Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Short Story vs. A Novel

Recently, a reader asked me about “the short stories that had led to writing each of your novels.” The question presumed a set path in developing fiction, a road starting with an embryo short piece that, incubated and nurtured, develops into a book-length work. It reminded me that when someone had asked Ernest Hemingway, “How do you write a novel?” He answered, “You first clean the refrigerator.”

I was not “cleaning a refrigerator” when, on Nov. 3, 1993 at 2:48 PM, I started typing away. My fingers did not take a rest for 9 months until I had a 640-page draft.

Penning that first novel was not the result of long years of contemplation, collecting material and clearing space in the attic for a desk on which to pour out my authorly ambitions--nor of having the seed of a short story. I had never even kept a journal in which I aired my grievances against neighbors or my pet peeves against humanity…. There was no short story that needed harvesting.

Instead, that first novel--painted on a large canvas of world stage, populated with a host of characters and pretzeled with subplots--burst out of me with all its multi-layered literary nuances, psychological exploration, and social message. Only after that maiden draft was completed did I begin to hone my fiction-writing skills through writing workshops, how-to books, feedback from new writing buddies, and being mentored by successful authors.

Throughout that process I met professional writers--journalists and poets--who had been dreaming for years to “one day write a book-length work.” The more I heard those comments the more I grasped the enormity of the task I had accomplished. But I also realized that my mind was simply wired to think in terms of 120,000 word stories. If anything, my most monumental task for each novel has been to rein the story from becoming too long. With each novel I must tame the material down to a publishable size. (In the many revisions of my recent novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, at one time I cut 90 pages and 25 more another time—not in large chunks, but rather through brutal trimming of subplots, scenes or events.)

It was only at writing workshops, by way of exercises, that I was introduced to the short-story form and to the personal essay structure. The 800- to 3,000-words pieces I write in between novels are delightful fillers, like sorbet that clears the palette between heavy dishes. However, none so far has had the seed to grow into a full-length novel.

On the other hand, trying to find short stories hidden inside my book-length tales is equally difficult. The two forms are of different species. No matter how much you feed a Chihuahua, it will never grow into a Great Dane.

You may enjoy reading samples of my short pieces at
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Novelist Talia Carner’s most recent novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, won the Forward National Literature Award in the “historical fiction” category.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Secrets Revealed by a Writers’ Conference Junkie.

November is “National Novel Writing Month” (NaNoWriMo or NaNoMo). Many would-be writers make their first attempt. Congratulations. Yet, what’s the next step?

Recently, at a social event, a woman told me that she had “finished writing a novel” and was looking for an agent. When I probed about her book, I discovered that her “novel” was merely 30,000 words long (most novels run around 90,000-115,00 words.) I suggested that she study the business of writing and publishing—she could even start by reading articles on the Internet. “I don’t have time for that,” she replied.

Last week, after one of my speaking events, a woman cornered me in the ladies room and asked me to give her “a name of a publisher that will publish my memoir.” I suggested that she check organizations or university departments that focus on the main topic of her memoir. She stormed away as if I was holding back information. In reality, I could no more name such a specific acquisition editor, which is what she really meant, than I could give her the lottery's winning number.

There are no shortcuts in writing and publishing a book as there is no shortcut in any road to success. It is a long, arduous and lonely journey with a great reward that is more about expressing one's art than the star-dust of notoriety.

This post is for writers who are serious about learning to play the piano before asking to book a concert hall:

Earlier in my writing career I was a "writers’ conference junkie," attending as many workshops and programs as I could cram. It was my self-designed MFA in which I mastered writing skills, studied the tools of the craft, learned how to structure, revise and edit, and absorbed inside information about the publishing industry. I also met other writers and formed lasting connections with writing buddies who forever help with their constructive comments and support. I met agents who encouraged me and ultimately offered me representation.

There are over 600 writers' conferences each year across the country. Many—not all—are affiliated with English departments of universities, yet do not require that you be a student there. In fact, they draw a mature crowd that is quite different from their student body. If you've never attended a writers' conference, it's always easiest to start with one near you to get a feel, although they vary by programs and offerings as the people that organize and populate them, so you should plan to attend at least two or three... (See for a complete listing.)

To focus on the craft of writing and to venture into new fields of writing, my favorite is IWWG's summer “Remember The Magic” (for women only) that offers the most classes and workshops simultaneously than any writing conference I've been to. The warm and supportive environment nurtures writing free of judgment.

The most prestigious conferences ones are Sewanee Writers Conference, (TN) and Breadloaf Writers Conference (Middlebury, VT) where you must submit your work to be accepted, and the competition is fierce. They focus on the writing craft, not marketing, but Breadloaf also offers democratic access to visiting agents who scout the conference for yet-undiscovered talent. Iowa Writing Workshop also offers numerous week-long writing programs that can be stitched together into a summer-long studying. Their instructors, though, may vary in strength and teaching abilities.

APW conference (this February in Chicago) is intense and is tightly related to MFA programs in contents and in atmosphere. If you are not affiliated with an MFA program, you may find yourself floating unanchored in a horde of thousands of strangers…. But there is a huge amount of lectures and panel discussions, though not hands-on instruction.

But if you are past the stage of learning and it is time for you to focus on meeting agents, Writer's Digest Conference in New York City this coming January does that. Also IWWG has "Meet the Agent" program in NYC in April and October, (open to men, too!) It is an excellent opportunity to pitch directly to agents who are looking for new authors. In addition, many conferences across the country are attended by agents who travel far to present there; some make particular conferences their "home" as they return every year. It is especially true for genre-specific conferences that focus on sci-fi, romance, fantasy, etc.

If your manuscript is ready and you want to pitch directly to publishers, the NYC Pitch Conference is the place for you. You need to apply and show that your manuscript is in a good shape to pitch to the visiting editors from main publishing houses. While only 5% of all pitched books have ended up with a publishing contract, this event is an excellent place to evaluate where you stand in the publishing journey and what you must still do to get there. I found that honing my pitch through the methodical, thoughtful process was extremely valuable in eventually landing an agent and a publishing contract.

There are many other good writers' conferences and workshop. I admit to not having traveled to either the West Coast or overseas. As you start searching for the right event, here are some suggested steps:

1) Your budget: Registration, travel and housing—as well as number of days and time of year— are obvious considerations.

2) Check how long an event has been around. The poorly organized ones do not last, as attendees do not return. If it is a new conference, check who are the organizers and what is their track record. But don’t overlook those. A small, new conference with excellent instructors may offer the intimate, comfortable environment you need.

3) Start with a local writers’ conference, knowing that you will attend more.

4) Take your time to evaluate the stage of your manuscript or your idea (for non-fiction) and set your goal for the conference accordingly.

5) Google writers or industry professionals you particularly like and check which conferences they attend.

6) Be prepared to be friendly and make contact with fellow writers. They are an equally important benefit of your conference experience.

If you have attended good writing workshops and events, I invite you to respond to this post with your own suggestions.

Talia Carner

Talia Carner’s latest novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, (HarperCollins, June 2011) details the struggles of a young woman between passion and faith. Please check

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hardcover, softcover--or e-book?--A novelist perspective

“Print on paper is out, digitalized words are in,” — or so is the current opinion expressed in social circles, the internet and publishing industry.

Is that really so?

There is no question that the e-book revolution is upon us with various choices led by Kindle, and iPad and Nook, leaving other starters such Sony Reader in the dust. "By this time next year," wrote technology expert Mike Egan two years ago, "e-books will be mainstream."

I’ve recently replaced my cumbersome and ineffective Sony Reader with a basic Kindle (Sony Reader required tech support each time the battery ran out—and it did run out freqently. If I left it plugged into my computer to recharge, the computer eventually went into save mode, causing the Sony Reader’s battery to drain!) By the time I deserted Sony Reader, it had over 80 books, mostly the free classic books, which I tend to read in my never-ending self-schooling in English Lit. The platform did not lend itself to transferring the books to my Kindle.

Besides being an avid reader, I am also a published novelist, and have collected statistics about my books sales: My first novel PUPPET CHILD, (2002) sold only one hardcover copy for every 100 softcover copies. And now, nine years after it was published, its various digital platforms sell twenty copies to each softcover book.

When my second novel, CHINA DOLL, was published in 2006, I told my agent and publisher not to bother with hardcover; I wanted readers—and I wanted them buying their own copies at the lower rate rather than waiting until the less-costly softcover version became available. Now, the digital selling ration is similar as for my PUPPET CHILD—about twenty-five to one.

Both novels are available in all digital platforms most of us have never heard of, yet are being sold, thanks to an innovative service, .

Now, that JERUSALEM MAIDEN is out, we discover that each week about one-third of the sales are in digital formats.

If paper books continue to hold their place in the market for the many of us who love the feel and versatility of it (it is much easier to flip through pages or glance through sections in the paper version,) I must say that I have been right on one count: The print must be large enough not to require a second pair of glasses…. The font needs not be the industry-standard "Large Print" for the senior citizen shelves at the public library, but simply large enough to be easy on the eyes. That’s what I had requested from HarperCollins when they’ve recently published my new novel JERUSALEM MAIDEN.

The verdict? Hardcovers look great on the shelf, but cost too much in resources (paper, shipping,) and are the ones most likely to be replaced by softcover and digital versions.

Talia Carner’s most recent novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, depicts a young woman’s struggle for freedom within the confines of her society’s religious dictate.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Public Thoughts To be Read At The Rosh Hashanah Table

Rosh Hashanah 2011— Year 5772 of proud Jewish history

By Talia Carner

The New Year has always been a time of reflection about life within the broader context of one's relationship with others and one’s relationship with God—or the moral values by which each of us chooses to live. It has been a time of spiritual reconnection with Jewish traditions and of remembering those who, over generations of persecution, were killed for the single sin of their faith.

The tradition of eating sweet foods carries with it the optimism of a sweet new year. A new beginning, a chance to start over.

All across the globe, Jews share these moments—and the hope carried in them. This sharing of rituals ties us all together and remind us that no Jew is ever alone.

Yet, as a community, we are alone. Friends of the Jews come and go, their loyalty never taken for granted. This year, Rosh Hashanah falls all too close to the Jew hate-fest that has seized the world, with its official governing body controlled by those committed to excising the roots of Jewish history and identity and thus removing them from their land. The new wave of anti-Semitism has already swept through Europe, Africa and Asia, and has landed right in our midst at the Manhattan's UN building, while it has long metastasized into leading universities, mainstream media and civic organizations claiming to be unbiased and inclusive.

Now Rosh Hashanah stands to remind us that hate can come knocking on our door first with words, with erasing of our history, with biased resolutions and economic boycotts, and then with guns, bombs, and showers of thousands of rockets that no empty promises of “never again” may be able to stop.

Let the fresh start of Rosh Hashanah therefore remind us how much pride we take in Israel’s extraordinary achievements in science, agriculture and technology—efficiencies, discoveries and inventions she has shared for decades with over 120 countries to help nourish children, improve global food production, and leap medical practices to better the lives of millions daily.

Israel makes us walk tall. Without her, Jews would have been like the Gypsies and Kurds of the world.

Yet, she is now in mortal danger of a war orchestrated by enemies delighted to sacrifice the lives of millions of their people to see the Jews disappear from the Middle East.

As we move into the New Year, let us bless all the good things the world has given us while we send our prayers for those who have already been taking the first bullet for us, and will continue to do so to preserve a home for all Jews persecuted in their countries. And as we do so, let us search within ourselves whether we have done all we could for Israel and its people who need us now more than ever.

A couple of years ago, Israel’s president Shimon Peres said that even Ben-Gurion had not dreamed big enough. Let us dream big tonight—stretch our dreams to encompass all the vast possibilities of hope, and let us dream tonight of a world of peace.

Let’s bless all the good things God has given us so far, and celebrate our resilience and our heritage of strong Jewish values that we have shared with the world over for centuries. And let's allow that dream bring joy to our hearts and to our Rosh Hashanah table.


Author, speaker and activist Talia Carner lives in New York. Her latest novel, Jerusalem Maiden (HarperCollins, June 2011) is set in the early 1900 at the end of the Ottoman Empire rule of the Holy Land (

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Day The World Took Notice

By Talia Carner

Having been a supporter of counter-terrorism intelligence in the United States, I attended in January 2001 a closed-group briefing by Richard Clarke, at the time US Counter-Terrorism Coordinator at the National Security Council and a chief counter-terrorism adviser to four USA presidents. He told the attendees about a man called Osama Bin Laden, a Muslim billionaire hiding in Afghanistan who had trained thousands of militants to attack the West. Bin Laden was the man behind the USS Cole attack and others, Clarke reported. The man’s overarching plan was to take over the West, the world of infidels.

Furthermore, Clarke pointed out, Bin Laden had already planted six-hundred highly trained militants in the US. Some of them were known to the security authorities, many were not.

The media would not report about any of it, Clarke explained, not because they did not believe the credible threat supported by mountains of evidence, but because editors did not wish to sound “alarmists.” Their perception was that their respective audiences did not wish to hear about looming catastrophes.

As a fiction writer, I decided to use the idea in my new novel, which I started in August 2001. At a dinner in New York with my agent and her husband, I outlined the story’s premise. I had barely finished delivering the first paragraph when I saw their eyes glaze over. “You seem to see a Muslim behind every tree,” my agent wrote to me later, ignoring my explanation about Extreme Muslims—not all Muslims—who pose a major risk to America.

Three weeks later, on September 11, at around 9 AM, I started my car at my beach house in Bridgehampton, Long Island, two-hours east of New York City. I had a writing group meeting later than evening at my home in Port Washington, twenty miles outside the city, a place known on literary maps as East Egg. I inserted a “book-on-tape” cassette into the slot and set on the road. Forty-five minutes later, the cassette ended. As it was ejected from the console, the radio took over.

I heard that two planes had just hit the Twin Towers.

I thought of Sesnas and small commuter planes which I always distrusted. But two? The hair rose on my arms. The gears in my brains shifted. The synopsis clicked. This was a terror attack.

I pulled to the shoulder of the highway and called my husband back in Bridgehampton. “Turn on the TV. Now.”

When he did, he started screaming. He was incoherent.

“Tell me what do you see?” I shouted. “What is it?”

“Come back!” was all he managed to utter. “Turn around right now!”

“I can’t. I have my writing group tonight. What are you seeing?”

His screaming got under control only enough to tell me that the first building was crumbling. “The city will be closed. Long Island Expressway will be closed. You won’t be able to come back later,” he insisted.

The feeling of déjà vu--the events I've witnessed in Israel from close and far—settled on me with some strange remoteness. The wait was over. It had finally happened. I turned my car around at the first possible ramp and stopped again, heart pounding. We had children in New York City. “This is the moment that would change my life, our life, the world’s life,” I thought as I looked at the quiet blue skiy, the pulsating green of the grass and trees. I was too calm. I should panic. Something was terribly wrong with me.

I could not reach any of the children.

I called my husband again.

“Oh, my God!” he suddenly called out. “Oh, my God! The Building is falling down.”

“What do you mean ‘falling down?’ It’s just a small plane—”

“It’s a jetliner!” On the radio they told of a fire ball thirty stories high.

“This is the beginning of a war,” I said as I restarted the car. That was how things worked in Israel. Nothing was absurd anymore. Not if the World Trade Center tower fell down. Fell down? I still thought that only the top floors had collapsed, from the spot where the plane had hit, and upward.

How far could this attack go? Richard Clarke’s warnings banged in my head. My imagination in the novel I was working on hadn’t gone far enough. I hadn’t conjured anything like this….

One more plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, I now heard on the radio. I pulled to the side of the road yet again, and reached my youngest daughter. Her office was in the basement of an uptown building, and she shared a wall with one of the largest, busiest subway stations.

“Get out of the office and don’t come back,” I instructed her. There was no question of getting her out of the city as I did not want her taking the train. “Stay in your apartment.”

An hour later, I huddled on the couch with my husband, both of us in complete shock. We had supported investigators of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, an event that had left “only” six dead, too few to ring the alarm bells in the public’s consciousness. I now watched, horrified, as bodies hurled themselves off the buildings’ windows.

We got the news that our son-in-law walked across the bridge to Brooklyn, from where he hitchhiked home. My husband’s niece, a mother of three—the youngest only four months old—worked in the building across the street from the WTC. She managed to flee when her office was hit hard by debris. In the confusion and black cloud, she found herself on the Staten Island ferry, shoeless and bagless, and was taken into the home of a collegue. Ron’s two cousins who work on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center happened to be out of the office: one was away on a business trip, the other took their father to the eye doctor that morning! The old man’s progressive blindness had saved this son's life....

A few days later, at my local train station, I looked at the parking lot filled with unclaimed cars of people who went to work on September 11 and never came back.

In the coming months, I helped a friend who has been involved in fund-raising for social and psychological services for families of the deceased.

Ten years later, while I and the rest of the world have resumed our lives, there are over three thousand children in Long Island who suffer the irreversible, irrecoverable loss of a parent.

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Author Talia Carner’s latest novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, was just released by HarperCollins. Please see .

Sunday, August 7, 2011

No "Spring" for Saudi Women

In the midst of the Arab awakening, women fighting oppression—in Saudi or any other Muslim nation—is doomed to fade away into a dark night.

Earlier this year, the world watched with bated breath as Egyptian women took to the streets alongside men to protest Mubarak’s rule and demand democracy. Cynically, men encouraged women’s participation—only to betray them once Mubarak was removed. Merely a few months later, Egypt—formerly the more modern among Muslim nations—has regressed into gender apartheid the like of which the country has not been seen in decades, and “modesty squads” roam neighborhoods in search of errant women whose appearance or behavior defy the Extreme Islam’s dictates.

Does anyone believe that Saudi women will fare better in their quest for the right to drive? In 2010, the Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 129th out of 134 countries for gender parity (down from spot #114 in 2006.) Islamic patriarchal system has kept Saudi women not just from driving, but from traveling, working and even signing medical forms without the permission of a male guardian—any male relative, even their own minor child.

Gender apartheid is the basis for the entire Muslim social structure. The Arabic word “fitna” means both civil disorder and beautiful woman. In his 2004 article, “Female Desire and Islamic Trauma,” Islam scholar Daniel Pipes explains:

“The entire Muslim social structure… goes to great lengths to separate the sexes and reduce contact between them. This explains such customs as the covering of women's faces and the separation of women's residential quarters, or the harem. Many other institutions serve to reduce female power over men, such as her need for a male's permission to travel, work, marry, or divorce. Revealingly, a traditional Muslim wedding took place between two men – the groom and the bride's guardian.” The reason, Dr. Pipes explains, is rooted by the view that a woman’s sexual desire is so great, that believers are obsessed with the dangers posed by her presence. “So strong are her [sexual] needs …she represents the forces of unreason and disorder. …She must be contained, for her unbridled sexuality poses a direct danger to the social order.”

For that reason, in 2002, in Saudi Arabia, religious policemen prevented fourteen-year-old schoolgirls from leaving a burning school building because they were not wearing their headscarves and abayahs. Fifteen girls died.

The Quran was written long before automobiles were invented. Therefore, it did not specifically prohibit women from driving. It did not even forbid women from riding horses or camels. And in a society obsessed with the modesty of women’s dress, cars actually hide women better than any other methods of transportation. Saudi Arabia’s leaders’ explanation that women driving is unsafe and leads to sexual impropriety is entirely false, as women are routinely pinched and groped through the chadors when walking in the streets, and are often sexually harassed by taxi drivers—or even raped by their own chauffeurs.

On the other hand, driving women around has created a source of income for many Saudi men: there are hundreds of thousands of chauffeurs in Saudi Arabia. Removing the religious fatwa against women driving would deeply affect an entire profession.

Phyllis Chesler has written extensively that subjugating women is behind the brutal misogynistic Islamic practices such as female genital mutilation, stoning and immolation of women, beatings, forced marriages, child marriages and polygamy. Now that Muslim feminists are taking to the streets in protest for the right to drive, they are beaten by mobs, yet have no legal protection even in cases of barbaric assault or rape. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, commented at "… [Saudi] women's rights activists have very little [legal] protection for their physical well-being …This is the problem in a corrupt society…. Republics of fear oppress and repress their citizens by allowing criminals to do the dirty work of the government. It allows the government to keep [its] hands free."

Saudi Arabia is the only country that prohibits women from driving. But viewing the protesting women in context of the men’s dread of female power to cause civil disorder, it is clear that breaking any taboo carries the unthinkable threat of women seeking rights for representation in government, in marriage and divorce, or in property ownership.

In the midst of the Arab awakening, women fighting oppression—in Saudi or any other Muslim nation—is doomed to fade away into a dark night, because the power to relinquish control lies in the hands of their oppressors: men, government, and Islamic religious leadership.

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Author Talia Carner’s novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN (HarperCollins, June 2011) is the story of a woman’s struggle for individuality and freedom within the confines of her society’s strict religious dictates.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mothers on Trial, by Phyllis Chesler

Mothers on Trial, by Phyllis Chesler
Reviewed by Talia Carner

Not since slavery in the USA were mothers punished by having their children taken away from them. Yet, in family courts all across America, judges and quasi-judicial officers of the court do just that: children who are abused or molested by their fathers are removed from their primary-care good mothers and are placed in the hands of their molesting fathers.

How this scandal can go on for decades with hardly any change, without any public outcry, and without any protest from human rights’ activists is due to the fact that outsiders to the gutter of our family courts’ justice simply refuse to believe it.

In her revised and updated milestone fact-filled book, “Mothers on Trial,” Phyllis Chesler fights to save thousands of children from becoming yet another generation of victims of a court system that betrays them time and again. She points out that while adult women often recount childhood sexual molestation at home by close relatives—and these women’s stories are believed—people tend to disbelieve when actually facing such cases as they happen in real time, right in front of them.

It is a documented fact that when fathers fight for custody, 70% of the time they obtain full or partial custody. People often assume that the reason these men who, in most part, have not been fully involved in their children’s lives—sometimes have been absent for months or even years—now gain custody is because the mothers are unfit. The naked truth is that in most of these cases, the father is emotionally and verbally abusive or outright violent. The mother, often the product of an abusive home, often abused for years in her marriage to the father of her children, now faces battle for which she is woefully unequipped to wage. Distraught, terrified, isolated, alienated in a system that scrutinizes her with the same critical and belittling attitude she’s encountered in her private lives, panicked over the fate of her sexually molested children, she seems “emotional” “unreasonable” and “difficult.” Her refusal to share parenting or give access to a man who sexually molest her children is viewed as her being “rigid” and “uncooperative.”

Furthermore, with limited or no financial resources, she comes to court either unrepresented by an attorney, or by an incompetent lawyer with little interest in the complexity of such a case. Or, as is often the case, she does not have the funds to keep the protracted legal battle a high-conflict custody case requires. Filing fees, transcripts, payments to evaluators and her lawyer’s hourly rate quickly rise to thousands of dollars.

In the 1990s I stumbled upon the phenomenon of protective mothers losing these battles in drove, researched it for a few years, and finally published a novel about one such fictional mother in 2002. (Puppet Child.) Since then, I became an activist, trying to find ways to save thousands of children each year from family court’s “justice.” What amazes me is how little has changed in the over decade in which I’ve witnessed more mothers enter the nightmare of family court, where they are discredited, disenfranchised and disbelieved.

Dr. Chesler has been at it a lot longer. Twenty-five years ago she published “Mothers on Trial,” a book that starts with the history of men’s ownership of their families and the lingering feudal notion of male supremacy as the head of the household. She pointed then—and continues to do so now in this excellent revised edition—that society and court hold men to much lower parenting standards than they do women. Mothers fail at every single check list (Does the divorced mother have sex? Is she overwrought with anxiety? Is she poor?) while men can be cold, disinterested, dysfunctional or even violent and they will be excused. In fact, fathers are given new chances time and again to foster their relationships with their children regardless of their abhorrent personal histories, while mothers’ contact with their children are not only curtailed or cut down to expensive supervised visitations, but all too often are severed completely.

If a father poisons a child’s mind against the mother, it does not enter into the question of his parenting skills. But all too often, a child’s fear of an abusive father is regarded as the mother’s brainwashing the child, rather than the father’s own doing. A judge will then chastise the mother for not encouraging enough the relationship with the father—and actually transfer custody to that abusive father. The notion of the best interest of the child and how much the child stands to suffer from cutting the bond with the primary caretaking mother while shuttling into a new life with a man the child fears, does not enter into the equation.

A chapter on Fathers’ Supremacist Movement, reports that fathers’ rights groups have also gathered steam in recent decades and have organized themselves in ways that mothers have failed to do. Some leaders in fathers’ groups have a recorded history of battering their wives or girlfriends, or are convicted pedophiles. Others may have a legitimate concern about shared parenting, but have been expressing strong misogynistic opinions. Common to both ends of the spectrum is the way fathers have been presenting themselves: as persecuted victims. They have been receiving media attention and courtroom sympathy with bogus theories (foremost is Parental Alienation Syndrome that is used almost exclusively against mothers,) and have been successful in passing legislation, due in part to Federal funding under the uncritical assumption that children need equal contact with both parents. Mothers do not have access to equal Federal funding.

In this revised edition, after editing out six chapters and adding eight more while updating the available research, Dr. Chesler examines closely many such cases of outright injustice that defy anything people know and believe possible in our society.

Phyllis Chesler’s book is a must read for every judge, court evaluation, guardian ad litem, social worker, psychologist and lawyer. But more importantly, it should be read by anyone who cares about human rights or about children, because it is time we raise our collective indignation to stop and reverse the life sentence without parole our courts inflict upon children placed in the hands of their molesters.

(To order the book, please click: Mothers On Trial )
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Author Talia Carner’s novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN (HarperCollins, June 2011) is the story of a woman’s struggle for individuality and freedom within the confines of her society’s strict religious dictates.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My personal feminism--and JERUSALEM MAIDEN

I was recently asked about the roots of my feminism--and my newly released novel's relevance to today's women. Here are my responses:

1) Over the span of your professional life, you have held several influential positions related to women's issues, rights and activism. At what point in your career did you begin to formulate thoughts that would be later used to craft the story of JERUSALEM MAIDEN?

While stories find me in “Eureka!” moments, their seeds have often been planted in me long before, creating the fertile soil for the blooming of a novel. This is certainly the case with JERUSALEM MAIDEN. I come from a family with a strong maternal line of talented, capable, ground-breaking females. I heard stories about my great-great-grandmother who traveled from Jerusalem to Russia at age fourteen to get Halitza (a form of Jewish release from marriage), and about my great-grandmother who was so intelligent that her father, a rabbi, allowed her to sit outside the door to his yeshiva (Jewish religious school) and listen. As an adolescent, I already had a sense that my grandmother Esther was a superb artist who did not belong in her world and who was bitter about being kneaded into a mold that she hated. Her oldest daughter actually ran away from home in the early 1940s to study law in Beirut (under the British Mandate). My grandmother’s youngest daughter manipulated her way to New York where she eventually became the first woman stock broker at Dean Witter Reynolds, then third largest US brokerage firms. My own mother, now a successful Israeli artist who’s sold literally thousands of paintings in her career only began painting at age forty. In my nascent feminism of the early 70s which I developed independently from the lexicon and ideas that had already entered US culture, I ached for the tremendous waste I sensed in the previous generations. It took the penning of three novels and the premature death of a talented cousin with whom I had discussed our grandmother many times for me to finally begin to tackle this big subject that was both personal and global.

2) In JERUSALEM MAIDEN you introduce readers to a young woman in early 20th-century Jerusalem who struggles with her traditional faith as her personal desires pull her away from home. Is there a message for today's women in Esther's journey? What about women in non-Western style societies?

Esther's story is still universal. Having lived and traveled abroad, and having worked with women in Third-World nations, I learned to appreciate our freedoms and opportunities. Yet, even in the 21st century, all too many women in Western societies are bound by self-imposed social, religious or psychological constraints lodged in their heads, constraints that hold them back no less than did Esther’s God—or the rabbis’ interpretations of His will.

This is not the case with women living in non-Western societies. Whether in China or Congo, Argentina or Saudi Arabia, women do not have the access to education, health care, economic resources, birth control, political power or civil liberties that would make it possible for them to even envision—let alone accomplish—independence and personal fulfillment. Also, not mutually exclusive is the fact that around the globe poverty is feminized, which immensely affects priorities. The key to change, of course, is education—of women, but also of men and governments, for development can be accelerated when women share the resources, gain confidence, and contribute to the betterment of society.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Truth is a must in fiction

Real life happens, and, paradoxically, that is what fiction is about.

Back in the stone-age days of the early 80s, I worked for Redbook magazine, which taught young married women how to manage the physicality of home, family, kitchen, marriage, and children. The editorial content supposedly reflected the nuances of women’s lives and covered relationship topics such as friendships or loss of loved ones. Sometimes their articles even touched job-loss or difficult in-laws, but “problems” were usually sugar-coated and often had the unreal feel of Hallmark Cards.

In 1985 I moved to Savvy Woman magazine as its publisher. Savvy was the magazine for the women executives—a new phenomenon for those females “allowed” to play with the big boys in their sandbox.

Common to both types of magazines was the fact that none recognized the anguish of women who had failed to find a mate, or had coupled with the wrong man in a marriage that was ending in divorce. Nor was the word “custody” ever mentioned. Whether a homemaker or a CEO of a public company, there was an assumption of happiness within the context of a husband and children.

I always worked in the business side of magazines, never the editorial. But I asked questions. Redbook editors had told me that it would be “a kiss of death” for a magazine to touch the topic of divorce, let alone abuse, court, or lawyers. And in Savvy Woman magazine, we published a study proving how sexually satisfied executive women were in spite of their busy lives. Only a few of years ago, the then-Editor-in-Chief (and still my friend), Wendy Reid Crisp, described the fraudulent way in which this study had been obtained—and how she had been pressured by the magazine’s management to publish it. Executive women were shattering the glass ceiling with their heads. The truth was that they were lonely, unhappy, and had little sex.

We trusted magazines. Women’s magazines were our friends, our companions. I loved their feel, their fresh smell of ink that even perfume samples failed to ruin. It was disappointing to read the blasting indictment by Myrna Blyth, the former Editor-in-Chief of Ladies’ Home Journal for over 20 years, of women’s magazines and their exploitation of women’s insecurities and dreams….

In the 1990s, I left the business world to become a full-time fiction writer. I had always been an avid reader of novels—a slow reader, I must say, as I mouthed the music of sentences and heard in my head the rhythm of paragraphs, waiting for that wonderful concert of senses in the form of a story that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, sometimes for year!

Novels capture you in quite the opposite way than magazines do. Rather than seeking information and “how-to” guidance, you approach a novel for the entertainment value, for the intellectual stimulation. You know it is fiction, it is not real, and you hope it would give you an emotional thrill. A good story is artistically woven with universal emotions under the pressure-cooker of seemingly real-life crises, and it carries you into this fictional world with all its trials and tribulations. Suddenly you care. At the end, you are inspired and encouraged, because when you embark upon a journey with the protagonist, you ride along the twists-and-turns in a condensed real-life manner, and you discover or redefine truths along with her.

Truth is a must in fiction. Only the characters and personal events relating to the protagonist are fictionalized. The emotions must be real. The way information is being doled out must be sincere.

And if divorce or death, or betrayal, or misery, or custody battle, or social injustice happen in fiction, it is because real life is filled with roads of no returns. As Nola, the protagonist of one of my novels, CHINA DOLL, discovered: the most common denominator of people are the emotions of separations and losses.

And that emotional truth is the basis of a good novel.
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Author Talia Carner's new novel is JERUSALEM MAIDEN (HarperCollins, June 2011.) It depicts the struggle of a young woman between her passion for art and her society's religious dictates. Please check .

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Saving Rivka

Rivka was fourteen. A Jerusalem maiden, she was already married, building a home in God's Holy City according to the mitzvah to hasten the messiah’s arrival.

Alas, Rivka's young husband died, leaving her no longer a virgin but neither a mother. She was doomed to never contribute her share to hastening the messiah’s arrival through the good dead of procreation in Jerusalem.

Thankfully, to her rescue came the ancient law that would ensure saving her womb from this fate, a law that would help her bear children in her husband’s name.

No frozen sperms in a bank. Familiar only with the old-fashion route, the law simply required that Rivka's husband’s brother would impregnate her on his dead brother’s behalf, thus ensuring the closest proxy of the dead man’s seed. “Yibum,” the rabbis called this brilliant scheme, as thus saved, Rivka would not be deprived of the privilege to hasten the messiah’s arrival.

But wait! There were problems: Rivka's brother-in-law was merely a boy of eight, and he lived in Russia, Yishmor Hashem.

Poor Rivka was condemned to a lifelong widowhood, except that another Jewish law, a more modern one, came to her rescue. This law demonstrated the sages’ enlightenment by undoing the archaic law of Yibum. According to this more progressive law, called Halitza, the deceased man’s brother may relinquish his sacred obligation to his brother’s memory—but not without a great shame.

Disdained at her brother-in-law’s refusal to impregnate her, Rivka must humiliate him publicly by removing one of his shoes and spitting in his face.

Armed with this practical solution to her plight, at age fourteen Rivka set out alone on the road to Russia, on foot and on horseback, through snow-capped mountains crawling with bandits.

It took her two years to make the trip there, and two more years to return to Jerusalem, a free woman.

The messiah, who’s forever tarried, waited until at age eighteen Rivka was finally permitted to remarry and fulfill her duty to hasten his arrival.

Rivka was my grandmother’s grandmother, the grandmother of Esther, my own grandmother who inspired the protagonist in my upcoming novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN. The novel fictionalizes an alternate life for a woman wishing to break away from the religious confinements of her society in order to fulfill her passion for art.

My grandmother passed on to me Rivka’s determination and courage. But I also took another lesson: I stopped worrying about the messiah’s comings and goings. Then, no longer burdened with carrying the weight of the world’s fate on my shoulders, I’ve become my own messiah.

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Talia Carner’s next heart-wrenching novel, JERUSALEM MAIDEN, will be published by HarperCollins on May 31st, 2011. It is the story of a woman’s struggle for individuality against her society’s religious dictates.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shall I ever write a negative book review?

Benjamin D’Israeli said, “When I want to read a good book, I write one.” But even D’Israeli, I am sure, also read books written by others—and enjoyed them.

As an author, I am often asked for recommendations of books I’ve read and enjoyed. I am also asked to read works-in-progress. Unfortunately, I do more of the latter than the former, but I enjoy both processes.

Reviewing published books is different from reviewing unpublished manuscripts. When I review a writing buddy's work-in-progress (or even when she believes it is all done,) I can offer constructive suggestions which she may or may not follow, but there is still time for corrections before the manuscript gets into the hands of an agent, publisher--and finally a reader. The critiquing—a constructive process that is not criticizing—is challenging as I am inserting myself into the creative thinking of the development of characterization and plot, or the use of language and voice. I can advise about setting and pace, or dialogue vs. exposition.

In reviewing published books, my perspective is different: It is too late to change the book, while my readers look to me for recommendations of books I appreciate. They've enjoyed reading mine and hope to have that emotional high we all get when we are carried away by a great read. Therefore, I must offer them my honest opinion.

That said, I rarely read anything I don't like. Why should I? I drop the book after 2-50 pages and therefore would not write a review. However, there have been times when I was coaxed into reading on in the context of a book group or was pressed by a friend to read a particular bestseller. In one case, my original reluctance proved wrong as the book improved greatly. In other cases though, I gained enough familiarity with the work to explain what I perceived to be objective flaws. In these cases, each of the authors was extremely successful, so my less-than-top starry review could not adversely affect his career.

That leaves a gray area in between: When I am asked to review a published book of an unknown author. If the book has problems, I may just find an excuse not to write a review. Recently, after reading 50 pages, I wrote back to the publicist and explained the reasons I would not endorse the book, but I volunteered to read the author’s next manuscript in order to help her avoid some serious lapses.

In one case, an author I knew failed to get enough reviews. I read the whole book, found it wanting, but nevertheless was pressured to give it 5 stars. For a few weeks I flinched each time I thought about my false endorsement. Finally, I went back and changed my rating to 4 stars, but was still unhappy because I had not express in writing where the book fell short. After some time, I just deleted the review and promised myself I would not go this route again.

And then there is the real pleasure, when I read a book that is great. What a wonderful honor it is to be the one to "discover" that author! And that’s also when I enjoy sharing my finds with other book lovers.

Here is the link to my Amazon Listmanias:

And here is the link to my book reviews (I am backed up, but will add more soon):

Have a good reading experience!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Public Thoughts To be Read At The Passover Table

Passover 2011

By Talia Carner

This Passover, as we celebrate our ancestors’ freedom from slavery, we reconnect through our most important holiday with our centuries-long traditions. It is incumbent upon us to contemplate the broader concept of freedom and what it means to us as individuals, as members of our immediate communities, and as members of the community of Jews across the globe.

Throughout history, Passover has also been a time of increased blood libels and pogroms against Jews. While Jews celebrated freedom and showed benevolence toward fellow humans, they were reminded how hated they were—hatred so strong that “justified” killing them by the dozens, thousands, and millions. In these days, as a new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping over the globe, gathering tsunami-like power, it lands right in Manhattan's UN building. The global Jew-hate fest from Venezuela to Spain has metastasized into leading universities, mainstream media, civic organizations, and even Western governments. The tale of the Haggadah we read at the Seder stands to remind us that hate comes knocking on our door first with words, then with economic and academic boycotts, then with biased UN resolutions, and, as in the past, it may end with guns, bombs and incinerators.

Passover also marks spring in our ancient agrarian society, a beginning of a cycle of life, with the blooming of trees and the planting of vegetables and flowers. Spring’s fresh start and the tradition of inviting strangers to share our bounty at the Passover table reminds us of Israel’s extraordinary achievements in agriculture and science—efficiencies, discoveries and inventions she has sharedfor decades with over 120 countries to help nourish children, improve global food production, and wipe out starvation.

While these past sixty-three years Israelis—both civilians and soldiers—have given each Jew everywhere reason to walk tall and proud, their existential threat from Iran is real.

“Every Jew should consider himself as if he was freed from slavery,” says the Haggadah we read tonight. In today’s climate we should add that “Every Jew should consider himself as if he’s just escaped a terrorist bomb.” There but for the grace of God and twist of history, we would not have been spared the wrath and bombs of Palestinians or extreme Muslim murderers taking shelter in our sacred freedom. Let’s give our prayers and charity to the families who have suffered unimaginable, senseless losses and to the over 6,000 injured Israelis forever coping with imbedded nails, burned faces, or missing limbs. And as we do, let us search within ourselves whether we have done all we could for them and for the Israeli soldiers who take the first bullet for us.

The tradition of Passover also calls us to invite to the Seder table any Jew who does not have one. Let’s invite—at least in our thoughts—all our Jewish brethren in countries that do not offer the freedom and protection that the USA guarantees us. For them, we can raise our collective voice with indignation and outrage and use our collective power to fight tyranny and fanaticism that calls for our—and their—demise.

At a recent interview, Israel’s president Shimon Peres said that even Ben-Gurion had not dreamed big enough. Let us dream big tonight—stretch our dream to encompass all the vast possibilities, and let us dream tonight of a world of peace.

Let us bless all the good things God has given us so far, and celebrate our resilience and our heritage of strong Jewish values that we have shared with the world over for centuries. And let's allow that dream bring joy to our hearts and to our Passover table.


Novelist Talia Carner lives in New York. Her next novel, Jerusalem Maiden, will be published in June 2011 by HarperCollins. (

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My favorite quotes about writing fiction

Truman Capote was known for embellishing his experiences. When questioned, Capote responded, “Well, if it wasn’t true, that’s the way it should have been.”

In my case, I did not need to embellish the background to the stories I’ve found, where the human spirit must rise above the horrors and scandals that plague our globe. All I needed to fictionalize were the characters and the events. Or, as Tom Clancy said, “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”

More of my favorite quotes about writing and reading fiction:

“An unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” –Ursula K. Le Guin

“Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, whish is to reveal the beloved to himself.” – James Baldwin

“When I want to read a good book, I write one.”
--Benjamin Disraeli

“Story is to human beings what the pearl is to the oyster.”
--Joseph Gold

And then the one whose source is unknown, but it is the one that applies to my writing: “Take a skeleton out of the closet and dance with it.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Israel--That Pesky Little Country

If a green-eyed Martian landed at the United Nation building, he would report back to Mars about the wonderful countries populating Planet Earth. Specifically, his account might describe the block of fifty-six Muslim nations entrusted in making this planet a peaceful habitat for all humans: Lebanon is on the Security Council, Libya on the Human Rights Council, Sudan on the Commission of Human Rights, Egypt and Pakistan on Economic and Social Council, Tunisia and Indonesia on Population Council, and Iran appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women.

But then, he would report about that little pesky country that causes so much trouble. Among all its neighbors, she is the only one that permits her citizens to sue their government, her press is free to criticize her, and women are equal under the law. In fact, she is the only country where “honor killing”—the neighbors’ family values—is outlawed.

Anti-Israel winds have been blowing and gathering force around the globe to the point that it is politically correct to spread misinformation and outright lies. From the academia, to polite society, Liberal circles and the press, it is politically correct to demonize Israel and to apply a multitude of double standards when setting her apart from either civilized nations or her supposed victims, the Palestinians. It is politically correct to replace facts with hate-filled narrative.

How do you know when criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism? Nathan Sharansky offers the simple 3D test: Double Standards, Demonization, Delegitimization.

Double standard: Over 40 hot spots of human misery can be found around the globe. Yet those with bleeding hearts for human suffering focus on one that is very low on this list while ignoring the heinous trafficking of children in Southeast Asia, the mass rape of women in Africa, the murders of civilians under military regimes in South America, and the targeted persecution, expulsion and killing of Christians in Muslim countries.

Most important, they also ignore the root causes of the Palestinians’ suffering:
• The Arab League nations refused to accept the partition plan of 1947 and instead declared a war on the nascent Israeli state, creating the Arab refugee problem.
• After World War II, over ten million European refugees and 750,000 Jews from Arab countries have been settled. Arab nations have steadfastly refused to help or absorb Palestinian refugees, then also numbering 750,000.
• Today, Lebanon still denies Palestinians any basic rights, from owning real estate to holding over fifty types of jobs, including profession such as doctors and lawyers. Children of Palestinian refugees are denied public education.
• Egypt expels them from its midst.
• King Hussein of Jordan, whose constituency’s majority is Palestinian, massacred 10,000 of them in Black September—by far more killed than Israel has ever been accountable for, which was in response to attacks on her citizens.
• For decades, more Palestinians kill one another each year than in any Israeli military action. Their Fatah and the Hamas are arch enemies, and their disputes are being resolved weekly with blood shed.
• Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were entitled to Israeli citizenship if they married an Israeli citizen, or reunited with their families inside the country. (Israel had to halt this practice when it was proven that many suicide bombers gained an Israeli ID card under the auspice of family reunification.) No so in Arab countries; most impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians—often denying them entry under any circumstances.
• Billions of Euros donated by European countries for Palestinian territories’ development show up either as mansions right in the heart of Gaza or in Swiss banks of the Palestinian elite.
• The Palestinian Authority has full and exclusive rule over the populated areas of the West Bank, including security. Israeli military is not present inside Palestinian towns.
• In a Democratic election supervised by former US president Jimmy Carter, citizens of Gaza elected Hamas, a group listed in US-terror list, that now brutally suppresses them.
• Hamas uses civilians as "human shields,” placing women and children in harm's way—specially in those areas from which they launch rockets into Israel—thus deliberately creating civilian Palestinian casualties.

Focusing on Israel’s “oppression” as the cause for the suffering of the Palestinians rather than on the Arab countries that actually created the refugee problem and have exploited it ever since—along with the brutal rule of the Palestinians’ own elected ruling party—is nothing more than demagoguery, bigotry and cynicism. Israel merely controls its own borders. She has only blocked Palestinians’ free entrance since 2001 rise of the intifada violence and subsequent thousands of terror acts against her population. Even today, each year over 180,000 Palestinians are treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel has never blocked the supply of electricity, water, phone services or the movement of food and medical supply trucks into Gaza.

The moment that the shower of thousands of Hamas rocket attacks upon Israeli towns ceases, Israel will reopen the borders and will share her knowledge and progress with the Palestinians—as she did before. Prior to the 2001 intifada, the International Monetary Fund reported that per capita income in Gaza and the West Bank was the highest in the Arab world because Palestinian workers were employed in Israel and enjoyed minimum legal pay and other benefits guaranteed by law.

It is important to note that the Palestinians’ misery is not total and complete. There is no humanitarian crisis as anti-Israel propaganda claims. Photographs shown in the media omit Gaza’s new shopping mall, modern office buildings, markets filled with produce, and beaches crowded with vacationing families.

Demonization: From cartoons to U.N. resolutions, it is the ultimate anti-Semitism to continually compare Israel to Nazism. Zionism means the right of Jewish people for their homeland in the land of Zion. It is anti-Semitism to disparage the word or to use the name Zionist to mean evil.
• No Israeli military campaign has ever deliberately targeted civilians.
• Israeli soldiers do not rape Palestinian women.
• In Haiti after the earthquake, Israel was the first country to set up operating rooms whose goals was not the harvesting of organs.
• Israel cannot send sharks to the beaches of Egypt as the Egyptian government claimed.
• Israel is the only country in modern times that has never bombed enemy capitols in retaliation for bombs dropped upon her own civilians.
• It is demonization to compare Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz.
• Israel constitutes less than 1 per cent of the land mass of the Middle East, and it is demonization to position her as the cause of all the region’s myriad problems.
• It is demonization to call Israel an “apartheid” country.
o Israel has an Arab population of one million (twenty per cent of the population) that are full citizens and do not live as Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority.
o As citizens of the State of Israel, they are the only Arabs in the Middle East living in democracy with representation in the parliament.
o Due to medical care and social benefits, these Israeli-Arabs’ life expectancy is the highest and infant mortality the lowest in the Arab world.
o Arabic is one of two official languages of Israel.

Perpetuating lies about the Israel is nothing more than demonizing a democratic country that has shown respect to its citizens of all nationalities and reverence for their religious institutions.

With such double standard and demonizing, the route to delegitimization of Israel is short:
In November 2010, the UN's cultural body, UNESCO, recognized two ancient Jewish sites, Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—as “Palestinian,” thus severing Jewish history from its people. This farce is a delegitimization of not just Israel as a state, but more so of the Jews and their history. A nation which negotiates away her cradle of history is giving away her future.

Yet, there are people who consider themselves fair-minded while willing to erase a nation’s history and replace it with myths.

When the Ottoman Empire came to an end in 1918, forty countries were formed in its collapse. Only one of them, Israel— mandated by The League of Nations as a “homeland for the Jews” and since then truncated to a fraction of its originally mandated size—is being put again into question. On the other hand, Palestinian nationalism was not even a contender in 1918—or any time before 1967. Now, those who call themselves Palestinians—a name that used to indicate the Jews in the land—claim to have lived there all along.

Is it really so?
In 1867, Mark Twain described the land he visited as "…dismal scenery …It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land… Palestine is desolate and unlovely…."
• Muhammad never set foot in Jerusalem or in the Land of Israel.
• Jerusalem was never a capital of any Arab entity.
• Jerusalem was not mentioned in the 1964 PLO's Covenant.
• The “liberation of Palestine” only became a cause after the 1967 war, during which Israel displaced Amman's rule in the West Bank and Cairo's in Gaza.
• Arabs never established a Palestinian state or advocated one prior to the Six-Day War in 1967.

And Jerusalem?
The 1900 census listed the city’s population at 46,500; 28,200 Jews, 8,760 Christians, 8,600 Muslims. Muslims were never a majority in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was never a Muslim holy site. Demanding it as a capital is a late 20th century invention designed to both delegitimize Israel and to anchor Palestinian claim to all of Israel.

And finally, the argument of occupation: Israel, so goes popular anti-Israel fallacy, should withdraw from land it occupies illegally. Leaving aside the issue of wars launched by the Arab countries which they lost, thus losing the land to Israel, their “illegal” assertion quotes a distorted U.N. resolution 242.

Passed in 1967, Resolution 242 calls for Israel to return "territories" captured during its defensive war of 1967. The words "all" and "the" were proposed by those who advocated a complete return, but the U.S. and Great Britain, which opposed that view, prevailed. More importantly, even partial return of captured territories is conditioned in resolution 242 on "termination of all claims of belligerency" and "acknowledgment of the sovereignty… of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

Resolution 242 does not mention the rights of non-states, such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas or Hezbollah, the latter two of which do not accept the conditions of the resolution. It is unequivocally wrong for the Security Council retroactively to rewrite Resolution 242, which is the foundation for a two-state solution—Israel and Palestine—forty-four years after it was enacted.

Being pro-Palestinian does not mean to be anti-Israel. Israel has never objected to the creation of a Palestinian state. It agreed to it in 1947, 56, 73, 93 and in every talk in between and since. Being pro-Palestinian means supporting a free, democratic Palestinian state that does not teach its children to hate and would never use its most vulnerable citizens as human shields.

However, rather of accepting the two-state solution, the Palestinian charter that called for the destruction of Israel was never reversed, even after the agreed-upon 1993 Oslo Accord. Instead, several Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, are forging conceptual and tactical bonds with al-Qaeda.

What government around the globe is expected to passively render its population vulnerable to mass-slaughter? Would we, in the United States, sit quietly by as rockets rained down upon American cities from terrorist sanctuaries outside our southern borders?

International law is not a suicide pact. Yet that is what the calls for boycott and divestiture are, which makes them anti-Semitic to the core. Interestingly, self-servingly, the people and institutions demanding to punish Israel for defending herself by boycotting her products do not divest themselves from their own computers, cell phones or voice mail that run on Israeli chips. They would not give up on using banking systems that run on Israeli communication technologies, nor do they stop treating their families to medical care for cancer, Alzheimer, or multiple sclerosis due to research done by Israeli scientists and doctors.

After learning the facts, the green-eyed Martian will report to Mars that as a democracy, Israel thrives on criticism. She has the tools and institutions that permit and support critique and incorporate the lessons into her life—she has one of the strongest supreme court in the world with an impeccable record of remedying social, political, economical and even military ills.

Criticism of Israel should be comparable, contextual, constructive. It should also give credence to the Israel’s extraordinary progress these past 63 years, starting from ground zero, being inundated by wars and the subject of scorn by a world tolerant of the murder of Jews—and ready to blame them for their own demise.

Author Talia Carner’s next novel, Jerusalem Maiden, will be published by HarperCollins, June 2011.

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The above article was culled from various sources, among them:
Myths and Facts:
Middle East Forum:
The Israel Project:
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:
Jewish Virtual Library- Modern History:
Honest Reporting:
World Jewish Congress:
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research:
Zionist Organization of America:
Stand With Us:
Anti-Defamation League:
American Jewish Committee:
Middle East and Terrorism:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Strangers No More"


It is hard to imagine the challenge facing a school that serves over 800 children from forty-eight countries, children who’ve known wars and strife, who saw their parents killed in front of their eyes, or children who had walked the desert, or who come to school hungry and whose parents live under the radar screen of the authorities as foreign workers fearful of being caught and deported.

Yet Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel-Aviv, Israel not only educates them, but gives them love, compassion, and hope. In the open and accepting environment created by an outstanding principal Karen Tal and a team of exceptional teachers, students support one another, play together and chat in the new common language, Hebrew. Racial and color divides drop completely in a place where each child is “different” yet none is made to feel anything less than unique. Each child learns to put his or her hauntingly traumatic past behind, adjust to the present, and look to the future. Unlike other public schools in the city that close at 1 or 2 PM, Bialik-Rogozin is open late, until these children’s parents are back from work. Furthermore, as in the case of Johannes, a war refugee who speaks only Tigrit, freedom acquires a new meaning when the boy is taken to the doctor where he is fitted with glasses, and his teacher gives him bicycles so he can ride around the neighborhood and connect with his new world. At a home visit, when the teacher learns of the father’s visa problems, the school takes on the task of navigating the bureaucratic maze for the family. It is heart-warming to see that merely a few months after Johannes’s arrival, he is an eager and engaged student who now translates and helps a new Tigrit-speaking child find his way around the school.

And Esther, whose mother was killed in South Africa (yet who still believes that she will return,) is surprised when her new white-skinned friends admire her tightly braided hair, hug her, and seek her friendship. Soon, the articulate girl, now clothed and fed by the school, is helped to accept the finality of her mother’s death, flourishes and becomes a leader.

Nothing testifies to the success of the school as when the charming and determined Mohammed, who arrived from Darfur at age sixteen, not only catches up on a lifetime of lack of schooling, but upon graduation plans to return to his village and open a school there.

The film avoids the underlining political questions about a vulnerable country opening its borders to refugees or a public school that supports illegal immigrants by integrating their children into the new culture. Instead, the film teaches the most humane lesson as it demonstrates how far compassion, goodwill, and enormous patience can help change the life of children from utter despair to a world of possibilities offered by a sense of self, security and education.

It is easy to draw from the cliché of superlatives when describing an environment in which ethnic definitions and cultural differences—that all too often breed hatred—simply melt and fall away. Even the word “tolerance” is too trivial for the place that Lin Arison, the philanthropist who financed the documentary, calls “a miracle.” The tight throat and tear-filled eyes of the audience provide a better sense of the emotional power of the film.

And if “Strangers No More” fails to show Israel’s detractors her true face, then they ought to turn their critical eyes toward themselves.

The 40-minute documentary is short listed for the Academy Award (semi-final 8 for final 4, to be announced on January 24th,) and will be aired on HBO.
More about the film: