The Buzzard and the Kite: All about Me

My Parents

Ora and Amnon Katz at their wedding
Ora and Amnon Katz at their wedding

My name, Aya, means "kite" in Hebrew. It's not the kind of kite you fly, as in "Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height". It's the kind that's a bird of prey, as in "The buzzard and the kite have a healthy appetite." This tells you all you need to know about me. Well, maybe not everything, but it's a start.

When my mother was expecting me, my father picked out three names for potential children. They were Aya (Kite), Daya (Buzzard) and Nets (Hawk.) The first two were girls' names. The last was for a boy. I am the eldest child, and I am a girl. So I was named Aya, which means kite. When my brother was born twelve years later, he was named Nets. Since by then we were living in America, his middle name is Hawk. If we had had a younger sister, her middle name would have been Buzzard. Fortunately, that never happened. There are just the two of us. 

My mother and I

Napping -- or not!
Napping -- or not!

My father and I

My father and I were very close
My father and I were very close

My Parents

My mother, Ora, was born in Israel and grew up in an agricultural community called Beit Oved. My father was born in Poland to Zionists, and was already fluent in Hebrew when he arrived in Israel at the age of four. He had a passion for flight from an early age, but when I was born, he was a physicist at the Weizmann Institute. My mother, up until she took her maternity leave, was employed as a computer technician on the first computer in Israel, the Weizak, It took up an entire room. My mother was very good at doing mental arithmetic in hexadecimal.

Because my father was an academician, we often spent a year or two abroad, before returning home to Rehovoth. When I started first grade, we happened to be in the United States, as my father was at Argonne National Laboratory for a year. I was monolingual in Hebrew when I started to first grade in Romeoville, Illinois. I didn't speak a word of English. It was a scary experience at first, but in a few months I was completely fluent in English.

I spent first and second grade in the U.S., but third and fourth grade in Israel. Drifting from one language to the other seemed perfectly natural and required no special instruction.

My brother and I

On my 14th birthday
On my 14th birthday

The Role of Poetry in my Life

My mother says that I spoke my first word at six months and was completely fluent at one year. According to my father, I composed my first poem when I was around two years old. It was in Hebrew, but the gist of it was: "The porter died. They buried him in the ground. His mother cried." The real life event that prompted this composition was a lot more prosaic. We found a dead bird in the yard and buried it.

I don't actually remember any of the above. But I do remember falling down the stairs when I was two. My mother was very worried and made me lie down with a wet rag on my forehead until my father came home and said it was okay for me to get up.

Both my parents were devoted to me, and my memories of early childhood are happy ones. I suppose that is one reason I always wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of being a mother in the future, because you have to be grown up to have a baby. But I didn't dream about writing. I just did it, because writing is dreaming.

Poetry was a staple of our life. We read it. We recited it, and occasionally, in highly emotional situations, it would just materialize out of thin air.

My Family on Vacation in Britain in 1963

Modeling for Inverted-A

This photo of me with the Minisimulator IIC was taken for the purpose of advertising
This photo of me with the Minisimulator IIC was taken for the purpose of advertising

Canaanism, Yeshive-Bucherism and Leaving Israel and the Academy

In the late sixties, my father was active in the Canaanite movement in Israel. He wanted to see all Israelis treated equally under the law. He wanted Israel to hold all on to its possessions and to share its bounty with all those within its borders. The Canaanites dreamt of a Pax Hebraica that would enfold the Middle East.

None of this was to happen. The ruling parties wanted a small state, with special rights for special ethnic groups, enforced apartheid, and military and economic protection from the United States. When my father foresaw that Israel would not annex the Sinai but give it up in return for an empty promise of peace, he decided to leave Israel.

At the same time, he was also leaving behind his academic career.  My father when we left Israel in 1970 was a tenured professor of physics at the Weizmann Institute. He gave up the security and prestige of this position in order to pursue a second career in aerospace engineering. He believed too many people were becoming academicians and teaching others to become teachers who would in turn teach more people how to teach, until in the end there would only be teachers and nobody would be left to produce anything useful. (The theory of how this was happening he called "Yeshive-Bucherism".)

It was a good theory. It's just very naive of him to volunteer to be the first one to quit the academy in the name of usefulness. Nobody else followed his example. After spending a couple of decades in industry, eventually my father returned to the academy as a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama.

We never returned to Israel but often wished we could.Sometimes a decision is made and there is no turning back. 

(For a short story describing the experiences of a ten year old Israeli immigrant to the US, see the link to the Punky Wunkies below.)

My Education

Most of my education was acquired in the great state of Texas. My father pulled me out of junior high and educated me at home for three years from the age of thirteen to the age of sixteen, when I started off to college.

By the time I was fourteen, I had three major goals in life:

(1) I wanted to write a novel.

(2) I wanted to have a baby.

(3) I wanted to bring up a chimpanzee and teach it how to read.

My father, however, thought that in addition to doing these three fine things on my list, I should also do something useful. Which is why I got a J.D. from Baylor Law School and passed the Texas Bar Exam.

The years when I practiced law were to be the most miserable years of my life.


H: She left me, she scorned me;

She plain disobeyed.

She went without warning,

Though I bid her stay.

I could sue her, divorce her,

For conduct most cruel.

But I need her, I'll force her

To live by my rule.

W:My spirit had flown, too,

And gone was my pride.

"I love you! I love you!

"I love you!" I cried.

But I knew well enough

That it was something else.

While I cried out of love

It was lust that I felt.

And he gave me a look,

So sardonic and grim,

For my body and soul

Both lay open to him.

In elation I'd cried,

But in shame now I wailed.

My soul had been tried

And my spirit had failed.

So farewell my true love

Who wanders the streets.

We never have met and

We never shall meet.

My master, my husband,

My lord rules supreme;

He's proven me base and

I cleave now to him.

(c) 1986, 2008 Aya Katz

Inverted-A and My Law Practice

By the time I graduated from law school and had passed the bar, my father had quit his job in aerospace and started a company of his own, Inverted-A, Inc. He designed and built from scratch a low priced flight simulator. He wrote the code by hand in the machine language of the 6502 microprocessor, (no assembler for him!), he designed the layout of the printed circuit boards, and he made all the exterior details of the simulator as well. The minisimulator IIC was FAA approved, and it received favorable coverage in leading trade journals. The company had no employees, and everything was assembled in our garage from parts made by independent contractors who were paid by the batch, not by the hour.

The year after law school, I answered the phones for Inverted-A while I finished my first novel The Few Who Count. The following year I began to work for Inverted-A full time (but not for a salary), doing quality control for printed circuit boards, drafting and negotiating contracts, assembling parts in the garage, lifting crates, designing advertising and even posing for ads. No job was too big or too small for me to take part. 

My father was gifted at everything except marketing. After a couple of years, my father went back to work in the aerospace industry, and I was out of a job. I couldn't get a job as a lawyer, because I had been out of law school too long, and my employment history sounded fishy. "You did what for your dad's company?"

By this time I owned a house and had mortgage payments, so in order to earn a living, I opened a law practice of my own. I was still fairly young and completely inexperienced. The people who walked in the door asking for my help were not corporate giants. They came from all walks of life, and most of them needed a divorce or had been accused of DWI or were fighting for custody of their children, or had been accused of theft or drug possession when what they were really guilty of was prostitution.

I won't go into all the details here. Professionally, I could handle their cases as well as anyone, but emotionally I was overwhelmed by the sordid details of their lives. I was especially panicked by the idea that people could really choose to live this way. I was panicked by the idea that maybe I was just like them and I was trapped, too. After all, if I wanted to, could I quit? What about the mortgage? What about my responsibilities?

If I was practicing law just to pay the bills, was I any better than someone who was staying in a loveless marriage because she was too tired to try to leave?

I stayed in that law practice for close to nine years before I finally found a way out. It was an unhappy time, but it did produce a lot of poetry.

It was toward the end of this period when I began work on my second novel, Vaccum County.

Linguistics, Rice and My Time in Taiwan

I wound down my practice and I went back to grad school, this time getting a Ph.D. in linguistics at Rice University in Houston. The grad school years were happy ones. The academic life becomes me. Linguistics may not be immediately useful to anyone, but I find it interesting, and so much less depressing than divorce and prostitution.

Besides, when I practiced law I was constantly being pitted against my colleagues. The law is inherently adversarial. While I like logical argumentation, I don't like constant games of one-up-manship. The atmosphere at Rice suited me, and I felt for a time that I was thriving. I was living at my highest potential.

Vacuum County, my second novel, was completed while I was at Rice. At the same time, I was involved in groundbreaking research in linguistics.

My dissertation was on Cyclical Grammaticalization. I showed that a copula (a `be' verb) could become a pronoun and then after a period of time that self-same pronoun could once again be reinterpreted as a copula. There are cycles in language, and the more language changes, the more it goes back to the way it was in an earlier period. This was supposed to be theoretically significant, because certain people were claiming that there is a undirectional cline in language change and that things never go back. However, it turned out that in linguistics, a single counter-example cannot be used to falsify a hypothesis. In fact, a whole mountain of counter-examples cannot falsify a theory, when its proponents are sufficiently entrenched.

Which is why, when I graduated from Rice, I ended up taking a job teaching abroad. By now I was no longer young, and if I was going to have a baby, it was now or never. My daughter Sword was born two weeks before I turned thirty-nine in the summer break between academic years, and by the time she was two months old, we were back in Taiwan. Taiwan was my home for three years, and my daughter might have grown up there here entire childhood, if not for an unexpected twist of fate.

When my daughter was just a little over a year old, my father was killed in a helicopter crash. This was to change the course of my life.

My Kids

Sword and Bow in 2002
Sword and Bow in 2002

Project Bow

The helicopter was a one-seater, designed and built under my father's direction by his students at the University of Alabama. He was the one flying it, and he was the only one hurt. We don't know what went wrong. It was an experimental vehicle, and it was a risk that my father took upon himself. He was sixty-five years old.

My father's death was a devastating blow to our entire family. For me, he had always played a very important role. I was forty years old when he died. I did not know how I would face the future without his guidance.

My father asked that his ashes be scattered over the Land of Israel and the Sinai. My mother, my brother and I met in Israel, Sword and I flying in from Taiwan through Thailand. We hired a small plane, and we fulfilled his wishes, even though it was not legal to do so, on either the Israeli or the Egyptian side of the border. A special panel was installed that allowed us to scatter my father's ashes through the floor of the plane.

Due to the generosity of my mother and brother, I was allowed to inherit a substantial portion of my father's retirement, and it was because of this that I was able to return to the United States and start Project Bow. My dream of adopting a chimpanzee and teaching him language and literacy was about to come true!

Copyright Aya Katz

My Family on Vacation in New Hampshire 2005

Comments 54 comments

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

Aya - thanks for sharing that with us.

I'm sure your father must be watching as you make those dreams come true!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Shalini!

Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 8 years ago from London

I'm glad that you made all of your dreams came true, that's very inspirational.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Moon Daisy, thanks!

einron profile image

einron 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

Very interesting life. Thanks for the biography. God bless.

einron profile image

einron 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

Very interesting life. Thanks for the biography. God bless.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks for the comment, einron.

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

The traituese side of me tells me that more of your dreams are destined to come true, beyond your wildrest dreams. Double wow Aya, on this and your interview! You are an inspiration.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, thanks! Couldn't have written it if it weren't for you!

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

Great interview - just read it. I second Jerilee - you really are an inspiration!

Thanks for the mention :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shalini, thanks! I don't always comment on your hubs, but I always enjoy reading them. You have a distinctive writing style.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

You've certainly had an interesting life Aya! You're proof that if you set your heart on something, you can really make it happen.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Amanda, thanks!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Amanda, thanks!

hibiscus_mel profile image

hibiscus_mel 8 years ago from Marlton, New Jersey

You are an extra ordinary writer. Excellent hub! ;-)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hibiscus_mel, thank you for your comment!

DK5 profile image

DK5 8 years ago

Hi Aya, I have been drawn to your writing and find myself reading your hubs more and more. What an incredible life you are having. The books that you speak of,are they available and if so what are they about?

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

DK5, thanks! There's more information about my novels in my hub on genre:

The Few Who Count is currently out of print, but you can read a review of it here:

My 2nd novel, VACUUM COUNTY, in its entirety, is avalibale here:

June Sun profile image

June Sun 8 years ago from Alberta, Canada

Aya, I finally have time to sit down well (actually lying on my bed) and read your hubs. I really love the picture you and your father. Remeber that I said it was a shame that I could never meet your father? I still feel the same way. I really envy you that you had such a wonderful father! :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

June, thanks for dropping by and reading my hubs. It means a lot to me! Yes, I do remember that you liked that picture of me and my father. I'm sorry that you and my father could not meet, too.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Aya - That was a fine read. It also helps me understand better where you're coming from in some of your comments. Belated thanks ;)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paraglider, thanks!

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

I followed you to your profile page via a comment you left on Montana Farm Girls page then I followed the link on your profile page to here and I am so glad that I did. I have had the most enjoyable and fascinating read about an extraordinary family and an amazing young woman. As you must already know you write extremely well and in such an easy to read way whetting the appetite as we progress through the hub, I am going to book mark this hub so that at a later date I can come back and read more of your fascinating hubs. In just one hub you have made a fan out of me.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Maggs224, thanks so much for the supportive comment! It means a lot to me.

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

You have had an amazing life and it shows in your writing. Thanks for sharing

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Gypsy Willow!

Robert A Shields 7 years ago

From my resume: 1973-1979

Team member in developing and real-time simulation of anti-missile/satellite missile (ASAT).

I worked with your father a number of years. Met you and your brother when you lived in Grand Prairie. Saw the beginning of the flight simulator. I think the last time I saw you, you were off to become a lawyer.

posts a resume of your father that needs completion and the phone number removed. That is how I came across your site thru Bing search.

Rob Shields

530 Lynnie Penny

Midlothian TX 76065


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hi, Rob, I do remember you! My father mentioned you a lot, referring to you simply as "Shields" and I remember meeting you, too. My mother no longer lives in Grand Prairie, so I don't think it matters if there's an old phone number from those days.

Did you mean to post your address and phone number in this public location? If you want me to, I can delete your comment. Or if you don't mind, I'll just keep it.

Tamarii2 profile image

Tamarii2 7 years ago from NEW YORK

Enjoyed your Life's story.I also found you through a link discussion on culture/human-civil-social rights.You wrote about what you thought about freedom.Thanks.I wish we could all follow what you wrote on that topic.PEACE.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Tamarii2, thanks! I did not know about the link. I guess that's good news!

i scribble profile image

i scribble 7 years ago

What a fascinating life you have led, and are still leading! Here I must take a moment to brag that my son said his first word, "Hi" at 5 months. Do you know what your first word was? What do you think of the Your Baby Can Read learning system that I see advertised on TV? Have you considered using the system with Bow?

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

IScribble, thanks! Gotta say your son has my record beat!

My first two words were both pronouns. One was a word meaning "this" with the direct object marker stuck to it, which I used to request things, meaning roughly "I want this" (while pointing at what I wanted.) The other was the second person masculine sigular pronoun that my mother used when talking to my father.

Bow is no longer a baby and he's already reading, so it's too late to try the system you're suggesting!

profile image

Ken Moncrieff 7 years ago

Your fascinating short story came straight from your heart more grist to the mill. Ken Moncrieff.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ken Moncrieff, thanks! That really means a lot to me!

profile image

amanes 6 years ago

I have read most of your autobiography (will read the rest later) and your life is fascinating. Of course your writing ability is impressive. I like your daughter's name. That is very cool. Overall I am in awe that you have reached these goals and learned so much in your life. Good working with you Aya!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, A. Manes! It's always nice to get feedback, and I look forward to your next installment!

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Hello Aya, I really enjoyed reading your autobiography. Thanks for sharing it with everyone.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Pamela, thanks!

SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

Interesting full of living life. Thanks for sharing.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

SteveoMc, thanks!

PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 6 years ago from Oregon

What a fascinating life you have had. Thank you for sharing this. I love the picture of you with the flight simulator! Hey, I've done a bit of 6502 coding myself so I can appreciate how difficult that work must have been for your father.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

PDXBuys, thanks for your comment and the encouragement.

You've written code for the 6502? Wow! Did you write directly in machine language, or did you use an assembler?

PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 6 years ago from Oregon

I was only a beginner! Used an assembler on a Commodore VIC-20 computer back in 1983. I was a computer science student. Side note: Also around that time I read Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum's book "Computer Power and Human Reason". You may be familiar with it. Dr. Weizenbaum was also the creator of computer program called "Eliza" which could talk with a human user. It was a clever demonstration of early "natural language processing". That program (I used a simplified commercial version) and his book stimulated my interest in the field of artificial intelligence, though I only achieved a very superficial understanding of it. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Weizenbaum in person in the early 1990s.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

PDXBuys, I did not read Dr. Weizenbaum's book, but I do remember Eliza. She was annoying! Although I have to admit that a conversation with Eliza is similar to conversations I've had with many people. They latch onto some of the vocabulary I use in order to reply, but they have no idea what we're talking about.

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

Aya,you are an extraordinary person and such an inspiration. Great hub, such a joy to read.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Putz, thanks so much for your comment. It's encouraging to get such positive feedback!

Kind Regards profile image

Kind Regards 6 years ago from Missouri Ozarks - Table Rock Lake

Aya Katz, It was so interesting to read your life story after following your blog for awhile. I am so sorry about your father. It reminds me of my father who was also an engineer and who would build things. He got hurt badly once when a rocket he built blew up and he later took a fall over waterfalls and suffered from seizures from then on. All of this happened before I was born when he was 44. He died of natural causes at only 69, so he was young like your father and it is quite obvious that they were both adventurers and great thinkers. I was very close to my Dad too. I was only 25. I'm sure you miss yours as much as I miss mine. Again, great autobiography. I enjoyed it very much. Hi to Sword, Bow and Lawrence. Kind Regards

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Kind Regards, thanks! It seems that you and I had similar relationships with our fathers. And both had a spirit of adventure and scientific curiosity. It's those who live life to the fullest and take risks, like our fathers, who sometimes die young. But they are not forgotten.

Elizabeth 6 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this and all of your family life with us I esp love the picture of you & your Father

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thank you, Elizabeth. I like that picture of me and my father very much, too.

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US

Very nice Aya, my eldest niece is also named Aya. Now you are a mother, not only a writer but "online businesswoman" (smile). You have a gift for words and a good mother, with sensitivity. I like all the pictures and I enjoy reading this! Thank you!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, PrettyDarkhorse! So your niece and I share a name. The same name, with different meanings, seems popular throughout the world. I love your new profile picture. Who is that with you? So pretty!

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

Wow, this was an amazing story. I thought you were just teaching in Taiwan for a couple of years, and I had no idea you had planned to stay longer. You were very proficient with language at a young age being able to write poetry at two. Perhaps one day you will turn this short memoir into a book.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, SweetiePie. I might someday write an autobiography, but the story is far from over, so I feel that I don't have enough perspective on the more recent events as yet.

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