Wednesday, November 29, 2023

"Jerusalem Marathon" Nominated for the Pushcart Prize

I am excited to share that my short story "Jerusalem Marathon," published by the San Antonio Review on November 19th, has been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize.

The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize published by Pushcart Press that honors the best "poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot" published in the small presses over the previous year. Small presses are allowed to submit up to six works that they have published. The San Antonio Review submitted five poems and one short story.

"Out of hundreds of publications and thousands of submissions, the most revered pieces by SAR contributors have been nominated for this year's Pushcart Prize!" the San Antonio Review said in its announcement.

You're invited to read "Jerusalem Marathon".

Monday, November 20, 2023

"Jerusalem Marathon" - short story

They gathered near the Knesset. High school girls in modest skirts color-matched with running tights, yeshiva students sporting brand-name running shoes. Soldiers in uniform and start-up employees before the start of their workday. Individuals, friends, youngsters and athletic adults, the experienced and those here for the first time, everyone wearing the same lime green dry-wear shirt. All waited for the announcement that would kick off the race.

The sky was blue and promising, the early morning air crisp and refreshing. A perfect day for the Jerusalem Marathon. The main event, 42.2 kilometers long, would take the runners through downtown Jerusalem and north all the way to Mt. Scopus. The race circuit snaked through the Old City’s Jaffa Gate and along the narrow alleyways of the Armenian Quarter. Out Zion Gate, around Mt. Zion, up a steep hill to the old train station and through German Colony. South to the Arnona neighborhood, back towards the city center, and down the home stretch to the finish line at Sacher Park.

A festive day, carnival-like, for both the runners and those who came to cheer them on. Municipality and national flags furled in the light breeze; colorful balloons with the Marathon logo rose into the sky. Loud music competed with the call of vendors at stalls selling sporting equipment and refreshments. Bottles of mineral water were handed out to all who asked. And of course, a platform awaited the medalists—the top three finalists in each race.

All of this Mordechai Hirschfeld saw on the small television screen hung on the back wall of the lobby. He leaned forward in his wheelchair with great anticipation for the race’s starting gun. The television camera scanned the anxious faces of the runners crowded next to the starting line, and Mordechai shifted his legs on their pedals, as if he, too, was waiting to run with them, to fight for position and push forward until he had a clear straightaway where he could pick up speed. He would show them, he thought.

“What are you doing, Mordie? Imagining you’re running in the Marathon?”

Mordechai looked over at Spiegel, his neighbor from across the hall in Beit Gilboa, the assisted living retirement home in southern Jerusalem. Spiegel was sitting on a hard chair, a silver-framed walker parked at his side. “I was a runner in my day,” Mordechai said proudly. “You should have seen me then. If it wasn’t for my legs, I would be there now,” he said, pointing at the television.

Read the rest of the story on San Antonio Review.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

War Diary: How Do You Cope?

Pictures of the hostages on a sign to buy local Israeli products
The television news is on. The news is always on. Rockets, sirens. A soldier's death. Scenes of destruction in Gaza. Scenes of destruction in the kibbutzim. The wounded. Unfathomable terror. The hostages.

Panelists discuss the issues. There are no answers.

Doomscrolling a Facebook news feed. Memes, links to articles. Descriptions of antisemitic marches and attacks on Jews worldwide. Fund-raising efforts and rallies of support. Tales of the victims. The hostages.

People ask me if I'm OK, but none of us are OK. My son and son-in-law are too old to serve in the army reserves and we don't personally know any of the victims, but with rockets flying overhead, and the bombings in Gaza as well as rocket interceptions over Tel Aviv audible from our home, this is all very personal.

So, how do you cope? How can you manage these unmanageable days? Everyone has their own survival guide. This is mine, in no particular order.

Exercise – start the day very early with a 5-kilometer run in the gym.

Work – carry on with a regular routine by working remotely and conducting meetings on Teams and Skype.

Read – buy countless books from Amazon. Lately I've read The Heaven & Earth Grocery Story by James McBride; The Searcher by Tana French; The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex; and The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, a novel by Tom Hanks.

Write – while I haven't been able to write fiction, I have written occasional journal entries telling what it's like living through a war. And I recently wrote reviews of two short story collections – East Jerusalem Noir and West Jerusalem Noir.

Volunteer – I've joined the civil guard on Neve Ilan, serving shifts at the main gate. While I'm not guarding with a gun, I am stopping cars driving in, asking the identity of unfamiliar faces, and hopefully providing a deterrent to anyone suspicious coming into my community.

Guard duty at the moshav gate

Binge – Netflix plays a major role in our evenings, and we generally watch limited series, an episode every night. Recently we've seen 'Live to 100, Secrets of the Blue Zone'; 'Wellmania'; and 'Painkiller'. Currently we're watching 'All the Light We Cannot See'.

Laugh – Occasionally we'll watch a Stephen Colbert opening monologue, Saturday Night Live skits on YouTube, or a Taylor Tomlinson stand-up special.

Listen to music – at the gym, in the car. Loud music to drown out everything and quiet music to chill.

Listen to podcasts –True crime, science, Bulgarian history, and a weekly episode of 'Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!'

Be thankful for family – babysitting when we're needed and a Friday night Shabbat dinner to keep us close to our loved ones.

Be thankful for our home – we were just days away from finishing the construction of the apartment above our house but now the contractor's workers can't cross into Israel. But how can we complain? There are so many Israelis who have been evacuated from their homes in the south and from their homes in the north. They are staying in hotels all over the country for an indefinite period of time. There are so many who have lost everything; their communities have been destroyed. We are thankful that our community is here for us and we have a safe roof over our heads.

Hike/Walk – get out of the house and into nature. On Shabbat I walked through unfamiliar Jerusalem neighborhoods and whenever I can, I hike into the forests near Neve Ilan.

Sympathize – with the victims, the families, the mourners. I can't imagine what it's like for them. The funerals. The hostages. Always that – the hostages.

Support – buy blue and white products, including cheese from the Beeri Dairy and vegetables from the kibbutzim near Gaza.

Cheese from the Beeri Dairy

Don't turn on the television - but, how can you not turn on the television? How can you not read the news? How can you not spend hour after hour doomscrolling? It's hard.

Survive – these are difficult days, but we'll make it. We survived COVID; we'll get past this. This is a war and we will win. We have no choice.

Related articles:

War Diary: What Terrifies Me More Than Anything Else

War Diary: Day 5

Israel at War. Again.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Review of 'East Jerusalem Noir' - short stories

The Six Day War in 1967 brought the reunification of the city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital but the reality on the ground is different, with the city clearly divided into East and West. Israelis rarely venture into East Jerusalem, its neighborhoods as foreign as those of a different country.

Israeli readers may be uncomfortable with the short stories of East Jerusalem Noir (Akashic Books, November 2023), for they are tales of house demolitions, separation walls, checkpoints, and destroyed villages. But they are also tales of heavenly faiths that call out to residents to fill the emptiness of their lives with prayer.

The protagonist of the opening story, 'The Ceiling of the City' by Nuzha Abu Ghosh is stopped by soldiers at Damascus Gate and is taken to prison because he doesn't have his ID. In 'The Scorpion' by Ibrahim Jouhar, a bulldozer disrupts an ordinary Jerusalem day, causing a homeowner to cry out "O wasted life, O lost dreams." Nothing is crueler, perhaps, than seeing your dream house torn to pieces.

In the story 'Between The Two Jerusalems' by Osama Alaysa we meet a gentle refugee from the destroyed village of Lifta who, despite his Downs syndrome, establishes himself as an unofficial traffic officer. He wanders around Jerusalem's old walls. The many vehicles in the streets make him feel free. He steps forward to direct traffic only to be detained by the police as a suspected terrorist.

For the residents of East Jerusalem, ordinary days in an extraordinary existence include waiting for a court decision that will determine the fate of one's home. In the story 'In an Extraordinary City' by Rahaf Al-Sa'ad, Abu wonders if the hopes he'd planted in the hearts of his wife and children had been a mirage. Was it unfair to hope for something that couldn't possibly come true?

Possibly the most heart-rending story in the book is 'Noble Sanctuary' by Muhammad Shuraim. We meet 75-year-old Hajja Aisha who, having just arrived from Amman, hopes to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque before her impending heart surgery. There is traffic on the roads and long lines at the checkpoints. Security inspections and gathering soldiers. Is Hajja's heart strong enough to bear the erupting violence and make it to Friday prayers?

The collection's editor, Rawya Jarjoura Burbara, says she asked the writers "to portray the city of Jerusalem as they live it, as they feel it, as they appreciate it, as they fear it, as they want it to be, and as they imagine it in the past, the present, and the future." The result is 13 stories translated from Arabic, often painful to read and some with abrupt endings. The stories tell of the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of East Jerusalem residents, their lives vastly different from those living in the western half of the city.

East Jerusalem Noir of the Akashic Noir Series is published simultaneously with West Jerusalem Noir, a companion collection that reflects an image of the national, religious, and socioeconomic tension in the western half of the complicated city of Jerusalem.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Related article:

Touring the Dark Side of Tel Aviv

Thursday, November 2, 2023

"The Noise Above" - short story


A deafening hammering. A piercing drilling. Incessant, irregular, and irritating, to say the least. It stopped and started, continued for several minutes, and then, unexpectedly, there was a lull until it started up again. It seemed like it would never end. And it was all coming from the floor above her head.

She couldn’t begin to imagine what was happening up there. Were they tearing down walls, or building new ones? Were they tiling or wiring or installing or cementing or plastering or who knows what? What she did know was that the work was loud, so very loud, and there was dust everywhere.

“Imma, you need to move out,” Shelly insisted. “There’s no way you can stay in your house with all that construction work going on overhead.

“I’m fine,” she insisted. “It won’t go on forever.”

“Are you wearing those earphones I gave you?” Benny asked her. “Imma, you'll lose your hearing if you don’t take precautions!”

“I can hear just fine,” she replied, although there were times when she could literally not hear herself think.

“Live somewhere else for the duration,” Shelly said.

“You can stay with me,” Benny said, although she wasn’t sure he was sincere with his invitation.

“I’m not leaving my home. I refuse, even for this! I’ll manage, Benny. I’ll survive, Shelly. After all, it’s an annoyance only part of the day.”

Part of the day? It started at seven in the morning and lasted until four in the afternoon. It didn’t help if she turned the radio up to full volume. Occasionally she went outside, walked down the street, visited Esther next door, but no matter where she went, the noise followed her, ringing in her ears. Even at night, when the workers were long gone and their drills and hammers were silent, she could still hear the pounding and the banging in her head.


“I’ll manage,” she tried to convince herself as she lay in her bed. She knew Shelly and Benny had her best interests in mind when they said she should be move out for the duration of the building, but she was stubborn and insisted on staying. Maybe not moving out was a mistake, but she would never admit it. They may be right, but she refused to be wrong. Still, thoughts of how the mess of construction was interfering with her daily routine, along with the constant ringing in her ears, kept her awake for long hours.

Read the rest of the story on New English Review.

Friday, October 27, 2023

War Diary: What Terrifies Me More Than Anything Else

Today is the 21st day of war. A war that started when Hamas terrorists infiltrated through many breaches in Israel's security fence to massacre more than 1,000 civilians and soldiers in kibbutzim and towns. A war that started when Hamas kidnapped more than 200 Israelis and foreigners and took them captive in Gaza. A war that started when Hamas shot barrage after barrage of rockets into Israeli cities. A war that started when Hezbollah launched mortar attacks across Israel's northern borders.

A war that Israel has no choice but to win. A war for our very existence as the Jewish homeland.

My family is relatively safe. My son and son-in-law are too old for IDF reserve duty. I don't personally know any of the victims or the hostages. But for me, and my family, this is all very personal. If the Hamas terrorists had had their way, they would have continued to drive into the heart of Israel and murder, rape, and pillage. Even today, we have security inspections at the gate of our moshav near Jerusalem. We are on alert.

We grieve

We feel the grief of those who lost their loved ones. We are heartbroken for the families with hostages in Gaza. We are shocked to see the scenes of destruction in the kibbutzim along the Gaza border. Our eyes tear when we hear the stories of the survivors. And our spirits are lifted when we hear of the bravery of those who fought the terrorists.

We are shocked when we see the demonstrations held all over the world, where protestors shout out that Israel is at fault. That the attacks 3 weeks ago (not terror, but acts of militants), were a result of Israel's oppression and occupation of the Palestinians. 'Liberate Palestine' they cry out. Yes, there are deaths in Gaza, as well. Innocent civilians are being killed by Israeli bombs. But those civilians are being held hostage. Hamas is preventing them from evacuating, using them as human shields to safeguard their terrorist leaders.

A terrorist brags about murdering of Jews

Of all this, one thing terrifies me more than anything else. And that is the recording of one of the terrorists as he ran amok in his killing spree on the morning of Saturday, October 7th.

"Look how many I killed with my own hands!" he shouts into the phone of one his murdered victims. "Your son has killed Jews!" he proudly informs his family back in Gaza.

The recording was presented by the Israeli Defense Forces to foreign journalists along with additional recordings, security camera footage, Hamas terrorists’ body cameras and cellphone videos of the terrorists, victims, and first responders.

The next words heard on the video are chilling.

"Check your WhatsApp," he invites his parents, eager to show them images of his victims. "Mom, your son is a hero!'

"I wish I was there with you," she responds.

"Kill! Kill! Kill!" his father implores him.

This is not a war for the liberation of Palestine. Our enemies are not fighting a rightwing Israeli government. They are not acting to stop Israeli settlements or end the occupation. They want to kill Jews. Simply that.

Jews are not safe today anywhere in the world. Take a look at the protests in Europe and at American universities. Jews are not safe in Israel, either. But there is one difference here. We fight back.

This is war, and it is a war that we must win.


Listen to the horrific recording.

# # #

Friday, October 20, 2023

The World Must Hear These Stories

No words can ever give justice to the victims of the horrific Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, 2023. Men and women, teenagers and babies, Holocaust survivors and soldiers – all of them innocent Israelis targeted by Hamas when it invaded their communities, destroyed their homes, murdered them indiscriminately, and took them hostage.

Tragically, more Jews were killed on October 7th than on any other day since the Holocaust. Countless stories are emerging from this tragedy. Firsthand accounts of the horrors as well as tales of those who heroically fought off the terrorists. The world must hear these stories.

A new website provides eyewitness accounts from inside the massacre. is a memorial for the victims and intended to make sure that the stories of survivors who endured unimaginable horrors are never forgotten.

The website was built by a group of dedicated Israeli volunteers who gave their time and skills to keep these memories alive. The site is currently in English, French, and Japanese, with other languages to follow.

Read the eyewitness and survivor stories on And never forget.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Friday, October 13, 2023

My Message to the Innocent Palestinians in Gaza

You have no electricity, water, or fuel. Your homes are being bombed and you have been told to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip, ahead of an IDF ground invasion. You cry out to the world for help. You ask us to hear your pain. But even though the majority of you are innocent, this is difficult, because your leaders attacked us. Attack is not really the appropriate word. It would be more fitting to say that your leaders massacred us.

The loss of civilians anywhere is tragic, and unfortunately many civilians are killed during warfare. But in this case, as in the past, there are two sides and they are not morally equal.

On the one hand, there are those who specifically target civilians. They shoot and kill men and women, children and the elderly, in their homes and at their parties. They take babies and grandparents hostage, and destroy families and burn their homes.

On the other hand, there are those who say 'Evacuate your homes," because, as IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari today told reporters, "We are fighting a terror group, not the Gazan population. We want civilians not to be harmed, but we cannot live with the rule of Hamas-ISIS near our border."

Do you not see the difference? We try not to harm civilians while Hamas specifically targets civilians. They dance in the streets and give out sweets when Israelis are killed, and it doesn't matter if the victim was a soldier or a teenager. Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip in a reign of terror, teaching murder in its curriculum.

Palestinians of Gaza, we made a mistake for many years thinking that Hamas was acting in your better interests. We opened our gates for your workers; we allowed your fishermen to sail their boats. We allowed money into the Gaza Strip, thinking it would be used for schools and hospitals. Instead, Hamas stockpiled rockets and grenades, rifles and mortars. All in a calculated plan to launch a murderous assault on Israeli citizens.

Hamas has failed you and you are paying the price. We know you are suffering, in the dark and without basic necessities, but it is Hamas that is responsible for this war. 

We ask you to get out of the way. We don't want to harm you, and certainly not to kill you. We would prefer to live near you, side by side as peaceful neighbors, and we tried this many times in the past. What we are asking you now is that along with your cries for help, you should also cry out against what Hamas has done, not only to us, but to you as well.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

Photo by Mohammed Ibrahim on Unsplash. Photo published on August 13, 2022.