Ellis Shuman

Tasting Tiberias

Film director Shemi Zarhin’s debut novel Some Day, is a gripping, multi-generational family tale that appeals to all the senses.

Zarhin is well known for his award-winning films “Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi” (2003), “Aviva My Love” (2006), and “The World is Funny” (2012), films which have been shown around the world. Now, Zarhin takes us to Tiberias on the western shore of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), where he was born in 1961.

This is the story of seven-year-old Shlomi, who is slow to learn how to read but quick to learn how to cook. Shlomi joins his mother Ruchama when she starts a catering business in their small kitchen, preparing feasts for the residents of the city. Ruchama’s delicacies make extensive use of mayonnaise, as apparently that will appeal to more modern tastes. “You want me to cook chicken and beef and pour mayonnaise over it?” she asks. Everything that comes out of her kitchen is described in tasty detail.

Some Day Shemi ZarhinWhen he’s not helping his mother, Shlomi is pining for Ella, the strange girl from down the street who sees nothing wrong with jumping off the roof in a near suicidal leap. Shlomi’s younger brother, Hilik, collects words in a notebook and then posts them on household objects in efforts to teach Shlomi to read.

And then there is Robert, Shlomi’s father, a very short man with a very long ponytail. Robert travels to Argentina to work with his uncle so that he can earn enough money to open a window shutter factory in Tiberias, one that will serve all the dreaded kibbutzim in the area. Robert’s escapades include a passionate visit to Ella’s mother as well an interlude with his uncle’s new wife. But deep in his heart, Robert longs for Ruchama and wants to come back home to her. In her opinion, he “will even wait an eternity” before she can accept him again.

And there’s also Ruchama’s late mother, and the fat Romanian lady downstairs, and Shlomi’s unruly classmates, and the falafel seller who molests children, and the pediatrician who makes house calls to check on Ruchama. This large cast of unique, strange, and entirely believable characters interacts with each other in amusing ways, returning to the storyline like familiar friends with new tales to tell.

Shemi Zarhin‘s novel is a story of growing up, of life in Tiberias with its somewhat backward ways, and of life in the big city of Tel Aviv. The novel is rich and aromatic with curses that last for generations and unusual, humorous circumstances that have a habit of reoccurring.

Readers will not only get a taste of what life was like in Tiberias, but will also love the human drama, the funny situations, and the terrible misfortunes of life that cannot be avoided.

Some Day will remain in your mind long after you put down the book. Special credit must be given to translator Yardenne Greenspan who ensures that reading this delicious novel is a completely enjoyable and satisfying feast.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.