New York, 1998: Research for “Moving”

Assaf Gavron’s most recent book, Almost Dead, is now available. He will be blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog series all week.

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To research my novel Moving (published in Israel in 2003), I traveled to New York to work in the moving business for three months.

It is known, at least among Israelis and American Jews, that the moving business in New York has been largely taken over by Israelis in the last decades, as exemplified by firms such as Moishe’s, Shleppers and dozens of smaller companies in New York and elsewhere, owned by Israelis and employing young Israeli men after military service. This phenomenon has led to the creation of an Israeli movers community in New York, with its own habits, lingo (a specific kind of ‘Hebrish’, Hebrew-English), blocks of residence in Manhattan, New Jersey and elsewhere, favorite restaurants and clubs to hang out in, and so on.

The idea to write a novel based on this community, and their experience as a group of young foreigners in a unique pursuit of the American Dream, came to me following a series of conversations with a close friend who had worked as a mover in New York for three years in the early 1990’s. This friend set me up with his contacts and I was invited to work in a moving company in New York.

Between January and May 1998, I became a mover in Trio Moving and Storage, a small company based in midtown Manhattan. I moved the furniture and personal belongings of families, offices and companies all over the U.S., and had an intimate inside look at the way the business worked, the life of Israelis in it, and the way they experienced America, its landscapes, roads, culture and people.

moving assaf gavronI worked in New York, but also traveled long-distance: to old-age homes in Florida, to Minnesota with Russian immigrants, to Texas, to northern Michigan with hippies, to Chicago, Boston and more. Being in a small company enabled me to quickly learn the different parts of the job and to reach the position of driving a truck on my own on long distance trips.

The experience was fascinating and inspiring, and provided me with plenty of fodder for the resulting thriller-comedy that is Moving. As I write in the first chapter of the book:

“Working as movers, you see changes all the time. You’re part of them. You see people at the moment of change… You see America from right inside its soft underbelly, right inside people’s fragile lives.â€

Moving was published in Israel in 2003 and was a bestseller; It will be published in German translation in October 2010. A movie based on the novel is in production by Lama Films from Tel Aviv (Paradise Now, Jellyfish). Assaf Gavron’s most recent book, Almost Dead, is now available. He will be blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog.

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