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On Trust and the Value of Being There

The storyline was compelling: a spy novel set in modern Tel Aviv. I can't remember the name of the book, but I very clearly remember the scene at which I threw it down in disgust (this was in the olden days, when you could actually throw a book down without cracking its screen): Having overcome a rival, the protagonist sits coolly on the balcony of...

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The Elusiveness of Childhood Memory

In between promoting my books, running my business and being a newly-single dad with teenagers, I’m working on my third novel these days. In all my books, I try to tackle (or, as one reviewer put it, “pick open scabs of”) issues with intrinsic societal value. At the same time, like any writer, I try to bring deep personal experience into play to create emotional intensity. In Enfold Me, it was my experience living in Israel and serving in the Israel Defense Forces, juxtaposed with the ongoing threat of conflict with Iran. In Galerie, it was my personal experience in a family of Holocaust survivors, played off the changing role of the Holocaust in the Israeli collective consciousness. In my new book, it’s a subset of my own childhood experiences mirrored in a formative period of Israel’s history (no further details yet...but stay tuned). The problem is that childhood memories are as fickle as they are elusive. What is picture-postcard clear 30 years later may not even be the product of memory, but rather of photography. I question whether the boyhood pictures still in my own mind’s eye were actually pictures, once viewed in some now-destroyed album. And this leads me...

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The Danger of the Symbol

I was speaking to a young woman yesterday about her upcoming 12th grade “March of the Living” trip to Poland. These trips – which my own children will be considering not too far down the road - have become an Israeli Ministry of Education-encouraged tradition.   It’s a tradition about which I am distinctively ambivalent. I understand the drive to see the sites of the Nazi genocide firsthand. I’ve done it myself - with admittedly equal amounts of horror and grim fascination. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that the institutionalization of these trips is wrong on so many levels.   Here’s one problem, for starters: while many of the remaining Holocaust survivors go hungry or languish in poorly-staffed hostels, is it right to spend millions to send tens of thousands of students to parade at Auschwitz wrapped in Israeli flags? A fraction of the money spent on the March of the Living and other Holocaust-themed trips (for Knesset parliamentarians, IDF soldiers, police officers, etc.) could help ensure the comfort and health of these survivors, in their remaining years.   So, why is it that we send our kids to Auschwitz on a massive scale - but don’t encourage them to...

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The Line between Dissent and Disloyalty

I was recently in a nasty Facebook war with someone close, and it got ugly. Unfriending ugly, in fact. And the fact that it became so emotional leads me to conclude that there must be more fueling the argument than just my rival’s vociferously Cro-Magnon political views. It took me a week or so to figure it out. And it’s something I’ve been wrestling with internally for the past several years: the increasingly-clear line in the Israeli collective consciousness between questioning and acceptance, between conscience and loyalty. Growing up in the US, I never gave a second thought to the expression of criticism. And after a quarter century in Israel, I’m no slouch when it comes to complaining loudly and publically. In fact, based on the results I’ve achieved on a local level, I’m more effective than most native Israelis at it. However, once upon a time there was a blessedly blurred line which has in recent years coalesced. Complaining about certain things, to certain audiences, is not just complaining any more – it’s considered disloyalty. Israel is a microscopic country that is literally an island in a chaotic and hostile region. It is our national cohesion – in stark contrast...

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On Negativity and Your Comfort Zone

I just revisited an article I wrote for the Times of Israel site entitled Looking the Beast in the Eye. In it, I challenged those unwilling to consider the dystopian scenario in my first novel, Enfold Me, because it was out of their comfort zone. Three years later, with another dark novel set to be released, I’m still looking at the world – according to valued friend – “with such negativity.” This got me thinking about this “comfort zone” which we’re all so intent on preserving. Since I spent four years writing a novel in which I basically tore my world down and watched my family’s downfall – I think that I can say with some authority that a comfort zone is a healthy thing. A comfort zone enables us to rest our overloaded and suspicious minds, accept beauty and love, and free ourselves of the burdens that come with too closely examining the world in which we live. Frankly, I was glad to be done writing that book, if only to leave behind the terrible (yet darkly compelling) world I created. This is not to say, of course, that you shouldn’t buy it… But I also learned a lot while...

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Looking the beast in the eye

“That’s my worst nightmare.”

I’ve heard these exact words from literally dozens of neighbors, friends and readers since I released my dystopian novel, “Enfold Me,” which is set in an appropriately nightmarish Middle East after the fall of Israel. This phrase is usually followed by “That’s too real, I don’t even want to think about it.”

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Finish What You Started – Or, the Value of Linearity in an Inherently Non-Linear World

My daughter sat down to dutifully complete her math homework. She did one problem, and got up to go to the bathroom. She came back, stopped to twirl happily on the way, humming, and did another half-problem. She got up to feed to the cat. She came back, via the refrigerator, got a snack, stopped to sharpen her pencil, and finished the second problem. She got up again, little feet dancing around the chair, and dashed upstairs to get an eraser. Before she sat down, she got a tissue. This continued for almost an hour, until the ten minutes worth of questions were finally answered.

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The Lessons of the Bark Mitzvah

I read an article this week about the phenomenon of the Bark Mitzvah. For those unfamiliar, we’re talking about people who celebrate their dogs’ thirteenth birthdays with – you guessed it – a traditional ceremony including the wearing of a Talit and Kipah, and a “reading” from the Torah. My children found this hilarious, as did I, and suggestions of initiating new traditions of Meow-Mitzvahs,Quack-Mitzvahs, and even Moo-Mitzvahs started flying around the table.

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The Lessons of the Mechanic

I’ve come to the conclusion that my relationship with my mechanic is dysfunctional.

How many times have I stood in front of him, and let him continue speaking long after I’ve lost track of what he’s talking about? At first, I try to ask questions, but I inevitably get lost in the details. In the end, I usually pretend to understand – partly so as not to look like a total idiot, and partly just to get him to stop talking. Ultimately, he does whatever he thinks, and charges me whatever he wants.

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