Posts Tagged ‘Israel’
April 29, 2013 | by Alice Greenberg
My Skype chat with Arab Israeli author Sayed Kashua started off on a promising note when we bonded over our ineptitude for all things mathematical. Except he, in typical fashion, was being facetious, while I had tried in vain to figure out Israeli time zones. The author—who also happens to be a columnist for the newspaper Ha’aretz and the writer of the popular Israeli-aired TV show Arab Labor—has an intimate relationship with the complexity of what it means to be an enigma in Israeli society. His most recent novel, Second Person Singular, is a delicately interwoven narrative, stitched together by instances of jealously, raw relationships, and the deeply embedded dogma of identity. Sayed’s cautionary tale doesn’t presume an intimate familiarity with the intractable Gordian Knot of Israeli society in order to understand human nature, willful dignity, and self-destructive tendencies. And therein lies the point.
I caught up with Kashua over the audible sounds of his young children shrieking in the background, and we spoke about the paradoxes of being an Arab Israeli columnist who lives in a prominently Jewish neighborhood, and whose daughter shares a schoolyard with the Israeli Prime Minister’s son.
I was just playing with my little boy.
How old is he?
I don’t know exactly…
I think maybe we’re both equally bad at math.
No, no, he is a year and eight months.
Just me then. You just came back from a book tour, which you’ve capped off by saying you want both sides to go to hell. So it sounds like it went well. Did you learn anything new in the interim?
Yes, that the real Jewish state is the Upper West Bank, in New York, and that Montreal can be very cold. I don’t know what I learned this time around, because it’s not my first time, but I think that this feeling that I can run away from dealing with identity, or not to feel like a persecuted minority will not go away if I move to Canada or the U.S. Because most people I met were dealing with issues of identity, language, belonging, and what does home mean. But most of the people that I met were Israeli, or Arab, or Palestinians. I think that identity doesn’t deserve so much thinking, to be honest. I think [from the tour] I have earned my confusion in a very honest way. Being a Palestinian citizen of Israel, it’s okay. We can be confused. I hear criticisms from both sides, but the majority of both sides really listen and like my work, so the tour was great.
November 21, 2012 | by Rebecca Sacks
It’s prime rocket-time in Tel Aviv and I have to pee. This is a totally legitimate concern, but one which I am still not able to bring up to my Israeli friends: bathroom timing. The last place you want to be during a rocket is the bathroom, I hear. The tiles and glass make it really, really dangerous. We only get one, maybe two sirens a day in Tel Aviv. So the chances are pretty slim. But can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to explain that to someone? “These scars I earned during the bombing of 2012, while I was on the can.”
The first time I heard a bomb siren all I could think was “The VengaBus is Coming.” I was in a café in the north of Tel Aviv, trying to read a menu upside-down. (I’m learning Hebrew.) There had been news of escalated bombings in the south, but that was all very far from Tel Aviv. Well, nothing is particularly far geographically in Israel, but Tel Aviv is a world away. The city has a way of blocking out the din of conflicts within Israeli society, as well as pressures from the antagonistic forces surrounding its borders. The pathological determination of the Tel Avivi not to let anything fuck with their shit is hard to underestimate. It’s a bit like the way girls look straight ahead when they don’t want to acknowledge some creepy guy doing the “psst, psst” holler from a moving car. Read More »
October 5, 2012 | by Matteo Pericoli
A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.
The nicest place I ever got to write in was in MacDowell. My studio there was surrounded by a beautiful snowy forest, and looking out of the windows I could often see deer. During my residency there a friend came to visit. After having a beer together he said, “There is so much beauty around you, yet I can see from the angle at which your computer is placed that when you write all you can see is the toilet. Why is that?”
The answer was simple. When I write, what I see around me is the landscape of my story. I only get to enjoy the real one when I'm done. In the Keret family tradition my writing space is always one of the least desirable spots in our apartment, a place which only a person who is busy writing can bear. Currently it is a small metal table placed between the living room and the kitchen. The moment I stop writing I can notice on the other side of the road a beautiful grand tree allegedly planted sixty years ago by one of Israel’s finest children poets as well as the happy mess my son and I left on the balcony the day before, but this is just for a moment, most of the time I just see my stories which are usually much messier than the balcony floor. —Etgar Keret
May 1, 2012 | by Rebecca Sacks
In 2006, the great book-blurber and novelist Gary Shteyngart called Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout “the best work of literature to come out of Israel in the last five thousand years—better than Leviticus and nearly as funny.” Keret may indeed be the most loved and widely read Israeli writer working today. He is known for his very short short stories, which are often described as “surreal” and “absurd.” It’s certainly the case that they do not adhere to the laws of the physical universe.
In his most recent collection, Suddenly, a Knock at the Door (published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a talking fish grants wishes; a woman unzips her boyfriend to reveal the German gentile inside; a middle-aged man is kidnapped and taken to his childhood. But at the heart of Keret’s writing is a deep compassion. His characters may be enmeshed in paradoxes unique to Israel—with its fraught borders, fragmented populations, and newly ancient language—but it’s always their humanity that shines through.
Keret is also a filmmaker. With his wife, Shira Geffen, he directed Jellyfish (2009), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and has had his work adapted to film, including Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006). Over the course of two weeks, during which his father passed away from cancer (he has written about his father for Tablet), Keret generously corresponded over e-mail for this interview.
April 9, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
August 2, 2010 | by Avi Steinberg
A bar mitzvah outing—at a West Bank shooting range.
It’s not easy to get directions over the phone from someone who works at a shooting range. I was pretty sure Eran had said that Caliber-3 was accessible by public bus, but it was hard to hear him over the gunfire. So I took the bus into the West Bank, through various IDF checkpoints, down highway 60 with its anti-sniper barriers and razor wire, past the giant, snaking “Wall of Separation,” to a settler outpost, a pleasant little heavily-armed suburb.
“You are not in the right place,” Eran is now telling me on my cell. “You are in the wrong place.”
The right place, it turns out, is a forty-five minute walk to a remote hill. I embark on a cautious solo West Bank hike along a road where Hamas militants once tried to kidnap a friend of mine. Empty cans of power drinks labeled in Arabic line the road—when these turn into empty cans of power drinks labeled in Hebrew, I know I am close.
Caliber-3 is located on a dusty slope of a dusty hill, between the Jewish settlement of Migdal Oz and the Arab town of Bayt Fajar. It is part of a settler industrial park built on land that nearby Palestinian villages claim as their own. Each company housed in the industrial park seems to play a role in the Jewish settlement enterprise: contractors, a land development corporation, a real estate management agency, a shady outfit that calls itself “Google Ranking Experts,” and an even shadier outfit that calls itself “The Society for the Interpretation of the Talmud.”
I am here for a bar mitzvah outing. Since the party bus is late, I join three men sitting at a picnic table. They identify themselves as “French businessmen who live and work in China.” Why are they on the West Bank, at this shooting range? They are training for urban combat, they tell me. “We need it for work,” one of them explains.
Somehow this segues into an impassioned monologue. The lead Frenchman demands to know why the Americans get away with killing twenty-seven Iraqi civilians a day while the Israelis dispatch a few pirates and are roundly condemned. It’s an outrage! Under the table, I feel a foot cozy up to mine. I try to ignore this. The man, now pounding on the picnic table, continues to decry the hypocrisy of the international community; at the same time, he grows increasingly familiar with me under the table. He is now gently massaging the top of his foot over the top of my foot.
According to its website, Caliber-3 “works in close cooperation with the IDF in the field of counter-terrorism” and has “set up security installations in order to train both professionals and laymen in Israel as well as in Africa, Asia and Central America.” They also offer paintball to visitors who are willing to wear the required external jockstrap. Again, from its website, “[we] simulate urban combat using paintball. This is real fun for families and tourists and great entertainment for bar mitzvahs.”
At long last, the bar mitzvah bus arrives. It is a large group of men, women and children dressed for a day of golfing. Chinos, polo shirts, belted plaid shorts. Many are also wearing official bar mitzvah apparel: navy blue baseball caps and tote bags emblazoned with a giant Ralph Lauren Polo-brand logo over the words DAVID’S BAR MITZVAH. They are snacking. It is Friday. Today they shoot guns, real guns, not paintball; tonight they pray at the Western Wall, followed by a Sabbath buffet dinner; tomorrow, young David is called to the Torah. Read More »