Writing the first draft of Next Year in Jerusalem! Romance, Mystery & Spiritual Awakenings, Part I and II, Around Every Corner, Mystery & Romance in the Holy Land was a most amazing experience. It all started over lunch with a dear friend. As we bemoaned the loss of a special spiritual teacher in our lives we began to imagine a movie around a similar woman’s disappearance. Before we knew it, I was writing a movie plot on paper napkins that involved two characters, much like ourselves, except younger and open to amazing adventures.
Those notes led to the first draft of the book, which I began to write on the computer late at night. At first I really hated the two main characters. Neither had enough life or depth to them once I left the napkins behind. That was resolved when I got some mentoring. I learned about creating a ‘back story’ even if all doesn’t appear in the book and also how to work from what I knew, but yet make it fiction.
The plot and characters then moved along a great neck speed. Over the next six months I wrote a few pages at a time a few times a week. Six months later I had over 300 pages and realized that the plot was so dramatic as to qualify to be a cliff-hanger series. Realizing I had a series, rather than a book, I went back to clean up what would be the first three books of the series.
The first draft really flowed from me. The re-writes also did. What was a bit of torture was the editing. That was tedious and required professional help. I probably spend at least 3 months just cleaning. But the basic trilogy never changed. Natalie and Maggie had determined what I would be saying and sharing about each of them. And the mystery woman, also, Chaya Sarah, was also able to let me know how the mysteries around her would develop. What was the real shock for me was how Jack, Natalie’s old boyfriend, (Natalie is married) would pursue Natalie. Also, I was unprepared for all the romance that would happen to Maggie, who is divorced.
However, I just knew the characters had a better spin on their lives than I did, so I went with it. I hope you will enjoy reading Part 1 of Next Year in Jerusalem!
Next Year in Jerusalem Book Excerpt
Natalie didn’t tell David (her husband)about her other dream, the one about Jack, the Jewish fellow from Chicago who’d been around to save her from despair after she decided she wasn’t moving to Iraq. A diamond salesman, Jack now lived in London and traveled back and forth to Israel all the time.
Natalie prided herself on staying in touch with lots of people from her past. Jack was one of them. Occasionally they e-mailed and he’d friended her on Facebook two years ago. Although they hadn’t written recently, if he read her Facebook page he would know she was going to Jerusalem. What if he tried to see her? What if there was still an attraction? Would she tell David? Would he care? Would she act out?
Her life with David was so good and stable and predictable. And boring!
Did I just say boring?
No, she must have meant solid. Or did she mean solid?
Oh, I’m a wreck. I’m miserable and I can’t sleep, she continued to obsess. What about that cute secretary at the college? The one who has a sparkle in her eye whenever she talks to David? How old is she? Forty-two? Divorced and sexy. How would I know if something’s going on there?
I’m going crazy lying here, she began again. Where’s the Xanax? Already packed. Oh, that was dumb.
Next Year in Jerusalem: Around Every Corner, Mystery & Romance in the Holy Land: Part Two
As the driver pulled away, Natalie realized how poorly lit the street was. Now, well past dusk, the one street light way down the block did nothing to brighten the end where she stood. The building itself had one little light above the doorway. As she walked along the sidewalk to the front door, she shivered suddenly and wondered why in the world she’d sent away her protection?
She rang the bell. Immediately a sweet young woman, probably no more than twenty-nine or thirty, head kerchief neatly in place, answered the door. Natalie felt better. Now to introduce herself and get started. Her heart pounded, but from excitement, not fear.
“Can I help you?”
“Chaya Sarah made an appointment for me to come here tonight after sundown.”
“Oh, sorry, phones no working,” the girl said in broken English. “No messages this week.”
Natalie felt her heart begin to pound harder. Now she was upset. Another mix-up, another confusion where she would never know if Chaya Sarah had tried to call!
“Oh, well, I’m here to go into the mikvah.* I understand I can go in as a bride, even though I’ve been married many years. It is my first time. I was told a matron would show me what to do and give me a prayer to say.”
“First time? No problem. Come in. I will show you where to go. Cost ninety shekels. Fill out form.”
Natalie handed over the money, and signed the visitor sheet (a blank piece of notepaper with the date at the top). She .was not at all sure the young woman understood most of what she said. Only later did she wonder why she so freely signed a blank piece of paper with her name and full home address.
“Come this way.” The young woman led Natalie past a small waiting room with pleasant pink walls and a soft gray marble floor. There were no pictures, no signs and no literature with the facility’s name. The place was stark, but certainly clean and feminine in its color scheme. It was eerily quiet. Natalie wished she had asked the taxi driver to wait.
The young woman spoke. “Please, you go here,” she said as she opened the door of a large, attractive bathroom with many mirrors. “Robe in there,” she explained as she pointed to a small closet. “After shower, go down hall to mikvah.”
“Will you be coming in to help me? Natalie practically begged. “Are there prayers to say?”
“See, mikvah down there. You open and go in. No one bother you.”
Obviously, they hadn’t communicated clearly. “Any prayers to say?” Natalie tried one more time.
The young woman looked perplexed. “Mrs. Levy not here, I alone.” It hadn’t seemed to work, and eventually Natalie realized that not only was the woman’s English poor, but apparently Mrs. Levy was the wisdom keeper of everything, including the prayers. Finally, she surmised that she’d have to make the most of her experience. So much for that; she’d just have to carry on by herself. There was no going back now.
The woman walked back to the desk in the waiting room and sat down. Apparently, it was all now in Natalie’s hands.
She went into the bathroom and started to undress. Determined to make the most of this situation, she let the environment begin to take over. This was going to be fun. Yes, she would prepare for the mikvah as if she was a Queen. Maybe she’d been the Queen of Sheba in another life? She laughed to herself, and then the image of being a very special bride on her wedding night came to her. It was a lovely image.
Somehow the environment elicited from her vague yet powerful feelings. She felt so female, part of a special group, a sisterhood of women who had gone from babyhood to elder years … one by one in an endless chain of family life, belonging to the same tribe. She saw her body today, naked in the mirrors, and once more felt moved to tears. She envisioned those before her–her grandmothers and her mother, and then saw her daughter after her, and imagined granddaughters in the future. She felt their energy, their hopes, dreams and prayers along with hers in the highly charged feminine bathroom.
She felt good although she was crying at the same time. The golden chain of women in her mind’s eye engaged in no gossip, put-downs, criticisms or comparisons. It was as if each woman had been branded with a primitive imprint that identified them as belonging to the same clan. No need for words. Just timeless knowledge, maybe first known by Eve in the Garden of Eden and passed down over hundreds of generations, a knowledge of mannerisms and hopes and dreams that transcended time. And now she stood right here in the midst of it, finally able to enjoy the same rights as other Jewish women throughout history.
Natalie showered again with a vengeance. She was determined to be as clean as she could be for the purifying waters. With no one to guide her, she washed her hair, took off her make-up, and trimmed her nails with the small scissor that lay on the vanity. She looked at the three red strings on her wrist. Should she leave them? It didn’t seem right, since she knew she was to be completely unadorned. Without another thought she cut them off with the scissor.
She was ready now. She took a fluffy robe from the closet, and a pair of paper slippers, the kind they give you when you’re in the hospital. She also grabbed a towel from the closet shelf and proceeded down the hall.
The building was totally silent. When she looked back she didn’t even see the young woman in the waiting room any more. She could see from the small window in the hallway that it was pitch dark outside. The only noise was that of a siren somewhere, and the sound of an occasional car passing by.
She opened the door to the mikvah. The room was the size of a small bedroom with white tile walls, and most of it was taken up by what looked like a very small swimming pool. She’d feared the water would be cold, but as she stepped down a small staircase into the water, she was surprised as the pleasant warmth rushed up to her. At chest level the water seemed so much smoother and silkier than regular water. She sank down further, letting her hands float at her sides as the water welcomed her. A profound feeling of safety and calmness enveloped her. Were there guardian angels in here with her? It felt that way, but she wasn’t scared. She felt protected and loved and, in turn, felt her heart opening up toward David.
Making her own prayer she said aloud softly, “Dear G-d, may David and I be blessed with the harmony that comes from being soul mates. And may I have the strength not to be influenced by other forces not in my best interests.”
That covered it. She wasn’t going to credit Jack by even saying his name aloud in these sacred waters.
She dunked herself in the waters three times, really fast. She had promised herself, but that part was hard. She grasped her towel and wiped her eyes and ears. She had almost drowned on Cape Cod once as a child, but a big strong man had pulled her out. Since then, she could never stand to go underwater. But this time it was worth it. This was for their marriage and for herself.
She returned to her changing room where she took another shower, this time a quick one, and got dressed. When she went back to the waiting room no one was there. In fact the young woman never reappeared even when Natalie called out….
*mikvah: A specified pure body of water that is used for total immersion, often associated with bringing a heightened level of sacredness to the marriage bed.
About Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, internationally known positive psychologist, inspires thousands with her ENCHANTED SELF®. Around the world people benefit from her techniques to enhance well-being, and to live up to their potential. Known for her ability to make complex psychological concepts easy to understand and to implement, she has now turned her talents to novel writing. “A great fiction read is a great escape, and yet, it is more! It is the gateway to new ways of thinking and behaving.”
Dr. Holstein received her Doctorate in Education from Boston University and her BA degree from Barnard College. Dr. Holstein has been a school psychologist and taught first and second grades. She is in private practice with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein, in Long Branch, New Jersey. Find her at www.enchantedself.com
Her previous books include:
- THE ENCHANTED SELF, A Positive Therapy
- Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!
- The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)
- Seven Gateways to Happiness: Freeing Your Enchanted Self.