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Experiencing Israel’s Stories Through the Eyes of a Writer

This February, Cincinnati children’s author Emma Carlson Berne had the amazing opportunity to travel to Israel with PJ Library as one of a group of 20 fellow authors on PJ Library’s Author Israel Adventure. The purpose of the trip was to provide inspiration for characters, settings, stories, and more.

After ten days, Emma returned from Israel to the Cincinnati cold; the sharp contrast emphasizing the shift between her everyday life and her experience in Israel. Read more about Emma’s experience, in her own words:

I realized I was not in Israel anymore when I was driving my three-year-old to preschool this morning. The road was covered in slush, it was raining, and both of us were wearing dirty down coats. Thirty-six hours earlier, I had been sitting around a long table with sixteen other authors in an outdoor restaurant in Tel Aviv, eating smoked eggplant and drinking mint tea. 

This trip was like summer camp for podgy writers. We all got real close, real fast. We were spending virtually every waking second together, including hours on a bus, all of us away from our families. All of our minds were lit up by the flood of the new and different around us. And unlike so many author groups, this one didn’t have that one guy with a huge ego, or the whiner, or the subtle troublemaker, or the one who’s chronically late. 

Our guide and our leaders showed us the usual wonders ­– the Dead Sea Scrolls, Masada, the Kotel – but they added another layer. They took us under the surface everywhere we went. We went into the lab with the chief curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls and peered at the fragments themselves, laid out on a long table, covered only with a thin screen. We went under a Roman-era road, which itself was under Jerusalem’s Old City and from there, went into a Roman sewer which was not open to the public. Just to us, and the few startled workmen we passed on our long, damp hike in the bowels of one of the oldest cities on Earth. Everywhere we went, the guides, the PJ Library staff, and the people who spoke to us were aware that we were wordsmiths and storytellers. So they told us the stories that they knew and we wrote them down in our matching blue notebooks. And hopefully one day very soon, we’ll be able to tell some of those stories to you.

Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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