Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life, but he can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.
Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?
We’re happy to welcome E.M. Ben Shaul for a tour stop for her latest release Flying Without a Net.
Flying Without a Net is a love story about two Jewish men—one a secular Israeli and the other, an Orthodox sign language interpreter, who must find a way to balance their feelings for each other with their respective views of faith. As an Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, Dani and Avi’s story is so important to me. I live in a simultaneously Jewish-friendly and gay-friendly neighborhood just outside of Boston, and I hope to share a better understanding of my faith, as well as the challenges it can present for two men in love.
We asked her to draft something for us and she quickly gave us a To-Do list for one of her characters!
Avi’s To-Do List, October 19, 2016 (Written by Dani, taped to Avi’s messenger bag.)
- Go to Shacharit (morning prayers) 6:45 AM. Don’t forget that because it’s still the holiday of Sukkot, prayers will take longer.
- Pick up breakfast before work! Most important meal of the day! I’ve stuck an apple in here for you, as well.
- Work, 8:00–11:45 AM. Interpreting for on-campus interviews for Boston University engineering student job fair. Should be a light day, but remember to take breaks as necessary.
- Lunch with Jake at BU Hillel Sukkah, 12 Noon. He’s going to meet you at the BU Engineering building, so wait for him. Please remember to invite him for Shabbat lunch; we’re hosting Shira Davis as well, and I think they’d get along. (No, I’m not trying to match them up. I gave that up after the whole Devorah Shapiro/Noah Cohen fiasco. I promise.)
- Work, 1:30–3:30 PM. Interpreting for guest speaker, BU School of Education. You’re interpreting for Bob McNeil’s class again; please remember to tell him hi for me.
- Break, 3:30–5:40 PM. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous. Go find a park bench and sit on it. Read a book, contemplate the universe, compose a new song, I don’t care. Just take a break, okay? You’ve been pushing too hard with all the holidays.
- Mincha/Ma’ariv 5:40–6:40 PM. Afternoon and evening prayers, all in one handy-dandy package! Say “hi” to God for me; if possible, ask Him to hold off on the rain until after dinner tonight, since we’ll be eating outside in the sukkah.
- Pick up dinner on your way home from shul. If you call me when you’re about ready to leave, I’ll call in the order, because by then I hope I’ll know how many of us will be eating here tonight.
- Dinner 7:15–whenever. Let’s make sure we kick everyone out at a decent time so we can get actual sleep tonight. Also, we’re using disposables so neither of us will have to do dishes tonight. It’s Sukkot; everyone is using disposables so that the regular dishes don’t have to be schlepped outside.
Avi looked at him, concern plain on his face. “What is it, Dani? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. I just realized that I really needed to tell you now.”
“Tell me what, Dani?”
“I love you. You’re… you are the best person I’ve ever met, and I’m proud and humbled to call you my boyfriend.”
He paused, part of him wondering why this was all spilling out now. It’s not as if he hadn’t known, probably since Avi’s bike accident, that he loved Avi, but he hadn’t been ready to say anything. And what he’d said to Avi was true—he wasn’t saying this because he expected to receive anything in return or to hear anything specific from Avi.
In that moment, he wasn’t sure what Avi would say or how Avi would react. The silence, though it had only been seconds long, was making Dani twitchy.
“Avi?” Dani was terrified that Avi would see his declaration of love as manipulative, as a ruse to try to get Avi back into bed, which it wasn’t at all. “I… I don’t expect you to say it back. I don’t want you to feel compelled to express feelings you don’t actually feel just because I said it. It’s just that, while I was sitting in the bedroom trying to give you space and time to process, all I could think about was how much I wanted to wrap my arms around you and hold you and make you comfortable and happy.”
“Oh, chamudi, I…” Avi put his head on Dani’s shoulder. “I love you with all my heart. I feel like I’ve loved you forever.”
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Flying Without a Net// Five winners receive Flying Without a Net eBook
About the Author:
E.M. Ben Shaul lives in many communities. An Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, E.M. lives in the simultaneously gay-friendly and Jewish-friendly Boston area with her husband and twin daughters. A technical writer by day and freelance editor by nights and weekends, E.M. likes to knit, cook and coin neologisms. E.M. seeks to explore the seeming conflict between religious teachings and the heart’s desires.