There is a Jewish term that is sung each year at the end of Passover: 'L'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim' or 'Next year in Jerusalem'. It evokes the common theme of exile in Jewish culture and represents a desire to someday return to a rebuilt Jerusalem. It's a phrase from a different time, one that for many people can mean many different things depending on their own experiences or points of view. What I find most interesting about religious terms like this is what they represent for the individual. There are few forms of writing that are so saturated in symbolism, words that are meant to tell us something more than just a story, words that can shape a persons view of the world. Whether it's something we consume through prayer, a song, or a book, it has the same effect of engaging a deeper part of ourselves. These kinds of words help us acknowledge our souls and our existence as spiritual beings.
I have been working on a series of short stories that were meant to capture some of that symbolism and use it to tell stories that came from a similar part of me. Sadly, it hasn't worked out that way. The stories that are finished are not all telling the stories that deep down I really wanted to tell (not to mention that the technique needs a lot of work). So I took some time away from writing them and just thought about what these stories were meant to be and why it feels so important to tell them. I wanted these stories to address something that is fundamental to the human condition, figuring out who we are as individuals, and why we exist as individuals. This was something that I was unable to achieve, at least in this form.
I woke up one morning and looked out over the ocean and listened. It wasn't for the sound of waves crashing upon the shore, it wasn't for the wind, or the rain on the balcony. What I listened for was a voice, some call it their instincts, some call it the Holy Spirit, and some people don't know what to call it. I didn't hear a thing... but I did feel something. Like so many times before in my life it built slowly over the following days until I felt internally compelled to a certain course of action. In this particular case, it was about taking the idea that I had and trying it in a different way. I kept thinking about the same phrase over and over again, next year in Jerusalem. I thought about what the project meant to me, but more importantly what that phrase meant to me.
To me it meant coming to terms with my own exile; facing the fact that I'm in a place that feels distant, dealing with the isolation that comes from being in an unfamiliar cultural context, and accepting the restlessness that comes with being someone I don't want to be. But it also gave me hope that home; whether in terms of place, of people, of faith, of purpose, and of identity; is somewhere in my future. That's the story that I want to tell. That's why what started off as a collection of eclectic and undeveloped short stories is going to be something different, they will form the basis of something that I have felt the need to write for the better part of a year. It's a novel I'm calling Next Year, In Jerusalem.