Jerusalem Beach


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Pub Date 17 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 03 Aug 2021

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"This vigorous, inventive work will surely fire up readers' neurons." — Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly 

For fans of Etgar Keret, a debut collection that fuses the humor of everyday life in Israel with technology's challenges and the latest discoveries about the human brain.

At once compassionate, philosophical, and humorous, Jerusalem Beach is a foray into the human condition in all its contradictions. Through a series of snapshots of contemporary life in Israel, Gefen reveals a world that’s a step from the familiar.
A man’s grandfather joins an army platoon of geriatrics looking for purpose in old age. A scheming tech start-up exposes the dire consequences of ambition in trying to share human memories. An elderly couple searches for a beach that doesn’t exist. And, a boy mourns his brother’s death in an attempt to catch time like flies in his fist.
Entirely heartfelt and infused with pathos, Jerusalem Beach is an exploration of both technology and the brain. Whether ruminating on the stakes of familial love or pitching the reader headlong into the absurdity of success and failure, Gefen leaves the reader intrigued throughout.
"This vigorous, inventive work will surely fire up readers' neurons." — Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly 

For fans of Etgar Keret, a debut collection that fuses the humor of everyday life in Israel...

Advance Praise

"Sad and funny and full of wisdom and truth."

— Amos Oz, author of A Tale of Love and Darkness

"The stories in Iddo Gefen's Jerusalem Beach are a series of original and, many times truly inspiring, attempts to seek and find humanity and tenderness at the least predictable places."

— Etgar Keret, author of Fly Already

“Iddo Gefen is the voice of his generation. But he’s also a voice that’s somewhat wiser than his generation; one that observes from the sidelines, or rather, from the perspective of an eighty-year-old grandfather...[Jerusalem Beach] is a fresh, imaginative and bold debut.” 

— Eshkol Nevo, author of Three Floors Up

"Jerusalem Beach accomplishes the impossible—at once playful and wrenching, surprising and organic, these stories are instant classics, if classics could somehow come from the future. Gefen’s is a once-in-a-generation voice."

— Shelly Oria, author of New York 1, Tel Aviv 0

Jerusalem Beach signals the confidence and the probing talent of a mature writer, confident in his craft, who knows how to control a complicated storyline with an unexpected, enjoyable twist, while creating distinct characters that speak in many unique voices.” 

— Arianne Melamed, Haaretz

"Gefen...flirts with the border between fact and fiction, that will likely be the future in a few years’ time...showcasing these subjects in a new and creative light, full of compassion and humanity." 

Time Out Tel Aviv

“Iddo Gefen is a brilliant writer, with his own language, fast and fluent...The irony that exists throughout the book and the humor seen from the surprising plot transitions do not obscure the seriousness of the questions about the ‘human condition.’” 

— Professor Ariel Hirschfeld, head juror of the National Library Scholarship

"Sad and funny and full of wisdom and truth."

— Amos Oz, author of A Tale of Love and Darkness

"The stories in Iddo Gefen's Jerusalem Beach are a series of original and, many times truly inspiring...

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ISBN 9781662600432
PRICE $26.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

This is such a beautiful collection of short stories. Iddo expertly navigates through different perspectives, what it is to be human. All stories are set in different parts of Israel and having been there a lot brought everything alive. Israel is such an odd mix of "Western" and Middle Eastern and I think the author really captures that. There are motifs in the book with protagonists living more on the fringes of society which I found very engaging. While his stories are surely rooted in fact there is a lovely swirl of magical realism in there. Even in the short stories the characters are fully formed, 3D people, which even some novels can't do. I would love to read anything by him in the future. I read the English translation by Daniella Zamir. Hebrew is a gendered language and the absence of that in English made the stories really engaging because it took me a while to figure out which sex the protagonist of each story was. I found that to be a really beautiful element and recommend to Ivrit speakers, who also read English well to read this one (as well).

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A very solid collection of (international literary fiction) stories. There's a nice variety of the types of stories and on its whole is a nice showcase of the author's talent. Recommended. I really appreciate the ARC for review!!

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“Jerusalem Beach”, ….a collection of short stories… ‘definitely’ a must read for those who are a fan of the ‘other-Israeli-King’ of short stories, Etgar Keret. It’s a must read for everyone who enjoys contemporary short stories about life, relationships, challenges, and love. Iddo Gefen lives in Israel. This is his debut SLAM DUNK BOOK-BUSTING -BOOK-BUSTER…collection. These stories are AWESOME! HITTING all the right marks! …..His writing is witty, creative, contemporary, clever, quirky, tender, genius, poignant, inspiring and entertaining. We feel the emotions… they are intimate > stories about love, friendships, compassion, psychological distress, loyalty, disloyalty, faith, unique perspectives about living and dying,…..stark, weird, imaginative, and relatable. It was interesting to learn about the author after reading these stories- that take place in Israel. His stories kinda make sense - more sense - after learning these facts about Iddo Gefen: He was born in 1992 in Israel and currently resides in Tel Aviv. He works in neurocognitive research at The Immersive Media & Cognitive Group in Sagol Brain Institute, Sourasky Medical Center, and Tel Aviv University, exploring how storytelling can improve our understanding of the human mind. Iddo leads an innovative study to diagnose aspects of Parkinson’s disease using storytelling. The stories include: The Geriatric Platoon… Exit… The Jerusalem Beach… Neptune… The Girl Who Lived Near the Sun… Debby’s Dream House… The Meaning of Life Ltd…. Three Hours From Berlin… Anita Shabtai… Lennon at the Central Bus Station… Flies and Porcupines… One sample…..from “The Jerusalem Beach” Story: “They went looking for her first memory, snow on the beach in Jerusalem. Tomorrow he would turned her in, but at that moment they were still riding the 480 bus together, second seat from the back. Lilian had fallen asleep and Sammy was looking out the window”. “Sammy and Lilian had shrunk over the years. It was August, and sunny. Lilian said “The Snow must be coming”. “She wrapped her arms around her body and started trembling. Even the hottest day couldn’t stifle her snowy memory. Sammy let out a sigh and placed his satchel on the floor. He sluggishly reached into the satchel and took out the white coat he had one bought her. By now it was two sizes too big, but she insisted on wearing it with pride”. All her memories were swallowed into a void. All but the memory of the snowy beach in Jerusalem. “Tomorrow they’ll come take care of you, he said”. “To The beach?” “There are people who can take care of you better than I can”. “Where’s The snow, Sammy?” “I’ll come visit every day”. “She leaned forward. Her eyes remained closed”. “I can smell the sea, can you?” “Sammy reached out to her with both hands, pressed his head against hers, and gently stroked the lines on her face”. Other favorites were: …The Geriatric Platoon, Exit, Debby’s Dream House, Lennon at the Central Bus Station, Flies and Porcupines, and The Girl Who Lived Near the Sun. Two more sampling’s….. Wisdom words from Grandma: “Back in my day, parents still had a say in the matter, but today all I keep hearing is how they have to let you kids make your own mistakes. That it’s the only way to get life experience. But you know what happens then? You kids get lost. You make so many mistakes that you find yourself on the other side of the solar system alone”. Grandma speaks again… “What can I say, bubele, you can’t keep putting your life on hold like this, it just doesn’t work that way. You’re not the only person in the world who has questions, believe me. The problem is that no one has the guts to tell you you’re not going to find the answers”. Wonderful heartfelt stories….what’s ‘not’ to love?/!!! Thank you Netgalley, Astra Publishing House, and Iddo Gefen (I’m a new fan)

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On NetGalley, the description of Jerusalem Beach, Iddo Gefen’s debut collection, begins, “For fans of Etgar Keret…” I was immediately interested, as Keret is one of my favorite authors, but also skeptical that they shared anything more than the superficial connection of being contemporary Israeli short story writers. However, all my doubts disappeared after reading the first line of the first story, “The Geriatric Platoon”: Grandpa enlisted in the Golani infantry brigade at the age of eighty. Here is an author who can match Keret’s wit and whimsy, drawing very real emotions from very surreal situations. I don’t mean to imply that there is anything imitative or derivative about Gefen’s work; it so imaginative that there are no proper comparisons for the stories themselves, just the genius of their author. The collection takes the reader from a desolate army outpost, to a Berlin that exists only on social media, to a microplanet abutting the sun. Gefen is a neuroscientist, and his experience flavors his work without overpowering it. In one story, a father seeks desperately for a technology to see into his daughter’s dreams. In another, a woman and her fiancé set out to transfer memories to each other. But in all cases, the humanity is foregrounded and the technology is there only to support the author’s message. I absolutely loved Jerusalem Beach, and I plan to read Gefen’s future work as quickly as they can translate it (and maybe even faster if my Hebrew improves). Thank you to Astra House for the advanced copy of this fantastic collection!

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I was initially drawn to this book by its gorgeous pink and blue cover, which was designed by Michael Morris. Reading the description, my interest was peaked and I was intrigued. I'm a big fan of short stories and had never read anything that originated in Israel so I was really excited at the idea of discovering a new author and hoped to find something fresh within the pages of Jerusalem Beach. I had a feeling I was going to like it, I just wasn't sure how much I'd end up liking it, which was a lot. I found it so entirely compelling, addictive almost, and completely original. The opening story stole my heart, and I sailed through the book from there onwards, my imagination running rampant, while each story took me to a new place in my mind. I felt a little jolt of excitement as I began each new story, unaware of what it would be about, or where it would take me. I always found myself pleasantly surprised, and was constantly in awe of Iddo's adventurous prose and originality. Each story was deeply layered, engaging, and almost psychedelic. There were a few that resonated with me beyond the first one about the Neuerman family, particularly the story of an elderly couple making their way back to Jerusalem in search of a beach after sixty years away from the city, and the tale of a male and female living alone on a planet far from everyone and everything. I found myself truly enveloped within each story, the details of them so accurately put into play and the scenes created so vividly that I could picture them in my mind. There are so many feelings, emotions, and reading between the lines with each tale. The stories explore themes of loss, grief, loneliness, and family love and bonding. This book took really took me by surprise. The plot doesn't do it enough justice — it truly is a masterpiece, and an absolutely stunning debut. Jerusalem Beach is well worth the read.

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These stories blew me away. I couldn't stop reading this, so I finished it in one sitting. I felt so many emotions reading this. Odd duos of feelings like heartwarming and heartbreaking made this work for me. All of these stories absolutely took my breath away. I could feel the air in Tel Aviv with the elegant writing style. I recommend this book so much! Thank you so much for letting me read and review this!

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I really enjoyed this book! I thought the themes that repeated throughout several of the stories were all interesting, and each time they were approached in refreshing new tones that really gave the whole book a good sense of connection through disparate stories. Although some were more science fiction-y than others, there was still a sense that every story took part within the same world, perhaps over a few different decades. I felt as though the pace and meter of the writing was a little stilted, which could be due to the fact that this book is translated from Hebrew, but it was easy enough to look past. I often find with short story collections that I could take some and leave some, and that was definitely the case with Jerusalem Beach. But in general, I enjoyed the book, and I had a good time living in the stories that I did enjoy!

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It is perhaps the perspective of academia mixed with observational excellence that exalts this collection of short stories from being mundane to something extraordinary. Every story has foundation in realism of love and loss, old and new, young and dying, death and decay - of the worlds untold to the inexplicable infinite of stories. There are multitudes of places, things and people that Gefen touches upon and yet manages to hold back from telling everything and allows reader to feel. The first story of the collection, <i>The Geriatric Platoon</i> remained a personal favorite throughout the read for its narration and the utter humanity. Gefen is an author to look for in the future, his words profound and stories grounded. <i>Thank you to Netgalley and Astra Publishing House for providing me with a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review. </i>

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‘’A month and a half later, he packed a bag, stuffing it with four undershirts, five pairs of underwear, a flashlight, two cans of sardines, a biography of Moshe Sharett, and anti-chafing cream. Not because he thought he might be cold but because he continued to fear the woman he had loved ever after she had passed away.’’ The characters in these beautiful stories are faced with issues that would weaken the strongest of us. The loss of a child, the loss of a spouse, the awareness that your time is ending, the feeling of being helpless and trapped, the burden of memories, the inevitability of disaster, the pressure that comes with being in love. And yet, this is the force that keeps everything together. Love creates problems and love solves them. In a collection that is as vivid and melancholic as the afternoons during late summer, Iddo Gefen creates a treasure to be felt deeply in our hearts and a very special journey within the heart of Israel. The Geriatric Platoon: An elderly man enlists in the Golani infantry brigade, trying to recover from the death of his wife. A moving, tender story of fatherhood, old age, independence and the cruelty of being selfish. "Next to a red hill in the desert, our only daughter wandered and disappeared into the thicket of her dreams, leaving us blind—as we heard the thud of her fall without knowing in which direction to turn." Exit: A young girl seems to live inside her dreams and her parents are doing their best to cope with this extraordinary situation. A beautiful story about the bond between parents and children, between spouses, between plans and life as we get it. A tale about dreams, reality, love "When did she tell him about the snow on the beach? He wasn’t sure. But it happened here, during one of their first encounters, when she arrived to buy challah at the bakery and then slipped away with him into the nearby alley. That was where she told him about her very first memory. About children playing in the snow, digging with bare hands in search of the sand that had disappeared." The Jerusalem Beach:An elderly couple arrives in Jerusalem in search of a first memory made of snow and sea. A very emotional story about the strength of love that cannot be defeated by disease and time. Neptune:The visit of a military journalist in a god-forsaken camp causes all Hell to break loose with tragic consequences. The Girl Who Lived Near the Sun:A tale of intergalactic relationships, enterprises and a very special girl. Debby's Dream House:A man starts working in a company that constructs dreams. But nightmares are also dreams and things become worse when his girlfriend is about to slip away from him. Manufacturing dreams becomes a superpower. Elegantly dark and profound. 101.3 FM: Fixing a radio becomes a telling metaphor for the paranoia that comes with falling in love. The Meaning of Life Ltd. : Two people understand that finding the meaning of life means absolutely nothing when compared to the joy of experiencing the moments that really matter. Three Hours From Berlin:In one of the most moving stories I've ever read, a young couple is trying to create the perfect experience in the perfect virtual world. But what happens when everything becomes a race and a struggle? A poignant remark about the lies that hide behind ideal smiles and happy statuses in our "beloved" social media... How to Remember a Desert:We all have memories we try to forget and memories we wish never faded. But do we really need someone else's memories implanted in our brains? "For some, this thing called living is just a bit too much. I, for instance, can tell you that I missed out on life by just a few feet. What can I say, it started out so fast that by the time I noticed, it was speeding ahead without me. You probably think this is just a bunch of hooey. That I didn’t really make an effort. But trust me, I tried, I tried harder than anyone, it just didn’t work. Nope, no two ways about it; there’s always someone who misses the last bus, and in this lifetime it happens to be my turn." Anita Shabtai: Another gem, another moving story of motherhood, fatherhood, the difficulty of being a sceptic, the agony of daily life. I was particularly moved by the references to Thessaloniki and the song "Jerusalem of Gold" that always brings me to tears. Lennon at the Central Bus Station:A melancholic story about an overprotective, overreacting mother and a child who just wanted to have a pet. Flies and Porcupines: The loss of a son turns the life of a family upside down in a heartbreaking story. One of the finest books of the year, exceptionally translated by Daniella Zamir. ”But I’m starting to think it isn’t the country that keeps us rooted. Nor our education, friends, or family. It’s something a lot more specific, much more precise. A spot in the world that pulls us in like a magnet. ” Many thanks to Astra House Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I just finished reading Jerusalem Beach by Iddo Gefen. His short story collection spans: several cities in Israel, venturing to a virtual Berlin and even, to outer space, and he includes a wide range of protagonists: from children living in bus stations to 80 year olds re-enlisting. Some of the stories made me cry, and many brought tears to my eyes. Basically, it is fantastic (IMO of course) and, I highly recommend it. Thank you #netgalley and Astra Publishing for my complimentary ebook in return for my honest review. #5stars

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I honestly wasn't expecting to love this short story collection to this extend. Iddo Gefen brilliantly pens down stories of simple people who lead extraordinary lives in a pursuit to fulfil their simple pleasures in life. Each story is touching and heart warming and honestly, it quite difficult to put this book down. This collection encompasses a good mixture of present day stories and stories that are slightly dystopian. No matter where they lie in this spectrum each story hits the right chord in your heart and mind.

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A beautiful debut, with some caveats. The stories I liked best in this collection are the ones more down to earth. When the venue shifts to outer space, I tend to drift. But the stories that grabbed me, such as the titular Jerusalem Beach, will stay with me. That one, in particular, was one of the smaller ones, but that didn't lessen its power and haunting quality.

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I love these stories but realized why after reading the author's 'about' blurb.: Iddo Gefen was born in 1992 in Israel and currently resides in Tel Aviv. He works in neurocognitive research at the The Immersive Media & Cognition Group in Sagol Brain Institute, Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University, exploring how storytelling can improve our understanding of the human mind. Iddo leads an innovative study to diagnose aspects of Parkinson's disease using storytelling and augmented reality. This layer of awareness of the variety of brain function permeates the stories but - like skillful seasoning - doesn't call attention to itself.

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I received an electronic ARC via NetGalley. This is an engaging collection of short stories, many of them on themes of dreams, memory, time, and the interplay between human cognition and technology. Much of it is speculative fiction, and it's both well-written and delves into interesting ideas and concepts. The author's background no doubt informs a lot of his writing in these stories, and I'll be interested to read more of his work if more appears in English translation. While the stories are freestanding and mostly quite distinct from one another, they fit together well--many themes are examined repeatedly in different stories, but the angle is always a little different. The characters are vibrant, and the stories feel very grounded in their setting (even when it is deliberately surreal, or not-quite-the-normal-world). I suspect my appreciation of some of the material would be considerably stronger if I had more familiarity with Israeli literature, and I am certain the impact is different on a reader with a deeper understanding of Israeli society. Still, this is very enjoyable speculative fiction, and the translation never feels obtrusive.

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