It’s been a year since the publication of Shoham’s Bangle. It was published on the 1st of November, 2022. A fortuitous month because November is Mizrahi Heritage month, a month to raise awareness and celebrate Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Shoham’s Bangle was inspired by the story of my family and over 120,000 Iraqi Jews with their expulsion from Iraq in 1951, but it is also a celebration of where we come from, ancient Babylonian Jewish traditions and culture. It is a celebration of our values which make us so resilient: family, Jewish memory, and having each other.
When Shoham’s Bangle was due to come out I thought of the Ukrainian refugees displaced because of war. I thought of how many people in this world have had to start over again like my family had to. How brave they have to be, to learn new languages, new cultures. How strong they have to be, to adapt to their new countries and yet still remain true to their traditions and religions. How important it is to be loyal to the countries that adopt you. Which is why I am forever grateful to Israel for taking my family in, even though the conditions were refugee camp rough. I am also so grateful to Australia for welcoming my family as immigrants, after they had lived in Israel for about sixteen years. Sydney is also my home, where I was born and grew up.
Now it’s been a year since Shoham’s Bangle has had her journey into the world, and I am very grateful. It has been recognized by the Sydney Taylor Awards Committee as a Notable Book. It has been awarded a Crystal Kite Award in for the Middle East, Asia and India region by my respected SCBWI peers. It has spoken to many families, Jews and non-Jews who know what it is to have to leave ones home because of fear.
Today almost 500,000 people have been displaced within Israel from their homes in the south and the north due to the dangers of war and rocket fire from Hamas and Hezbollah. Many from the south have gone through an unspeakable massacre. I never imagined that Shoham’s Bangle would also be for them. I wish it was translated into Hebrew for them. Meanwhile, I am sharing Shoham’s story with as many children as I can. I want them to know they are not alone in losing their homes. I want them to know that hopefully they can return safely. I want them to know that no matter what happens we have each other.
The value of having each other is a Jewish value. It is a value I grew up with in my family. It is how they survived their traumatic uprooting from their home and ancient, 2,600-year-old Babylonian Jewish community. Having each other makes us resilient even in the most uncertain and difficult times.
What I want you all to know is that unity and togetherness are values we need to nurture not just in war time, or expulsion time, but in times of peace, at family meals, in our classrooms, on our streets, in our cafés. We need to have fierce love and kindness in our world. This is why I write, because what I am realizing more and more is that our real enemy is hate. We need to remember more than ever now that as humans our love is our sacred staying power.