As we step into a new calendar year, let's weave the rich tapestry of Israel and Jewish culture into our creative expressions. Whether you're a writer deeply connected to these themes or looking to explore them for the first time, these New Year writing prompts are crafted to spark your imagination with elements of Israel and Jewish identity. If you're thinking: how can I write with all of the devastation that's happened since October 7? Consider an article I wrote on the subject where I addressed writing in the chaos of war.
1. Reflect on Heritage:
Prompt: Delve into your family's heritage and Jewish roots. Share a personal story, whether it's a cherished family tradition, a memorable holiday celebration, or a piece of history passed down through generations. Whether your background is Mizrachi, Ashkenazi or mixed (I'm mixed), religious, secular, traditional or something else, particularly now is the time to reflect on your heritage and use your voice when so many are trying to silence us.
2. Mystical Jerusalem:
Prompt: Transport your readers to the heart of Jerusalem, a city steeped in history and spirituality. Write a piece that explores the mystical elements of the city—its ancient streets, diverse communities, and the blending of past and present. I have chapters on Jerusalem in White Zion and Passport Control and I've barely scratched the surface. You can replace Jerusalem with any Israeli city if that's what prompts you to write.
3. Diaspora Diaries:
Prompt: Imagine the perspective of a character living in the Jewish diaspora. How do they navigate their identity, traditions, and connection to Israel while being geographically distant? Craft a narrative that explores the complexities of maintaining cultural ties across borders.
4. A Hanukkah Miracle:
Prompt: Develop a story centered around a modern-day Hanukkah miracle. It could be a heartwarming tale of unexpected kindness, a twist on the classic oil miracle, or a contemporary interpretation of the festival's themes of light and resilience. I have a Hanukkah story that falls into this latter category. People have asked me if these stories are really publishable and the answer is 100 percent, yes. My Hanukkah story was first published in Jewish Fiction and more recently in One for Each Night: The Greatest Chanukah Stories of All Time (New Vessel Press).
5. Kibbutz Chronicles
Prompt: Set your story in a kibbutz, exploring the communal lifestyle, shared responsibilities, and the unique bond between residents. How does the kibbutz backdrop shape the characters' relationships and experiences? A kibbutz features in my first novel King of the Class and my third one Passport Control. These prompts can turn into published novels.
Embrace the cultural vibrancy and timeless stories that Israel and Jewish heritage offer. Use these prompts as a starting point to celebrate and explore the rich narratives that connect us. Share your creations in the comments, and let's embark on a year filled with storytelling that reflects our shared identity and history. If none of these ideas work for you, I've included some of my own photographs of Nachal Hakibbutzim (Kibbutzim Stream) near Mount Gilboa from this summer. Use one as a visual writing prompt.
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