First Lines for a New Year

In the spirit of new beginnings, twelve Haaretz reviewers put pen to paper for Rosh Hashanah.

Ilya Melnikov

For the first three years of his life, Ernest Hemingway was clothed in elegant muslin dresses; he wore flowery hats, and his hair wasn’t cut until he was seven. His mother, Grace, wanted Ernest and Marcelline, his sister who was a year older, to look like a set of pretty twins.

For the first seven years of his life in Baghdad, my father was clothed like a girl: A long white dress enveloped his body, his hair was long and smooth like mine, he wore dangling earrings and a decorative nose ring. For seven years, my father deceived God and was raised as a girl. Vered Lee

My Tishri gift of a calendar-diary didn’t arrive from the bank. Maybe it was the mailman’s fault, or maybe the fault of Shmulik, the redheaded teller who figured that the state of my account didn’t warrant a present.

Because the diaries for 5775 had run out, I decided to make do with the one from last year, the one with the blue velvet. I would hold the meetings that were listed on the right day and in the right place, or maybe I would use the diary from seven years ago, the one with the white suede cover… Shlomit Cohen-Assif

Tasha? She tells me, do gematria; the Hebrew letters of the new year, Tasha, work out to 775, all is concealed in the numbers. Do the calculation. What does asonot rabim – “many disasters” – work out to in gematria? Exactly: 775. I think that with that I’ve said everything there is to say. But on the other hand – wait a minute, don’t get up: “Gaza and Jericho first” is also 775. What does that tell us, actually? Gaza-and-Jericho happened a long time ago, but gematria doesn’t lie… Just a minute, interesting, I see that “Dana International” is 775, too, fascinating… Maybe Dana will return Gaza and Jericho first and that will cause many disasters? Scary! Do you know Dana? Maybe you can put in a word? What’s her big rush to give back Gaza and Jericho? Eh? Dror Burstein

“It’s amazing how much these white plastic benches look exactly like ancient wooden benches from a medieval inn, right?” Rotem sighed with satisfaction.

“I suppose so,” Noah replied gloomily.

Rotem immediately fell into a funk. She’d already dared to imagine the witty remarks of their friends who would come over for a cold beer in the yard on a hot summer evening, and now the only prospect she saw once more was an ugly and expensive imitation of the past. Masha Zur Glozman

An outbreak of the deluga virus shook Israel’s inhabitants, because for most of the year 5775, no one had heeded the warnings of a few experts and flower growers. When the epidemic spread, toward the end of the summer, many people believed it would be possible to eradicate it quickly, if not by sprinkling iodine, then with the aid of silence that harbors a secret. The newspapers were getting ready for the festivities and reported with relief: “Behind us, the deluga.” Avner Shapira

She stood at the window at dusk on the eve of Yom Kippur 1962. The pale, soft light fell on her neck in a thousand rays. She munched on the ham sandwich she was holding and thought about her mother, who used to send them with sandwiches even to her sister, because she didn’t believe in the kashrut of any place. She knew that an absolutely horrible day awaited her at work tomorrow. Alit Karp

Whenever he played with his little son, and precisely because the boy’s upward-turned eyes glittered with such untrammeled happiness, he was compulsively gripped by a kind of reverse longing, a suffocating grief at the future his son would never see. Tomer Persico

No, no, anyone but him, tell me it’s not him, so smart, so talented, unbelievably talented, and generous, with all his money he also knows how to give, a guy like that, when they knock on his door at night it’s only to inform him about another prize, another promotion, a personal letter from the prime minister, anything but that, dear God, tell me it’s not that. Tamar Merin

One day around noon, in the middle of Tamuz, in the year 5675 [summer 1915], when perspiration burst through the skin and washed over your shirt, a small ship dropped anchor in the port of Jaffa, and from it alit, mincingly, jangling and self-importantly, with no little noise, a woman, and behind the woman trudged three Turkish porters who dragged three suitcases and two chests, and a cage holding a peacock. Matan Hermoni

“What time is it?” I asked with a yawn. “A minute to four,” she replied in broken Hebrew.

“What luck that I woke up from the siesta in time. An eight-hour difference from Israel, and there ‘Tasha’ starts in a minute.”

“What starts?” she asked.

“The Jewish New Year,” I said.

“Ah, in your country, day holy day, and here day regular.”

“Yes, here instead of a shofar the rooster trumpets a blast,” I said, and through the window I looked at a synagogue of trees swaying in the wind like palm fronds for Sukkot. Yaron Avitov

From the seventh-floor window, Gideon could see the houses of Tel Aviv: an unruly mix of roofs and awnings and solar water-heaters, and balconies padded with green plastic or crammed with old furniture. Opposite him, directly opposite, he could see, between the houses and the hotels, three perfect squares of blue sea. He knew he had to reach it, but didn’t know how or when. Avraham Balaban

At nine-thirty on Friday evening, he called from a number she didn’t recognize and said: Enough, enough, I don’t have anyone else. She considered hanging up but went on talking to him from the place she’d stopped a year ago – as though her life itself were only something above which the high wire of their meetings stretched – and the next day she invited him to her apartment for an hour, and he engraved his name on her back. Tal Niv