Not many Israelis have heard about Iowa city, an oasis at the heart of the corn fields of Iowa. The University of Iowa is the home to the famous Writers’ Workshop and the unique International Writers’ Workshop. For me, as a graduate student specializing in literature, spending several years in IC was a dream comes true.
Every fall a group of writers from all over the world came to Iowa City to attend the International Writers’ Program for one semester. Most of the writers, novelists, poets, and playwrights came on their own, and stayed as a group, a kind of summer camp, in one of the residence halls on campus very close to the river.
Before the beginning of each academic year, our small Israeli community (of about 30) would get all excited about the new upcoming Israeli writers. Once the group arrived we usually invited the Israelis to one of our gatherings, and attended their literary readings.
But one year was different, we heard that the writers were a couple, a husband and wife, and they asked to live on their own outside the campus. Shortly afterward we met Aharon Megged, who passed away yesterday at the age of 95, and his wife Ida Zorit Megged.
Although they came to town for a short period, to attend a structured program, staying too close to the group didn’t suit them, they had their their own idea about the visit in Iowa City.
While previous Israeli writers spent most of their time socializing with the other writers and did not show a special interest in the town or in the Israeli community, Aharon and Ida loved to explore the town, and, for the duration of their stay, they did not mind being part of the Israeli community. They attended our parties and gathering, and while Aharon was shy Ida was more outgoing and was interested in everyone and everything. We all warmed up to her, and because she liked to listen, within minutes she heard everything about everyone. We were all young and far away from home, so it was good to talk to that wise and experienced couple.
Aharon and Ida were in their 60s when they came to Iowa City and they seemed old. But I admired the wisdom and freedom that seemed to come with age. They were true to themselves and acted the way they saw fit. They did not get involved in the details of the relationships that naturally evolved within the members of the group. Although they showed consideration and respect to their peers, they chose to stay outside and do their own thing.
That visit in Iowa City remained a happy memory in my family’s biography. Moreover, in that visit I saw, for the first time, people, my parents’ generation, who acted exactly as they wished, and it made a huge impression on me.
I am now almost as old as they were when they came to town, and with time I am even more convinced that this is how I would like to conduct myself in later years.