with you and grateful that you are sharing as you go…Here’s to 70! I’m thinking the big message is in 25 years we’ll be old, so let’s live now..


  3. Bravo Judy – for closing one book and setting forth down the road for another. Exciting – and the best response I can think of to turning seventy. Onward!


  4. Steve Hinds says:

    Well, young lady, I just turned 79 on July 1st. We moved from Ohio to Tampa Bay area 36 years ago, and believe me, Heat and Humidity aren’t so bad compared to Cleveland Winters. I wish you luck in finding an agent , as I can’t wait to read your Memoirs. You can always self-publish.


  5. Tammy says:

    Hi dear, Wow! Moving out of Jerusalem is big, though Beit Zayit , perhaps, was one step of the way, at least travel wise. Please keep me posted. I would love to reach another workshop. Also, any thoughts on a farewell/ writing/ transition/ moving event….wishing you health, bravado, creativity, and cannot wait to read your book! Love, Tammy

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Marianne Friedman says:

    Judy, You’ve outdone yourself! I feel so privileged to be on your email list.

    I wish you kol tuv on your incredible journey to do what you really want to do with the rest of your life. Kudos to you!

    Looking forward to learning with you on future trips.

    Marianne Friedman


  7. estherhecht says:

    So many ends, so many beginnings. I’m happy for you, most of all for your sense of freedom to make a huge change in your life. It might even be easier to see you in Tel Aviv than it is in Beit Zayit!


  8. eve tal says:

    Good luck on the continuation of your journey and may we dance together soon!


  9. Judy,
    Your post caused such bittersweet feelings–
    sadness that you’ll be leaving Jerusalem (yes, it might be easier to reach you in urban Tel Aviv than in rural Beit Zayit but still…) and awe (perhaps tinged with a bit of envy) at your courage to make the big move. The catalyst of grandchildren love and opportunity to “do it” again, not to mention the joy of bike riding and the glorious ocean, are the best reasons for making the move.
    Well, enough rambling.
    Mazal tov on your soon to be, landmark 70th birthday. It’s a great age — welcome to the club.
    Mazal tov on completing your book. Good luck in finding an agent and publisher. I hereby reserve my own autographed, first edition copy.
    Oh, so may years hsve passed.
    With love and friendship,


  10. Nancy says:

    I moved from the countryside to the city 3 months ago and my dormant adrenaline has regained vigor. I love just walking into town, going out for a gelato,wandering into a bookstore, and of course seeing my kid lets all the time. I am convinced that big changes are just what eye need at 70 or more. We left Ludlow road, we can certainly move a few miles! Am o looking forward to seeing Daniel and Greta . And the tradition goes on……baci


    • So glad to hear this Nan. You put it exactly right when you say that the dormant adrenaline regains vigor. That is what I am hoping for. So when will your children visit us here in Israel???


  11. Judy, I’m delighted you’re moving to Tel Aviv and will be re-creating The Writing Pad where I will find it more accessible. Good luck with your move, your memoir, your books, your age-turning birthday (Best Wishes!) and all. See you soon!!


  12. Andrew Tertes says:

    Wonderful post, Judy. You got me smiling at the dental clinic. Smiles, Andrew


  13. Mazal tov on the new grandson, happy birthday, and every best wish as you transition to Tel Aviv and continue your wonderful writing work.


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