If you hadn’t been a writer, what would you have been? While I have always loved writing, my career has been that of theater director, teacher, and actor.
What single book has marked your life? If I am forced to choose a single book of the many that have influenced me, I’d have to say Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, despite the fact that I’ve not read it in many years.
What do you wish to do before dying? I want to see my children happy.
Would we recognize who you are today in your childhood self I was too withdrawn and scattered to demonstrate much promise as a child yet, looking back, I see that I’ve become the logical conclusion of what I was then.
What brings you joy? Hiking in the hills of California brings me joy. Walking along the beach in Israel brings me joy. Breakfasting overlooking the Mediterranean. The northern parts of Israel afford me extreme joy. My children bring me ultimate joy –tempered, most times, with my own angst.
Do you believe your writing will be of service to the Jewish people? Is this idea one that matters to you, or is your mission less particular? I trust that the Jewish people will flourish without my input. My aim in Israela, however, was to counteract the black/white media reports that have become so familiar to us and that are so dehumanizing, with stories of a life-loving people haunted on a daily basis by excruciatingly difficult moral and ethical problems. I want my readers to live for a while with individuals who comprise the people of Israel, and to recognize themselves in them.
Beyond subject matter, and the identity of the writer, what characteristics, if any, do you believe contribute to making a publication “Jewish?” I believe that Jewish writing, as any other Jewish art form, is derived from a uniquely Jewish experience, in the same way as Catholic, African American, or Native American writings are informed by theirs. Its use of language, humor and behavior is the expression of a world view derived from its unique history and experience.
What are you afraid of? I’m afraid of conflict in the Middle East. I’m afraid of hatred and violence. I fear for the future of Israel.
Advice for other writers reading this interview? Write to express your passions, your hopes and your fears. Write because you have to, because you cannot not write.
More about Israela:
In my heart, I call to their mothers, ‘Take your sons to your houses. Bind them to your chairs; gag them, blindfold them if necessary until they grow calm. Then teach them, for they have forgotten, about peace, about the blessed life, about a future—a present—without pain.’ Beneath their prayers, in their morning cups of coffee, beneath their love-making and their child-rearing, and in their sorrow, especially in their sorrow when burying their dead, I hear the simmering of heating souls; I smell the charge of armies, of lives exploding uselessly into smithereens. I sit in mourning over a disaster still to come.In Israel, the lives of three women interweave with the story of their country. Ratiba, an Israeli journalist, turns her back on her heritage to marry an Israeli Arab. Her sister Orit, an actor, lives alone and longs for her lost sister. Elisheva is a nurse who dedicates her life to the wounded and the dying. As their lives unfold, the three women find themselves facing choices they would never have envisioned. This is a story of secrets and alienation, yet also of hope and heroism. It is about Arabs who save Jews from disaster and Jews who heal Arabs. It is the story of everyday people torn and desperately searching for the right path. Here, the ancient pulsates in present time and the biblical holds prominence with the secular. Beneath this modern-day drama unfolds the story of a land and its people, revealing the historical trajectory of two peoples, victims and perpetrators of a biblical curse. ‘This perceptive, poignant novel offers a fresh and essential outlook on Israel. With memorable characters and an abundance of drama, Israela is gripping reading.’ – Lou Aronica, New York Times bestselling author
Batya Casper was born in Scotland, spent her early childhood in England, lived for a couple of years as a young adult in South Africa, and has lived on both coasts of the US. Still, for the most part, she grew to adulthood in Israel. She moved to the United States as an adult, has a BA in English literature, and a Masters and Ph.D. in theater Arts from UCLA. Her first published book was a work of theater criticism: Electra: A Gender Sensitive Study of the Myth Based on the Plays (Mcfarland & Co. Publishers, 1995).
Thanks for the great interview, Batya. Readers: please check out her fascinating book. Your comments are always welcome!