Meet the Author….
My life as a new immigrant could have been another episode of I love Lucy. Plucked from Portland Oregon and dropped into Jerusalem, I was fumbling and stumbling.
I wasn’t prepared for the excruciating difficulty and complete humiliation of acquiring a second language. I naively arrived to Israel thinking: Why do I need to know Hebrew? I will scrape by with my English, I thought. Who would notice a tiny thing like my big illiteracy in Hebrew? Did I really need to speak it?
“YOU don’t speak Hebrew?” blasted the Israeli taxi cab driver in Jerusalem.
“How can you come here and not speak the country’s native language?”
It was as though he threw a bucket of ice cold water over my head. My secret was out. I didn’t know an “Aleph” from a “Bet.” I even had difficulty pronouncing my Hebrew name not to mention writing it.
My Hebrew was spoken in an abruptly disconnected style, each staccato syllable I uttered had the potential of scratching and irritating the listener’s ear. My jarring Hebrew was causing the local unnecessary stress.
I enrolled in Ulpan, Hebrew school.
My husband kept his job in Nevada and traveled back and forth every two to three weeks. My two children, 11 and 13, were busy with school. So I poured myself into learning Hebrew.
Once in ulpan our teacher told us to write a story using the new words we learned. I realized that I learned Hebrew by writing. So I started to write stories about my adventures in Israel. I asked my teacher to correct them.
One day, my ulpan teacher asked me,
“Leah, Why don’t you see if you can get these published?” So I did and Hebrew University Press published To be Israeli (Lihyot israeli) and I am Israeli (Ani Israeli.)