Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Festival wrap up and writing competition winner

We are excited to have hosted another successful Sydney Jewish Writers Festival. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. The range of outstanding presenters, the diversity of subjects and the thought provoking ideas all combined to make it a wonderful Festival with over 500 people attending over 3 days. We have put many photos on our Facebook page and encourage you to tag yourself. 

Thanks to all our amazing presenters and volunteers, we couldn't have done it without you. 

We wanted to post the outstanding winning entry for this year's Australian Jewish News writing competition:

KIBBUTZ MOTHER
By Elle Kaye

Typical Kibbutz
She was pregnant again. It had taken her time to work it out but now she knew. It had been five years since the last pregnancy and she thought she was done. She placed her hand protectively on the tiny bump that she only now acknowledged for what itwas. A girl. She could tell.

She vacillated between joy and dread as she contemplated the being inside her. She allowed herself to close her eyes and fantasise about this one. About holding her. Kissing her all over her soft, downy head. Smelling her. Breathing her in. comforting her. Brushing away her tears. Smiling at her. Singing to her. Rocking her. And then she opened her eyes. Enough silliness, she scolded herself.

Children at Kibbutz
When she had left her family for the Kibbutz she didn’t think about children. In the early days, she didn’t think she wanted any. She watched the other women grow fat with their children and she judged them and their supposed sickness, their supposed fatigue. Any excuse not to work, she had scoffed. She judged them their weakness and tears – of course the children should be raised collectively. What did they think this was? Summer camp? She judged them their tears and their milk stained clothes and their softness. This was no place for softness.

When she had the first one she tried, and succeeded, to remain as distant as possible. When they discouraged her from breastfeeding too often, she agreed. It would only spoil the child.
When they recommended against visiting during the workday,
she blushed with embarrassment. Of course she mustn’t coddle
her. So she determined to set an example. She kept away. She
weaned her as soon as possible. Understanding the other
mothers now, she only judged them more harshly. When they spoke of their grief, of their need to be with their babies, she tut-tutted and continued with her work. But the ache. The ache within her. That parasitic ache for her child. She ignored it. She would conquer it.

She spent the required hour a day with the baby. The smell as she walked up the path towards the room made her sick. Chicken soup. Every day, at this hour, the children were fed chicken soup. She would be handed a yellow or orange bowl of mushed chicken and vegetables. She would spoon the mush into her wary daughter’s mouth. She watched in judgment as the other mothers smiled and cooed at their children. She held her head
high as the woman in charge of the babies praised her for
treating her daughter like an adult. For refusing to talk gibberish at her. She was assured that her daughter would grow up to be a useful member of the collective. She nodded. Smiled tightly. That
was the aim after all. The mission. Wasn’t it?

The second child was male. And she was told to be even tougher
with him. But her resolve crumbled like the quiver of her lips as
she had to hand him over too. She ran into the thorn fields and
allowed herself to sob then. And then, she returned to work. And
told her man there would be no more.

But this time. This baby. This baby she did not want to let go.
She felt like a petulant toddler. She wanted to stamp her foot. To
holler and scream and hit the floor with her fists, her head.
Image: bajasfamilyrestaurant
Wanted someone to listen to her. But what would she say? What did she know? She was just ignorant. Corrupted by the bourgeoisie values of the family she left.

It was time to visit the children. She walked down the path and smelled the familiar sickening smell. She knew her nausea had nothing to do with her pregnancy. She fed them. Gave them the perfunctory kiss that was expected. She stood and left. 
The fragrance of the chicken soup lingered as she shut the door behind her.

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