Ruth Ebenstein
Writer, Peace/Health activist, Public Speaker, Historian, Mom/Stepmom

Go ahead and Sparkle. Share your light.

Capturing my bonhomie and joy - Seizing the day! photo credit: Gilya Ben Gad
Capturing my bonhomie and joy - Seizing the day! photo credit: Gilya Ben Gad

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a photo of me that looks like this one. A photograph that captures my smile, optimism, faith in people, bonhomie, my light. This is me 11 years after breast cancer, after birthing three babies, dumping my ovaries, parenting three teenagers… Living. Doing. Growing older. Cherishing my good marriage, family, friends, my blessings and privilege. Trying to do my little part to make the world more just, open-hearted, and hopeful. The pandemic has been one crazy ride for us all. My father has Parkinson’s. Other beloveds are tackling medical challenges. I lost people I loved in 2021. (Who hasn’t?) Yet here I am, still standing, joyful. Leaning against a wall of Jerusalem Stone in Yemin Moshe on a sun-kissed day in December. Beaming out all the positivity I have for the world.

In essence, this image is the product of a conversation, visual and otherwise, between me and Gilya Ben Gad, the photographer who birthed it. This photo shoot was gifted to me as a participant in the Jerusalem Municipality’s “Leviot” (Hebrew for lionesses) program that cultivates women activists from across the city. Gilya, also a program graduate, met with our cohort to pump us up. Her message went something like this:

Seize this opportunity to create that image that you’ve always wanted. Let me help capture the inside you.

So I did.

I acceded to her invite, and our unspoken connection produced this. Optimism isn’t easy to convey in a photo, but somehow, she captured mine.

I posted this image on Facebook, and the reactions stretched my heart. Your happiness is contagious. Your strength and personality are palpable. I cherish your fortitude and sparkle. Your smile lights up the ancient street. You radiate power.  Continue to soar like an eagle in your activism. Gilya, the photographer… well, she up and cried. “Making women love themselves and remember who they are is my number one reason for getting up in the morning!”

My friend Sharon summed it up thus: Carpe diem. Seize the day.

What? Put my whole personality and strength right out there for the taking? Chase after my dreams in 2022, despite the pandemic and all the naysayers? Reach deep inside and be all of me, all that I want to be?

Well, yes, then. Don’t mind if I do.

About the Author
Ruth Ebenstein is an award-winning American-Israeli writer, historian, public speaker, and health/peace activist who loves to laugh a lot--and heartily. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Bosom Buddies: How Breast Cancer Fostered An Unexpected Friendship Across the Israeli-Palestinian Divide. She is also the author of "All of this country is called Jerusalem": a curricular guide about the contemporary rescue operations of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and has written two teleplays for children, Follow that Goblin and Follow that Bunny. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic, Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, Tablet,, Good Housekeeping, Triquarterly,, School Library Journal, USA Today, the Forward, Stars and Stripes, Education Week, Brain, Child, Fathom, and other publications. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.