Gardening, the ultimate metaphor for life with Meir Shalev

by | Nov 4, 2021 | What’s Happening

Sunday, November 21, 2 pm, online

While Meir Shalev is not a household name in the United States, he is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists. Shalev will join the community for an online conversation as part of the 11th annual Israel Today series in partnership with the Chrysler Museum of Art’s book club.

Shalev’s prolific writing career is comprised of multiple bestselling books sold throughout the world. His many titles have been translated into more than 20 languages, including the book chosen by the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Book Club, My Wild Garden: Notes from a Writer’s Eden. In this memoir composed of multiple essays, Shalev reflects on his childhood growing up on a moshav, family history, the garden he has cultivated as an adult, and the humor inherent in life.

At the onset of the pandemic, many people began spending more time outside admiring nature and perhaps even cultivating a garden. Shalev beautifully describes his experience of doing just that in this series of essays. When Shalev comes across his home and garden in the Jezreel Valley, it appears parched and dilapidated after years of neglect. Though his grandfather had an orchard and his mother was an avid gardener, Shalev himself was a novice on matters of horticulture. Throughout the collection of essays, which can be read in order or at random, Shalev describes how a hobby quickly becomes a much loved activity.

Though the book’s skeleton rests on all things botanical as Shalev learns what to plant and when from a knowledgeable elder, he expertly draws comparisons between the plants he cultivates and life. Shalev whimsically extolls the virtues of the lemon and pomegranate tree, referencing the plants named in the Torah, wondering why some are included by name and some are not. Shalev describes the pride he takes in all who admire his garden from the potential nuisance of wildlife to bridal parties and kindergarteners who grow before his eyes as they interact with the natural world.

By the end of this poignant memoir, Shalev reflects on the personal growth he has experienced while learning about and supporting his garden’s growth. Noting that the patience and dedication his garden requires is similar to that of his career as a writer, though painful at times, the results ultimately prove beautiful—beginning to end.

Meir Shalev’s online conversation is presented by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater‘s Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Today series, the Embassy of Israel and Community Partners, and as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival, in partnership with the Chrysler Museum of Art’s book club.

Free and open to the community; for more information or to RSVP (required), visit

-Elka Mednick