I think that the basis of each book is reality. And reality, as for example the 9/11 attacks proved, can often exceed imagination. In this post the readers of Hill of Secrets will find some of the secrets behind the book.
There are no spoilers in the post for those of you who haven't read/finished the book!!!
In the book Hill of Secrets I tried to convey a message, which is an important message for me. The message is that every adult (physically and mentally healthy) must know how to take responsibility for his life. The Danilowitz family did not take responsibility for their life and the end was tragic. I find that many people confuse the basic principle of capitalism with compulsive consumption. When a person buys and acquires without holding back - that does not make him a capitalist, but a compulsive consumer. On the contrary, the very fact that he gives up on himself imposes on others the responsibility for his life. This by the way is true for many aspects of our lives, such as people who give birth to children while expecting the State to educate them instead of them.
The message was there, but I needed the frame a book provides for it.
In October 2008, the bodies of the Fisher family were found in Hod Hasharon. The couple were both police officers and it quickly became clear that the father shot his wife and two small children and killed himself. Unfortunately it was not the first case (neither in Israel nor in the world) and not the last, in which a member of a family murdered his loved ones and then committed suicide. This particular story however did not leave me. This was a seemingly perfect couple, beautiful, young and happy. A normative and supportive family. This dissonance between such an ideal family (at least outwardly) and this radically vicious act was the trigger for me to write this book. It is important to note that I do not have any information or details about the terrible story of the Fisher family. Beyond the fact that both in the case of the Fisher family and the story of the Danilowitz family the father goes and kills his entire family and commits suicide there is no connection between the cases, and my story is completely fictional. By the way, in case of the Fisher family till this day the motive has not been fully revealed.
I had both a story and a story frame.
Now I had to place the characters.
I chose a real town named Givat Shmuel (Samuel's Hill), located east of Tel Aviv. Just like in the book my sister lives in Givat Shmuel along with many of my fellow classmates.
In the book there is a scene in which Hadas is sitting in a city park in Givat Shmuel and is waiting for her sister-in-law and nephews. She observes residents and thinks about the hypocrisy and pretense. This scene is completely genuine. I sat in the park in Givat Shmuel and I looked around and felt everything is fake. I make it a point to note that I think people all over the world walk around with masks. People present a false impression of loving relationships, strong financial conditions, good parenting, etc ... for various reasons, foremost among them is in my opinion our desire as human beings to be valued and loved. I chose to place the book specifically in Givat Shmuel, a city where there is a high concentration of religious and wealthy Jews, because in the religious society to which I belonged up till my twenties, there is a strong need to keep the perfect exterior even at the price of concealment and suppression. In religious society there is greater importance placed on community, every religious person goes at least once a week to the synagogue. It is also of the utmost importance to find a spouse at a reasonable age (a religious single woman over the age of 25 is considered an old maid) – any defect associated with a particular family may harm the possibility of finding a spouse in a community where everyone knows everyone.
In the picture at the begining of the post - a picture of Givat Shmuel
The main character
Hadas, the main character in the book, is in many aspects based on myself. We are both formerly religious; both are presently atheistic and refuse to accept social norms as a necessity. One of those norms relates to parenting and child bearing. In 2005, for example, 53% of families in Israel were families without children compared to 64% percent in the OECD countries (figure includes data from the entire society, including families in elderly population). An equally interesting fact relates to the number of families in which there were more than three children in the family unit. 17% in Israel, compared to only 3% in countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece.
In Israel, a lot of children are born. This is the norm. These high numbers are biased because it includes many Arab families, and extremely religious Jewish families, who bring to the world a large number of children as a way of life. But even among the non-religious Jewish population it is the norm to have three children, when having one child is considered to be exceptional and having no children by choice is considered questionable.
I have one child, unfortunately not by choice, but this is my fate. Hadas chose not to have children at all and it was important to me to speak out for the childfree community, which are considered throughout the world and especially in a country like Israel, strange people. In my opinion, the choice to have no children is exactly the opposite of egoism. I am surrounded by people who only had children because that is the norm and not because they wanted children and wanted to be parents. In most cases, they love their children very much and are quite reasonable parents, but if they were given a choice, excluding environmental pressures, I'm sure they would choose a life without children.