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Bulgarian literary circle in Israel's Yafo

Приистанището на Яфо
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Captivated by the Bulgarian language, culture and literature, a group of intellectuals unite around the literary circle "Ray of Light" in Tel Aviv's oldest part – Yafo (Jaffa). The idea belongs to Moni Papo – winner of the state award for high creative achievements for his books in Bulgarian.

At the beginning, the club established almost 40 years ago numbered a dozen poets and writers who used to write in the Bulgarian language which they once studied at school.

"In the early years, Moni Papo helped with advice and everyone respected his words”, says his wife, Denny Papo. “The members of the club tried to write and publish their books only in Bulgarian. Moni used to bring to them the great Bulgarian writers such as Lyubomir Levchev, Boris Hristov, Kolyo Kolev when they visited Israel. But then the gossip, the guilds, and the graphomania started and he left. "

After the political changes in Bulgaria in 1989, more Bulgarians arrived in Israel. Among the new emigrants there are also writers who are attracted by the opportunity to join the activities of the Bulgarian Literary Club. Medi Benado remembers his first visit to the club as he later became a member of the management and organizer of the monthly public readings.

„Nathan Elazar was the chairman of the club then. I sat in the front row. They talked about writers. I found the names of all of them – Betty Leon, Iona Schwartz, Jacob Ashkenazi. Many also write in Bulgarian, in addition to Hebrew. This meeting was interesting with the songs, with the stories, with the poems. ”

Medi Benado will never forget the old woman who, at the end of a gathering, could barely climb the three steps to the stage and utter: “Here I meet my friends, we speak Bulgarian, we share memories. For many like me, this is a wonderful thing.” And imperceptibly tears started rolling down her cheeks. From now on she will organize the meetings of the club.

One day when her four children were already grown up, Medi Benado told her father she wanted to go on a trip to Bulgaria. And she left for the country in which she was born, together with her parents.

“Meetings, acquaintances, and finally I say, "Dad, can we go see the house where I was born?", she recalls. “We took the tram from the centre of Sofia to Poduyane stop. It was a warm day and I felt a sea breeze, not the hustle and bustle of the tram ride but it felt more like an embrace. And when we arrived, from afar I immediately spotted the house which I thought I had completely forgotten. I could clearly see the colours, the stairs. I remembered how guests used to come and I would climb on top of the table to recite poems, how in the evening I was encouraged to pray. And me, a three or four-year-old girl, I used to sing Ivan Vazov’s Children's Prayer.”

On the plane back to Israel, Medi Benado makes a vow to describe all her experiences in a book. In the beginning, it is difficult to immerse herself in the past, but with writing, more and more memories begin to emerge.

“After writing for three years, I said to myself that I should return to Bulgaria to see if everything I told is true - the lake with the lilies in Borissova Garden and the house on the Yanko Sakazov street where we used to live, ” Medi Benado recalls. "And it turned out that everything was there, as I describe it in the book. I went to my grandmother's house opposite the Sofia’s Central Market Hall and photographed the fence, I also visited the town of Svoge where I was taken to a sanatorium after an illness...”

When the book was published in Israel, Medi Benado was asked by the editor of a textbook for the 4th grade in general education schools to use the last chapter, describing her arrival from Bulgaria. Two months later, she received the textbook with an excerpt entitled "Medi Benado arrives in Israel." And memories spread before her eyes. She gets on the steamer ship once again and sees "our country" in the distance. She marvels again at the sprawling sands and palm trees she had never seen before. And after the visions dissipated, Medi Benado read the questions to the students. "How does little Medi feel when she sees Jaffa in the distance?" "What does she say to her parents?"

English Rossitsa Petcova

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