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Alija with a mop | Jewish General

You assume the worst. The whole thing begins as if you were in the middle of a text from one of the last young magazines chasing after the hipster zeitgeist in vain. Flaky. relaxed. Lots and lots of good-humoured friends show up. There is a lot of dancing and cooking together in a miniature kitchen. Everyone has little or no money, but “projects”.

But that doesn’t matter. you are young The sun is shining, even if it’s Hamburg. And who thinks about pensions, life insurance or what Marie Kondo hasn’t put away yet, when you can talk about a lot superficially very quickly, find new friends again and again and relationships are discarded as quickly as a card in poker?

AUTHOR You assume the worst if you beat the book Five words for longing of journalist Sarah Levy. Born in 1985, she grew up in a liberal Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, attended a Jewish elementary school, then a non-denominational high school, studied American Studies in Mainz – she had already lived in the USA for a year during her school days – and journalism, was worked as a producer for television stations, worked for a local newspaper in Mannheim, graduated from a well-known journalism school in Hamburg. And since 2014 he has been writing from Hamburg for the weekly newspaper »Die Zeit«, among other things, especially portraits and interviews for the »Z« department, which, in his own words, is dedicated to »discovery« and »intelligent entertainment«. So now a book about Israel.

By the time of her aliyah, Sarah Levy had traveled to Israel nearly three dozen times.

Such elaborates are known. Very often they come from TV or newspaper correspondents who have been delegated to Israel for a very manageable period of time and who, financially well off and carefree from the normal everyday life of the population, report sidelights. Most of the time they don’t experience the country because it is only perceived politically and monomanically by the media, that is, strictly through the media.

And they then prepare all of this for their respective medium, usually with the help of local »stringers«, middlemen who are familiar with the area and the language. Even free-floating reporters who feel like writers travel only briefly through the region. That’s enough for them to impale something picturesque here, and there to convert a strange to symbolically stylized encounter into book form. Without, oh yes, speaking or understanding Hebrew.

BUT I Sarah Levy from a German-Jewish family made Aliyah in 2019. With little luggage, including a “Vileda” mop that she brought with her from Germany – to show it to a curious customs officer at the airport, who had racked her brains to find out what kind of device it was.

Levy is not writing as a field researcher but as someone who is settling down, forever.

By that year, Levy had traveled to Israel nearly three dozen times, on vacation, to visit relatives. Since 2017 she had realized that her longer and longer stays made her feel at home, at home in the sense that she felt more alive under the Tel Aviv sun, found and had stranger and warmer friends than in rain-loving Hamburg.

So Aliyah with skin and hair and a mop – even if the parents and her sister viewed this extremely critically. The family history took place between Germany and Israel for three generations. Her great-grandfather had escaped to British Palestine in 1935, her grandfather, the only one of the not small family, then remigrated to the Federal Republic in 1950, as he expected greater economic success there, which also happened.

Of course, Levy, the journalist, has a big plus in contrast to other professional groups: the digital possibilities of writing and interviewing that can now be activated everywhere, which make them location-independent.

DECLARATION OF LOVE However, at the latest halfway through the volume, which until then has repeatedly lapsed into a babble style, including extensive post-adolescent pastimes, it can be stated: This is a good book, this is an exceptionally readable one. Not just because it’s a declaration of love to Israel.

Not only because it traces the psychosocial-emotional process of arrival; this is actually the part that interests me the least, since it resembles a kind of denominational gonzo journalism. But for other reasons. Levy describes everyday life not as a cool field researcher or a temporary tourist, but as someone who has settled in Jaffa, forever.

The Vileda mop turned out to be the wrong choice when cleaning the apartment.

She lives there, she gets involved with everything and writes everything down in a differentiated and lively way. She gets to know her friend’s family, how they cook, eat and communicate, and the rich and varied beauty of the landscape. She chats with the neighbors, including Arabs. Or at least she’s trying, which of course is difficult in the first few months, since her Hebrew is solid in textbooks, but not anymore.

CHANGES She shops at markets, has herself towed to insider tip bars, describes the difficult job of looking for an apartment (in Tel Aviv!), experiences rocket alarms and rocket fire, and can detect miniature social changes in her neighborhood over months. After a long time she meets friends again, bohemian friends with whom she stayed on vacation at the beginning of the book, and can thus trace how a district has changed in just under four years. And the lives of the people as a result – half involuntarily, half voluntarily, because people get married, start families and more than just theoretically consider moving to the country.

Incidentally, the Vileda mop turned out to be a Teutonic miscast in apartment cleaning. He couldn’t get along with the stone floor at all, leaving streaks and traces behind. So Sarah Levy switched to the Israeli method of generously flooding the entire floor and letting everything disappear into a drain hole with a slide.

Sarah Levy: Five Words for Longing. About a trip to Israel and to myself. Rowohlt Polaris Verlag, Hamburg 2022, 368 pages, 17 €

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