Rochelle Mass is the author of two collections of poetry, Aftertaste (Ride the Wind Press) and Where's My Home? (Premier Poets Series). Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, including London Magazine, Women's Studies Quarterly, The Jerusalem Review, The Tel Aviv Review, ARC, Canadian Literature and others. In 2002, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by The Paumanok Review. In 1994, one of her radio plays was short-listed for production by the BBC.
      Rochelle is a translator and an editor of Kibbutz Trends, a biannual journal of contemporary issues. She was an interviewer for the Steven Spielberg Holocaust Archives. Rochelle studied education in Canada and literature and linguistics at the University of Haifa. She is a member of the Israeli Federation of Authors and the Artists and Sculptors Association of Israel.
      Canadian born, Rochelle Mass grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, and moved to Israel in 1973 with her husband and two young daughters. They lived on Kibbutz Beit HaShita in the Jezreel Valley for twenty-five years. Today, Rochelle and her husband live in a small community on the Gilboa Mountains where they press and cure olives from their own trees.
      The following essay first appeared in The Paumanok Review.

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By the Nachal Harod RiverNotes from the Gilboa

I was born in Winnipeg, in the flat prairies of Canada where wheat is grown and there isn’t a mountain to break the horizon. I grew up in Vancouver where mountains crown the lips of the Pacific.

“If you come to a land with no ancestors to bless you,” I read recently, “you have to be your own ancestor,” This was the case in 1973, when my husband and our two young daughters settled in Kibbutz Beit HaShita, in the Jezreel valley of Israel where we watched the pioneers tilling their dreams in the tough land, and saw their children shaping their own, then, twenty-five years later we moved across the way, to a small community crawling up the Gilboa mountains.

These are my addresses, the landscapes that feature in the ongoing dialogue of then and now. I have been introduced as Canadian-Israeli. Could be called double-exiling, but I gratefully call it double birthing. This has taught me about displacement and replacement, that home is essentially the place where everything makes sense, that imagination is under the scrutiny of fact. That dreams and reason sometimes collide.

I tried to connect the tangled story of where I’ve been. My guess is I’ve panicked hereWith My Grandkids and there. I’ve grabbed at moments that seemed manageable. Sometimes I’ve told too much, and I want to cover that part up, take it back. Sometimes I haven’t had the courage to tell it all. Sometimes details have swelled into a sweaty sinew, in other places I’ve reduced events because I’ve struggled to make strange experiences familiar.

I reported that time, it seems now, as though I’m outlining territory, as though I’m reporting the weather. Memory has chased me, I see that clearly. I’ve been so determined to trap those images; I folded and refolded them till they fit The Startled Land. Much of it I didn’t recognize till I saw it on the page, then it stuck, stilled like a magnet.

The story has grown as one page followed another, till it became a familiar map. I trust the transitions, am devoted to the dilemmas. It continues as I sort the fabric of the flesh, witness the decisions of the seasons. My guess is that the story is bigger than it seemed at the time.

Occasionally I’ve interrupted the shape of things, simplified the plot because I’ve resisted what was, then filled the empty corners with hope. Separating my life into words, I feel the power of where I’ve been, but I’m jolted by the connections, as though I’ve stuffed my life into another woman’s dress.

I see that there was no better place to start than I came to join the women. Yet, I must admit that’s not the whole story.

I realize now, I had
no choice but to bend,
invent new posture.