Some Day

On the shores of Israel’s Sea of Galilee lies the city of Tiberias, a place bursting with sexuality and longing for love. The air is saturated with smells of cooking and passion. Seven-year-old Shlomi, who develops a remarkable culinary talent, has fallen for Ella, the strange girl next door with suicidal tendencies; his little brother Hilik obsessively collects words in a notebook.

In the wild, selfish but magical grown-up world that swirls around them, a mother with a poet’s soul mourns the deaths of literary giants while her handsome, wayward husband cheats on her both at home and abroad.

Some Day is a gripping family saga, a sensual and emotional feast that plays out over decades. The characters find themselves caught in cycles of repetition, as if they were  “rhymes in a poem, cursed with history.” They become victims of inspired recipes that bring joy and calamity to the cooks and diners. Mysterious curses cause people’s hair to fall out, their necks to swell and the elimination of rational thought amid capitulation to unhealthy urges.

This is an enchanting tale about tragic fates that disrupt families and break our hearts. Zarhin’s hypnotic writing renders a painfully delicious vision of individual lives behind Israel’s larger national story.



Excerpt from Some Day

…Like the day the radio said the Sea of Galilee was overflowing and might flood the kibbutz. Shlomi’s mother immediately said, “This I have to see, Robert. Get in the truck and take us there.” Shlomi’s father had a cold and answered in a wet voice, “I’m not going all the way over there just because you feel like watching your hated kibbutz members drowning in the sea.”

“I don’t hate kibbutz members,” she said with an insulted face. “Just because your sister lives in a kibbutz and I hate her doesn’t make me a monster who wants to see kibbutzniks drown. Shame on you, the way you talk to me, all I wanted was to see the Sea of Galilee fill up.”

He finally conceded, ripped a few strips of toilet paper, stuffed them in his nose to stop the dripping and went to warm up the truck’s engine. Shlomi’s mother bundled up Hilik, Shlomi’s younger brother, who had the sniffles, wore her hair up like she was going to a wedding, cleaned her glasses well and told Shlomi that the sea was so rambunctious that even the fish had begun flying, and you could catch them in midair with a butterfly net.

Then she said, “Why don’t you invite the new girl to join us, she’s probably never seen such things in her life.” Shlomi refused, he didn’t even know her, but his mother insisted. “Go and introduce yourself, be nice to her because she’s a poor dear, her parents almost burned to death in the camps and in the end the government stuck them in Tiberias instead of giving them a respectable home in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.”

Shlomi walked out the door, down the stairs, across the yard and saw her sitting on the stone wall, as if waiting just for him. And indeed, the moment she saw him she got up and stood in front of him, smiling.

“Hello there,” he said in the official tone his father used when he spoke with people who were placing work orders. “My name is Shalom but everybody calls me Shlomi.”

One of her eyebrows rose. “Hello to you too Shalom and hello to you too Shlomi,” she said. “My name is Israella but I can’t stand that name so I changed it to Ella and don’t you dare call me anything else.”


Ella sat with her parents in the backseat because they wouldn’t let her ride alone with strangers, and Shlomi’s mother wasn’t insulted but happily invited them to join. She asked Shlomi’s father to tell some jokes to lighten their miserable souls from all the torture they’d been through. But when they got to the Sea of Galilee they saw that no fish were flying and none of them had a butterfly net anyway. “Who even catches butterflies in Tiberias?” Ella’s father asked and went off in rolling laughter, and because he had a beautiful laugh, like a song with a catchy tune, everyone bellowed in unison.

Ella’s father, Shmuel, was relaxed. Shlomi’s mother’s expression and her periodic laughter encased him in comfort and he began spewing jokes, one and then another and another, waves of crazy jokes streamed out of him, and Shlomi’s father didn’t have to work hard anymore, and everybody laughed a lot, even Shlomi laughed, although he didn’t understand the jokes, and only when his mother said, “I’m about to pee my pants,” he imagined her wearing pants and finally laughed for real.

Only little Hilik didn’t laugh. He fell asleep earlier, on the ride over. “It’s better this way,” Shlomi’s mother said. “He’ll sleep away this illness, and maybe it’ll pass and he’ll finally be able to breathe like a human being.”

“I have a cold too,” Shlomi’s father told her. “But you don’t worry about me, instead you take me to the sea in this cold weather.” Shlomi’s mother smiled. “You’re not a child,” she said. “You’re a big ass. Find someone else to pity you and your runny nose.” And he said, “Maybe I will.”

Later on, Shlomi’s mother let them wander off a little bit and even put their feet in the water, even though it was late January and the water was freezing. Maybe she wanted to be alone with Ella’s parents, to feel free to ask all her questions and get to know them better.

Shlomi and Ella sat on two rocks and insisted on leaving their feet in the water, which really was cold. Shlomi tried to ignore her looks and her rising eyebrow. Ella looked at his feet, the back of his head, his elbows, where he could feel her eyes the strongest.

“Why don’t you talk at all?” she asked, and he was embarrassed but still answered, “I do too talk,” and she said, “You don’t,” and he said, “I don’t have a lot to say,” and she said, “Do I look stupid to you?” and he shook his head.

“Did your mother make you invite me because she thinks I’m stupid?”

Shlomi shook his head again, harder.

“Then maybe you’re a stupid boy and that’s why you don’t talk too much.”

This time Shlomi didn’t answer and didn’t shake his head but was a little hurt and stopped breathing and thought she might be a little right.

Suddenly she moved her eyes away. In front of them, in the sea, in a small faraway fishing boat, people were waving their arms, trying their best to get the attention of a police boat sailing loudly nearby. Ella was focused on both boats and Shlomi used the opportunity to take a long look at her hair, her shoulders, the tip of her nose where he counted six freckles. In the meantime, the police boat stopped near the fishing boat. Because of the distance and the sounds of the surf, they couldn’t hear the people talking as they tried to reach something that was floating in the water, but their excitement was palpable.

Then, all of a sudden, she looked at him, caught his gaze and said, “But you’re handsome. Knockouts like me count beauty over stupidity.” Shlomi didn’t understand a word she said, but her voice was soft and his face was burning.

The people on the boats finally managed to pull in that thing that was floating in the water, and just then Shlomi’s mother came over and asked them to get up right away. “You shouldn’t be looking over there, it must be someone who drowned and they’re trying to get him out.” “Is he dead?” Ella asked. And Shlomi’s mother answered, “How should I know? What am I, Deborah the Prophetess? And now come here immediately and don’t look over there anymore, and you should get your feet out of that ice water before your toenails fall off.” And they never talked about it again, and Ella looked at the boats from time to time, and at the people whose voices couldn’t be heard, only their bodies moved in an effort to pull the body out.

A week or so later he heard his mother tell people that the neighbors’ daughter was the one to throw herself in the water.

“What do you mean throw herself in the water,” said Shlomi’s father. “You’d think there were bridges here, with the Danube running under them. It’s only the Sea of Galilee.”

“You’d be surprised,” said Shlomi’s mother. “The Sea of Galilee is good enough. You don’t have to go to Europe to throw yourself in the water.”

“It’s nice to know your precious sea is good for something,” said Shlomi’s father. And Shlomi’s mother got mad and said, “You shouldn’t get on my nerves too much, or one day you’ll find me floating in the water, and then you’ll ask yourself why I did it.”

“Why would you do it?” he asked.

“Because of you, that you annoy me,” she answered.

“Why must you make a big drama out of everything? Why must you threaten me?”

“Because I was just doing you a favor telling you about the girl who drowned because I thought you’d be interested, but you had to be so full of yourself and piss on the whole world.”

“Why did she kill herself anyway?”

“How should I know? Maybe she fell in love.”

“That one? In love?” he chuckled. “She was as ugly as the night. Who would she fall in love with?”

Shlomi’s mother got upset again. “What, ugly girls can’t fall in love?” she said, took the laundry and left.

Shlomi went down to the yard immediately and told Ella, who sat on the stone wall, everything his mother had told him. Ella was excited and said, “I see you actually talk sometimes.”


On their way back from the overflowing sea, Shlomi’s mother said, “Now you’ll come over for dinner.” And Hanna said, “No, you should come over to our house.” But Shlomi’s mother wouldn’t give up. “We asked you to go to the sea and people get hungry at the sea, especially today with the water rising. Tomorrow it’ll go down and be sad again, because the sea is like a swing, it’s moody.” And she herself grew sad.

Shlomi’s father looked at her and smiled. “That’s Ruchama,” he explained. “She has a poet’s soul. She even takes poetry books to the bathroom instead of newspapers.”

Shlomi’s mother blushed and hit him gently on the arm. “Watch your language, Robert,” she said, shocked. And he laughed. “What do you think, that they don’t know you go to the bathroom? Even the Queen of England goes, and you’ll be surprised to learn that sometimes she even farts.” Then they all burst out laughing and Shlomi’s father was pleased to learn that he could also tell a good joke.

Hanna told them she took a dictionary to the bathroom to learn new Hebrew words. Shlomi’s mother made an impressed face and Hanna looked her up and down and said, “I’ve never seen a woman as tall as you.”

Shlomi’s mother smiled and said, “Now you probably want to know how I can live with a man who’s so much shorter than I am.”

Hanna nodded, as if pondering what she’d just been told, and never took her eyes off Shlomi’s father.

When they got home Shlomi’s mother showed Hanna how she poured a lot of olive oil on hot hardboiled eggs and added salt and pepper and slices of fried sheep’s milk cheese. Everyone placed their eggs on thick slices of bread that Shlomi’s father sliced for them and took large bites of pretty tomatoes that Shmuel rinsed and cut in two while still joking around and making Shlomi’s mother laugh.

“I’ve never had such good food before, Ruchama,” said Shmuel as he took her hand in both of his, like a man holding a firefighter’s hose.

When they left Shlomi’s mother said, “He’s actually very nice. You can learn a lesson from him on how to be funny, instead of all your long jokes that get stuck in your throat like day-old bread. Look at this man, with everything they did to him, how they turned him into ashes, look at him stand on his two feet and become a comedian. I’m not crazy about her, though, she has an unbearable voice, like a drying car horn, goes to the bathroom with a dictionary to learn new words. I think she’s an irritating woman.”

“She’s not irritating,” said Shlomi’s father. “She’s sad.”


A few days later Ella turned up in Shlomi’s classroom. The teacher introduced her to everyone and told them that she was a new pupil and that her parents had moved to Tiberias from Netanya to work at the Jewish Agency office and help new immigrants, even though they were immigrants themselves, but had come to Israel a while ago, long before Ella was born. She asked everyone to make an effort to help the new girl, and forgot to mention her name. But Shlomi had known her since the trip to the sea and the meetings in the yard and all the days she came over with her parents or he came over with his, and so he signaled to her and she came to sit next to him and showed him that she had a sandwich with a hardboiled egg and a hint of olive oil and some salt and pepper, but no fried cheese because her mother didn’t know where to get it, and no tomato slices because she didn’t like her bread to get soggy. Some of the children laughed and said the new kid smelled like hardboiled eggs, like the sulfur water in the Tiberias Springs.

Then the teacher led a formation and instructed the children on how to behave and keep quiet when they went to visit the school principal’s living room to watch the TV broadcast of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s funeral.[1] Since Shlomi’s class performed with distinction in that year’s Chanukah ceremony, the principal decided to have them over as a reward. She was one of the only people in town to own a television, which she kept in the center of the living room in her large house, which also had a garden with grass and fruit trees and rose bushes. She used to bring the bad kids over to her fancy garden to hoe and water and sweep it really nice and good, because that was a much more educational punishment than writing “I will never interrupt Israeli history class again” one hundred times or copying down a chapter of the Psalms twice.

All the children sat on the floor and looked amazedly at the strange contraption with the bouncing black-and-white images. The principal gave them watered-down, almost tasteless raspberry juice, and kept telling the teachers who were there, “Our country is going to hell. Without Eshkol we might as well pack up our things and go,” and the teachers clicked their tongues and made worried faces and kept looking at the open kitchen and all the shiny appliances the principal’s son sent over on a boat from America.

Ella sat next to Shlomi and whispered in his ear, “Half my ass is freezing on the floor, and the other half is sweating on the carpet,” and Shlomi was afraid he’d start laughing at that moment, when the prime minister was being lowered into his grave, and so he lowered his head and pretended to cry silently. The teacher saw him and told the principal to stop with her apocalyptic prophecies because she was scaring the children. The other teachers were startled when the teacher dared tell the principal off, and in her big house no less, and were completely quiet until the TV went staticky and the prime minister was in the ground.


About a week after the class and the teachers and the principal said goodbye to Levi Eshkol, Shlomi’s parents and Ella’s parents were already good friends. Shlomi’s mother kept commenting on Ella’s mother and Shlomi’s father kept thinking she was a special, sad woman. “So why don’t you marry her,” said Shlomi’s mother. And he answered with a smile, “I already married you, I missed my chance.”



And then that thing happened.

Shlomi’s father went over to do a favor for Ella’s parents and fix their shutters, because he was handy and fixing things was his profession.

Shmuel wasn’t feeling so well. He was pale and grumpy and sighed like an old man climbing up stairs.

Hanna said, “He’s upset because Golda was made prime minister instead of Dayan or Alon.[2] He doesn’t like having a prime minister with a stronger accent than his Polish one.” And Shmuel said, “I don’t like people who act like slaves. I don’t like someone deciding for me that this old lady gets to be prime minister instead of letting us vote, letting us decide.”

Shlomi’s father left the shutters for a moment and said, “There’ll be an election in a few months anyway, so what’s the difference?”

“Who will you vote for?” asked Shmuel.

Mapai,[3] the Workers’ Party,” said Shlomi’s father. “I’ve been voting for Mapai my whole life.”

Shmuel let out a nervous laughter. “You’re a young man,” he said. “You’re a child, not yet thirty. How many times have you voted anyway?” And Shlomi’s father said, “Whenever I voted I always voted Mapai.”

“Why?” asked Shmuel.

“Because that’s what I always vote, my whole life,” said Shlomi’s father.

Hanna sensed tensions rising and said, “Why don’t I make us something to drink, maybe something cold, because you’re very sweaty, Robert.”

But Shmuel was getting very heated and said, “Can’t you see they’re screwing you over, you and all the other Sephardic voters.” Shlomi’s father blushed, maybe because of the word “screwing,” and said that he grew up in Argentina. Shmuel didn’t give up and banged his fist on the table. “You grew up in Argentina but you’re Sephardic, you’re Iraqi. And your wife, it doesn’t matter that she was born in Israel, she’s Sephardic too, and you’re both naïve like all Sephardic Jews. I say ‘naïve’ because I can’t believe you’re stupid enough not to notice when someone is laughing at you and treating you like dogs and abusing your loyalty. What’s Mapai ever done for you?”

Shlomi’s father went back to pushing the shutter into its base. He was sweating profusely and must have been upset that Ella’s father allowed himself to say such a thing. Maybe that’s why he didn’t answer.

But Shmuel went on. “Look at Begin, for instance.[4] I look at him and want to throw up – he’s such an exilic ape. But at least he’s dignified, and if you vote for him you’ll finally have someone looking at you, and that would be the real revolution.”

“I’m happy with things the way they are,” Shlomi’s father said quietly. “Who has the energy for a revolution, anyway.” And Shmuel banged on the table again and went red until Hanna yelled, “You’ll have the heart thing again!” But he kept yelling and yelling, about how even Ben Gurion couldn’t stand Golda and refrained from voting, and how it was too bad that Shlomi’s father didn’t ask his wife for her opinion because she was a smart woman and would probably understand why it was important.

And suddenly he fell.

Shlomi’s father and Ella’s mother ran over and put him on the sofa. Ella’s mother slapped his cheeks and spoke in Polish and Shlomi’s father didn’t really know what to do. Then Ella pulled Shlomi away and said, “Come help me.” She pulled him so hard that Shlomi hit his nose on the doorpost.

In the kitchen she told him, “Don’t be scared, it happens to him a lot. Just help me get his Valerian.”

Shlomi didn’t understand what she was talking about and just touched the bruise on his nose. Ella poured some tap water into a glass, and pushed a bottle of dark liquid into his hand and asked him to put exactly twelve drops into the glass, because her hands were shaking. Shlomi twisted the cap off and tried to pour the liquid carefully. Ella shouted at him, “Do it quickly, what are you looking at? Are you doing research?” And Shlomi started shaking from the pressure and poured long sprays of the dark liquid into the glass. “Did you count twelve drops?” Ella asked, because she wasn’t looking. Her face was turned towards the living room and the Polish shouts. But Shlomi had no idea how many drops he’d poured, and only managed to squeeze long, sharp sprays into the glass.

Ella poured the water that had turned orange from sprays into her father’s mouth and he calmed down very quickly and even told Shlomi’s father to let go of the shutters and that he didn’t need any favors and that he should go home and think about who he was going to vote for. Then he lay down on the living room sofa and closed his eyes and everyone went about their own business, and that night he died.


Shlomi’s mother helped take care of everything because Ella’s mother had no one but her husband and a few colleagues from the Jewish Agency office.

Shlomi’s father sat at home, not moving.

“You’re as white as a ghost,” said Shlomi’s mother. “Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault the man was psychotic and heartsick from all the terrors he went through in the camps and the torture and the snow.”

“I don’t blame myself,” he said. “I just feel bad for her and her daughter who’s now an orphan. They’ve only been here a month and look what happened to them. Look how stupid life is.”

He finally had to come help because they suddenly realized the door was locked and everyone was already outside, waiting for the funeral, and only the body stayed at home, because Hanna insisted it be brought back home after being cleaned and shrouded. “I don’t want him sent to the grave from the fridge, I want him to come from his own home.” And Ella locked the door and took the key with her and no one knew about it and no one noticed the kid was missing either.

Shlomi’s father came but couldn’t break the lock because his hands were shaking, and couldn’t go in through the balcony, either. Maybe he was afraid to run into Ella’s father sitting on the sofa with that look in his eyes that made him feel like an idiot. He stood on the sidelines when they pulled the body out the window and put his big hand on Ella’s mother’s back.

And Shlomi’s mother alone ran the entire operation quietly and efficiently, until finally the body was pulled out the window in front of the eyes of two children lying close together on the scorching hot roof.

[1] Served as third prime minister of Israel, from 1963 to his death from a heart attack in 1969.  His years in office saw both economic growth and a difficult recession. He enhanced diplomatic relationships with Germany, Russia and the US, securing American support in the days preceding the Six-Day War.

[2] After Eshkol’s death, Golda Meir was brought back from retirement to take over the Labor Party, having been chosen over younger candidates such as Yigal Alon and Moshe Dayan. The choice of the older and more conservative Meir over her younger, Israeli-born peers created a public unrest.

[3] The Workers Party of the Land of Israel was a left-wing political party led by Levi Eshkol until its merger with the Labor Party in 1968. Throughout the years its Socialist manifesto became identified mostly with Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Eastern European descent), leaving out Sephardic Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern or North African descent).

[4] Right-wing politician and Israel’s sixth prime minister. At the time of Eshkol’s death, Begin was the leader of the Gahal Party, then part of the National Unity Government, and served as a minister in Eshkol’s cabinet.