Sunday, December 17, 2023

"A Wedding in Tel Aviv" - short story

"Harei at mekudeshet li…"


"Mazal tov!"

Moments later, after stamping his foot to break the glass, the groom kissed his bride and their families rushed to crowd around them under the simple cloth huppah canopy. The grey-bearded rabbi stepped back, his role in the short ceremony of sanctifying their union completed, and the DJ raised the music to an ear-splitting level.

"Aren’t you going to congratulate them?" Miri asked.

"Not yet," I said, holding back as the wedding guests surged past, getting in line to hug the new couple, to plant air kisses on their cheeks, to shake their hands. "I'm not sure he'll remember me. We haven't seen each other since childhood."

"Of course, he remembers you! He invited you to the wedding, after all. Go up there already."

I hesitated. Too many people, too much noise—the typical hubbub of an Israeli garden wedding. I would approach the groom when things got quieter, when I'd have a chance to say more to him than a perfunctory "Mazal tov!"

Read the rest of the story on TheMockingOwl Roost: Unexpected Delights, page 37 of the PDF.

Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Volunteering to Help Israeli Farmers

"I've been here for 60 years and I'm just not going to continue," said the tired-looking moshavnik from the south. His Thai workers had fled, a rocket had hit one of his greenhouses, his pepper plants' leaves were wilted, and the vegetables were dying on their stems. We were there, picking what we could to salvage his crop.

For the past month, I have been volunteering one day a week to help save Israeli agriculture in the hard-hit south. There are many kibbutzim and moshavim that need help and I feel like this is the way I can contribute to my country's war efforts.

I have found places to volunteer by following dedicated Facebook groups, and by visiting websites that advertise volunteering opportunities. A few back-and-forth chats on WhatsApp and the details are arranged. Where to report, and at what hour. 'Wear long pants', the advertisements state. 'Bring food for the day.' 'Come with a good spirit'. And the volunteers come.

My first volunteering was in a pomelo orchard jointly owned by a business entity and Kibbutz Bror Hayil. Before the war, Thai workers worked in the orchards, along with some Bedouins. Seventy percent of the crop is for export; the rest is for the local market. I set to work picking the thick-skinned green spheres. My arms were quickly scratched-up by the thorny branches. Along with other individual volunteers, the picking that day was done by a delegation of Knesset members, and a busload of soldiers, who picked the fruit with rifles still slung over their shoulders.

The owner of the pepper greenhouse on Moshav Shorsheret barely said a word to my daughter and me when we showed up to help pick his crop. We were told to pick every red pepper we saw, except for the very small ones. There would be no second pass through the plants because the farm had lost all its workers. The plants were in bad shape, for lack of care. Still, we filled crate after crate with red peppers. The owner stated that we were six weeks late with the harvest.

The avocados of an orchard near Ashkelon are mostly destined for export to France, and from there they will be marketed all over Europe. Here, too, all the workers had fled. There are three varieties of avocados grown; we were picking Haas avocados. The trees were tall and full of fruit and the leaves were very pleasing to the touch. The orchard's manager told me that they would be picking for the next three months, if they had enough volunteers to do the work.

There is a lot of satisfaction in picking fruit and vegetables, but planting shows that we haven't given up hope. We plant because we're preparing for next season, working towards a fruitful future.

I reported to an open field near Gedera. This farm is owned by two moshavim, and luckily for the owners, some of its Thai workers had remained. They were planting cauliflowers the day I arrived, something usually done with a machine, but it had rained the previous day. The seedlings needed to be planted now, and there was much work to be done. The owners were extremely grateful to the volunteers that had arrived to assist them.

It's extremely difficult to plant seedlings in a muddy field. The ground was wet, and in some cases, we stuck our hands through puddles of water to make sure the plants were properly spaced apart. Crouching down, I felt a physical strain on my muscles that would be painful for many days. I stuck one seedling into the ground after another. My clothes got dirty, and my boots were covered by so much mud it felt like they were filled with cement. But despite the mud, the entire field was soon planted with cauliflower. I promised the owners that I would be back in four months' time to help with the harvest.

Helping Israeli farmers, working to save the country's agriculture, is a very satisfying feeling. It gives a sense of playing an active role in the war effort. We are strong; we are resilient. Working together, in the orchards and in the fields, we will ensure the success of this year's harvest and next season's crops.

Originally posted on The Times of Israel.

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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

War Diary: Day 5

Our hearts break again and again with thoughts of Saturday's massacre. Women and children murdered in their homes. Families torn apart by death and destruction. Young infants, elderly grandparents, teenagers—taken hostage into Gaza. Soldiers shot down as they sought to protect innocent civilians. Over 100 members of Kibbutz Be'eri – murdered. 260 youths attending a music festival – murdered. The death toll keeps rising and is now over 1200, with thousands more injured. Our hearts break.

Having lived in Israel for five decades, we have experienced war before. Yom Kippur—when our country was taken by surprise by the armies of Egypt and Syria. The wars in Lebanon. The battles in Gaza. Terrorist attack after terrorist attack. Suicide bombings, stabbings, and even kidnappings. But nothing like this.

My son at forty-years-old no longer reports for service in the IDF reserves. My son-in-law is also over the age. I don't know any residents of the communities near the Gaza Strip. I am not related to any of those murdered, injured, or taken hostage. Yet, this war is very personal to me.

Two days ago, rockets struck near my home in Moshav Neve Ilan. One landed close to Highway 1, near Shoresh. Another landed in Har Adar, injuring two people. Another rocket struck Abu Gosh, near its new mosque. Each time the sirens sound, we take cover, and now we have a concrete saferoom to protect us.

We have been building an apartment on top of our house where my daughter and granddaughter will live. We were close, so close, to finishing the apartment. The kitchen was due to arrive this week and the lighting fixtures were to be installed. But now everything is on hold. There are no workers, no deliveries, no installations.

Our Arab contractor and his brother came to our house two days ago. They took down the temporary wall blocking the stairs leading up to the apartment. Now we can run upstairs to the saferoom when we hear the sirens. This saferoom will serve as my granddaughter's bedroom in better days.

On the moshav, the youth are collecting food to send to the soldiers on the frontlines. Soldiers who will inevitably advance into Gaza in the next stages of this war, ready to give their lives in defense of our country. Civilians are forming long lines to give blood. Schools are closed throughout the country. My office is working remotely from home. There is no traffic on the roads. Silence, mostly, except for the fighter jets in the skies.

Our house shakes when the Israeli Air Force strikes in Gaza. We hear the bombings. When a rocket is intercepted in the skies over Tel Aviv, we hear the explosion. This war is so very near. So very personal.

These are difficult days and there is more hardship ahead. The horrors of Saturday will continue to haunt us for years to come. Israel, which has been so divided over these past few months due to our horrible government (to put it mildly) is united like never before. We are strong. We will get through this.


# # #

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Israel at War. Again.

It's early Saturday morning, October 7th, and my wife and I are sitting on the stairwell in our home with our four-year-old granddaughter listening to the sirens. A boom overhead, a very loud boom. "It's just a game," we reassure our granddaughter, and she laughs. We wait until the sirens stop before returning to the living room.

But this is far from being a game. Just hours before, dozens, maybe hundreds, of Hamas terrorists had driven unimpeded through the Gaza Strip border fence and invaded some twenty kibbutzim and nearby towns. They fired their guns and threw their bombs, murdering over 300 Israeli soldiers and civilians (at latest count) and injuring over 1,500. They abducted an as-yet unknown number of Israelis, including women and children, into the Gaza Strip and their fate is currently unknown.

Hamas captured a number of kibbutzim and entered an Israeli army base. They destroyed at least one tank. They went from house to house on their murderous rampage. They looted and set fire to homes.

By late Saturday night, Israeli security forces had regained control of these communities. Dozens of terrorists were killed after prolonged clashes. Soldiers and policemen were injured; some were killed. Hostages were released. But we are still counting the dead and our citizens are still captive in Gaza.

Israel is at war. Again.

It's early Sunday morning, October 8th. From my home in the Jerusalem Hills, I can hear Israeli Air Force fighter jets on their way to bomb Hamas infrastructure in Gaza. Last night, while watching the television newscast, we could hear the booms of the Iron Dome defense system shooting down Hamas missiles over Tel Aviv. Some of those missiles got through and landed in Israeli cities, causing more injuries and property destruction.

There is one person responsible for what happened yesterday, and it is Prime Minister Netanyahu. He allowed his extremist government to divide the country, to distract us from the real dangers threatening our existence. He was warned that the government's so-called judicial reform and the civilian protests that came in response would be seen by our enemies as a sign that we are weak. And Netanyahu, and his government, refused to listen.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of our finest soldiers and military pilots announced their refusal to report for reserve duty because the government was destroying democracy. Former IDF commanders and security officials spoke out against what the government was doing. And Netanyahu ignored them.

Taken by surprise

Just a few weeks ago, my wife and I saw the film "Golda", which portrayed our late prime minister during the days of the Yom Kippur War, when the IDF was taken by surprise. Even today, there are those who blame Golda Meir for her role in that catastrophe, although top defense officials were much more responsible.

There is no doubt in my mind that one day Netanyahu will be held accountable for what he has done to our country.

But, politics aside, there is something much more disturbing. Israel has the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East. Our intelligence system is regarded worldwide as being one of the best. We take out terrorists with precision strikes, we capture enemy commanders, and we have won the wars that threaten our existence. But yesterday, our military forces failed us.

These are the questions I ask:

·         Why didn't the army know about Hamas's plans, which must have taken months to organize and coordinate?

·         Why did the army rely on a billion-dollar anti-tunnel border system, allowing terrorists to simply drive through the fence to enter Israel?

·         Why didn't the army stop them at the border?

·         Why didn't the Israeli Air Force send our attack helicopters into the skies to bomb the terrorists' easily identifiable white pickup trucks as they sped around the country?

·         Why didn't the army stop the terrorists as they hurried back to Gaza with their Israeli hostages?

·         Why did the army wait for hours to rescue the civilians trapped in their homes as terrorists continued their mission of destruction? These civilians cried out on social media, "Save us!" They spoke with television broadcasters, "I don't know where my family is!" They said they heard Arabic being spoken outside their saferooms. And still the army didn't come.

·         Why did it take so long for the army to regain control of those communities?

·         Why did it take so long for the government to begin to respond with attacks on the Hamas terrorist state in Gaza?

Netanyahu is ultimately responsible for the attack that took us by surprise, but something must be clear. Hamas is a terrorist organization. They are not a humanitarian leadership concerned with the welfare of innocent Palestinians. They are terrorists who don't hesitate to kill women and children. They will stop at nothing in their fight to destroy Israel.

But we will stop at nothing to defend ourselves. Hamas must be defeated, once and for all. We have many days of war ahead, and it will be hard. Painful. Israel will win. Victory will come at a cost and we must be prepared.

This is not a game. This is war. 

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

# # #

Friday, September 29, 2023

Wars of the Jews

Yom Kippur eve. At the very same hour that leftwing activists clashed with religious worshippers in Dizengoff Square, I was praying in the synagogue on my moshav. I was a secular Ashkenazi Jew standing alongside religious Sephardic residents of my community. Listening to melodies I wasn’t familiar with, I was very much out of my comfort zone, yet I felt very welcome. Isn’t this what Judaism is supposed to be like? The news from Tel Aviv suggested we are far from that.

The more I think about those events, the more I am abhorred. After the Supreme Court ruled that the Tel Aviv Municipality has the right to ban gender-segregated prayer services in public spaces, a provocateur gathered likeminded right-wingers and set up a mechitza divider of Israeli flags so that they could conduct Yom Kippur services there.

Yisrael Zaira, head of the extremist Rosh Yehudi Orthodox group, insisted on violating the court ruling to pray in public with men and women separated. Zaira has said, “When you see the secular world, you have to think of how to change it.” Instead of allowing him to freely act against the secular world, he should be arrested for his infractions.

On the other hand, leftwingers who have played a major role in the 38-week-long protests against the government, a battle to keep Israel’s democratic values that I completely support, took the law into their own hands and clashed with the religious Jews. They screamed at the worshippers, swore at them with cries of ‘Shame!’, physically assaulted them, and spouted hatred at their fellow Jews.

Left versus right. Religious versus secular. Jew versus Jew. And all this on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Two wrongs don’t make a right. In these clashes there were no winners. We are all losers.

Where is the government?

You would think that in a time of clashes in our society, there would be an adult in the room to referee between the sides and calm everything down. In normal times we would assume that this role should be played by the prime minister. But these are far from normal times. Our prime minister declared that “leftists had rioted against Jews”, implying that he doesn’t consider leftists to be Jews. By siding with the rightwing extremists he brought into his government, Netanyahu has become a rightwing extremist.

There is a government outcry now, when secular Jews attacked religious Jews, but why is the government silent when religious extremists attack Women of the Wall prayer goers at the Kotel, Judaism’s holiest site? Where is the government when religious Jews attack Conversative and Reform Jews celebrating family events and prayers near the Kotel plaza?

Ask for forgiveness

We are all Jews, yet we are far from living up to what is expected of Jews.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day on our calendar, when we are supposed to come together as a people and beg forgiveness for our sins. In the violent acts we have witnessed, we have sinned against our fellow Jews, our religion, and our God. We need to ask for a lot of forgiveness.

Meanwhile, on my moshav, Yom Kippur prayers went on. I was entranced by the Sephardic melodies and customs, so different from the Kol Nidre services I have attended in the past. There are many types of Jews, with different backgrounds and customs, and yet we are all one people. I felt welcome praying on my moshav. I, too, was asking forgiveness. We should all be praying.

Originally posted on the Times of Israel

Photo by Maayan Nemanov on Unsplash

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

"The Man Who Fell Asleep Everywhere" - short story

When I first met the elderly man, he was sitting on the supermarket floor, leaning back against the laundry detergents in the cleaning supplies aisle. Thinking he had passed out, I bent down to shake him into consciousness. But then I noticed something strange. He was snoring.

"Should I call the manager?" asked an acne-faced stock boy who appeared out of nowhere, a look of innocent inexperience in his eyes. "Or an ambulance?"

"Wait a minute. Let me see if I can wake him up."

The man on the floor opened his right eye, and his left eye followed. A smile formed on his lips. "Sorry about that," he apologized.

"I thought you had fainted!"

"Oh, no, I don't faint," he replied. "I just fall asleep. Help me to my feet."

He was about seventy, I guessed, and quite frail. He reached to the air freshener shelf for balance as he stood up. His glasses had dropped from his face, but they were held close to his chest by an eyeglass chain. His hair was thick, white, and wild. He introduced himself as Martin.

"I'll be okay," he said as he hobbled toward his shopping cart. I noticed it was empty except for a carton of slim milk, a container of low-fat goat yoghurt, an assortment of apples and oranges, and a large jar of dill pickles.

"Can I get you some water? Or maybe coffee to wake you up?" I said, holding him steady.

"Coffee would be nice," he admitted.

We abandoned our shopping carts, to the displeasure of the stock boy, and I led Martin to the coffee counter at the far side of the supermarket. "Sit here," I instructed him, pointing at a small table.

Read the rest of the story on The Bookends Review.

Photo by Sander Sammy on Unsplash

Friday, September 22, 2023

Nodding in Hebrew

I have a confession to make. After living 50 years in Israel, my Hebrew is still not up to par. I watch the nightly newscast on television and read an article or two in the weekend newspapers, but most of my life is in English. I work in an English-speaking environment and I talk with my wife and my children in English (with my granddaughters, I do speak Hebrew). My creative writing is in English (this article, for example), and I read for pleasure in English.

Recently, I made an exception to my reading habits. I read Mrs. Lilienblum's Cloud Factory, the debut novel of the award-winning Israeli author Iddo Gefen, in Hebrew. I had previously enjoyed his short story collection, Jerusalem Beach, a book that won the $100,000 2023 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. I couldn't wait for his novel to be published in English (sometime next year?), so I read it in Hebrew, the language in which it was written.

Mrs. Lilienblum's Cloud Factory is thoroughly enjoyable, very witty, with fully developed characters and an amazing plot. I highly recommend reading it in any language.

Another confession to make. There was an occasional word or two in the book with which I was not familiar. I did understand the meaning of those words in the context of how they were used and if I chose to do so, I could simply skim those sentences without losing the essential beauty of the writing. In one case, however, I really wanted to know a word's meaning as it was used repeatedly in the text.


To nod. How could I not know the translation of such a simple word?

As I continued to read, I couldn't get that particular word out of my mind. To my surprise, it appears in every chapter of the book, sometimes more than once. In present tense, in past tense. He nodded; we nodded.




The author will have to excuse me, but possibly the word was overused? Reading in bed at night (another confession to make – I usually read on my tablet but in this case, I was actually reading a paperback), I said the word aloud every time I came across it in the book. This annoyed my wife. She is now reading the book herself, also noticing the excessive nodding taking place.

I finished reading Mrs. Lilienblum's Cloud Factory and uncharacteristically, dived right into another book in Hebrew. Eshkol Nevo's excellent new short story collection is entitled לב רעב in Hebrew, which translates as 'Hungry Heart', based on the song by Bruce Springsteen. For some reason, the first page of the book suggests that it will be published in the future in its English edition as Attachments.

To my surprise, I came across a familiar word.


In some of the stories, the word appears more than once. In different tenses, in gender feminine, or in plural. I nodded. She nodded. We nodded.

After reading two Israeli books in their native language, both of which I highly recommend, I have learned one thing about Hebrew literature. Your characters must be nodding as much as possible if you want readers to enjoy your writing.


Originally posted on The Times of Israel

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