Who Belongs Where, and Why?

I am immersed in the reviewing and editing of my short story collection, and the experience feels like the most self-obsessed process I have ever engaged in. Each story takes me back to the place, people or feelings that prompted me to write it. If everyone put together their own short story collection, and set about reviewing and editing it, I reckon it might constitute a colourful kind of therapy. Not only do I revisit whatever person, problem, event, idea, belief or desire that motivated me to write the story – I also revisit my road through the reconstruction of it.
Several of the stories relate to issues of Jewish identity, and all of these connect one way or another with Israel. This reflects a theme that has never left me, because of my family origins. Growing up in Bristol, we were inspired day by day, week by week, year by year, by two loving and gifted parents to believe that Bristol England was not the place in which we really belonged. In her soon to be published (by us) memoirs, my mother called the chapter in which she and our father finally moved to live in Jerusalem, two years after my father`s retirement – Home at Last. Our parents came to Bristol in 1946, after the early years of their marriage in Weston Super Mare. My father, Joseph Mendel Yoffey was Professor of Anatomy in Bristol from 1941, and left after his retirement in 1967.
I loved our parents. My sisters and I have stayed close, arguing, laughing, continuing to connect over all the decades. But there are still those meta-statements about identity, which for me hang in the air, never go away. Here are some examples. Neither a credo, nor an argument put forward – just statements.
1. Being Jewish means acknowledging one way or another that the escape to the Promised Land happened because the land had indeed been promised. Believe it or not.
2. In prayers, in psalms, in the bible, the story is written over and over, and is there to be believed, acted upon, or at the very least understood and respected – even by atheists.
3. It is the story that has shaped many of us.
4. The centuries of diaspora living were in counter-balance, in contrast to the living that should have taken place in the promised land.
My two sisters left the UK and became committed to an Israeli identity fully and whole-heartedly. And when Jeff and I left Israel, after seven years in the town of Ashkelon, there were clear messages: by leaving Israel you will lose something; by leaving Israel you will be letting the place down, deserting it.
Britain is the country of my birth, it is the country to which both my and Jeff`s great grandparents came as immigrants. It is the country that gave my father a scholarship to the wonderful Manchester Grammar School, and my mother her law degree in Newcastle University. It is the country of the language I love, and only in that language have I been able to try to be a writer.
The issues I describe don`t only affect me, and neither, these days – with all the impact of the biblical Promised Land motif – are they particularly peculiar to Jews. I can think of friends, neighbours, and one-time colleagues, who all live with profound connections to two different countries – or more. I seem to take personally an issue that as time goes by will affect more and more people, as humans move across and around the globe, for all kinds of reasons. So I will continue to edit my story collection with optimism. Who belongs where, and why, is surely a universally applicable question.