That’s me looking out at the desert landscape after a sunrise hike on the second morning of an eight-day trip for 20 children’s authors sponsored by PJ Library, a nonprofit based in MA.
PJ Library sends books for free to families with children in North America and many countries around the world. Their goal—to connect children through stories to Jewish values, history, and culture.
They have distributed three of my books in English and in German, Ukrainian, and Russian. On the trip, I learned that PJ has a partnership with the Ministry of Education in Israel and distributes books by local authors to more than 350,000 Israeli children at their schools. Arab Israeli Arabs receive books in Arabic. Jewish Israelis in Hebrew.
We spent time in the desert, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv on bend-the-scenes tours of seminal sites (Wailing Wall, City of David, Qumran Caves, Machane Yehuda market, …) and museums (the Israel Museum, ANU, the National Library of Israel, …) and engaging in a range of activities (floating and boating in the Dead Sea, digging for artifacts in Beit Guvrin caves, baking bread in Mitzpe Ramon, riding camels in the desert, …).
But what had the biggest and most lasting impact on me were the people I met who shared their wisdom, joys, and challenges. Jews from Ethiopia, Cochin India, and Iraq. Teachers and parents from the Arab and Jewish integrated, bilingual Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem. Israeli Arab and Jewish authors (the 19 others on the trip; one who co-founded Early Starters International, a nonprofit that creates safe spaces for refugee children in Eastern European and Israel; and the famed Etgar Keret, …), and more.
A trip of a lifetime is an understatement. Let’s hope you see books of mine inspired by this adventure.