Yesterday afternoon, I had my first leisure activity since the beginning of the war, and it turned out to be connected to this time and place. Before the High Holidays, I spoke with the director of Gnazim, the archive of the Hebrew Writers Organization, about depositing there a small archive (or a substantial folder) of the unpublished manuscripts of the Israeli writer Naftali Yavin (1936–1972). Yavin, a highly talented and promising author, playwright, and director, worked in Tel Aviv and in Britain during the 1960s. In 1966 he received a British Council scholarship to continue his theater studies and pursued them in Manchester. His end-of-year theater production was so successful that he was invited to join an experimental theater group in London that lived as a commune. The group was active and successful, but according to his friends and colleagues there, he became depressed. In 1972 he died; he was almost 36.
I discovered his work a few years later when I was a literature student at Haifa University. I read two of his stories, which were published posthumously, in an Israeli literary magazine, and fell in love with his stories. In 1976 a collection of his stories was published in a slim book. I was curious to see what else was among his papers, and wrote a letter to his brother, asking to see the manuscripts. He kindly agreed. I offered to type the manuscripts, took them home, and then returned them together with the typed pages to the brother.
This all took place in 1978. At the end of the summer of that year, my husband and I flew to Toronto to attend graduate school. We decided to make a stopover in London, and I arranged to visit the place where Yavin’ lived and worked, and to talk to his friends and colleagues. My plan was to write a dissertation about his work. However, I quickly discovered that at the University of Toronto, where I studied at the Drama Center, nobody was interested in a playwright/writer who was active in the 1960s. It was considered not serious enough, perhaps because it was too recent. I ended up writing both my MA thesis and PhD dissertation about the works of other writers. Over the years, my Yavin’s collection of manuscripts moved with me across the ocean several times. Whenever I looked at it, I felt a twinge of sadness that life took me in a different path, away from Naftali Yavin.
So, finally, I decided to find out if I could deposit this collection in an archive so it will be accessible for future Yavin scholars. I was happy and relieved to learn that Gnazim, the archive of the Hebrew Writers inside Beit Ariela Library was delighted to accept it, even though it didn’t contain handwritten manuscripts. Due to the war, the archive was closed for a while, but when it reopened, my collection found a new home.
On my way to Beit Ariel library, across from the Tel Aviv Museum, on the public square, I passed the “Avenue of the Families of the Kidnapped and the Missing People.” It was the middle of the day and artists were standing inside a tent drawing portraits of the hostages in Gaza. Outside was a huge rectangle table set for Shabbat dinner with 200 chairs around it. This display is a painful reminder of their unbearable absence. At one end of the table I saw something that brought tears to my eyes. Instead of regular chairs, there were several highchairs set up for the babies and toddlers, with bibs hanging over them. Israel is in mourning, and the fear for the safety of the hostages in Gaza is always with us, no matter where we turn. At this moment, as I am writing this post, a support rally with the families of the hostages in Gaza taking place exactly at that public square.