Summer of ’88 — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

I didn’t understand why the woman with the wispy hair looked so worried or why she kept glancing behind her, in the direction of the corridor of her apartment on Carlebach Street. I stood on her threshold, holding out a Labor party pamphlet and launching into my spiel about why Israel needed change that only a Labor government could bring. With the right leadership we could achieve peace with our neighbors and form a more just society, I promised. Suddenly a rhinoceros bellowed from the hallway. A man with a huge belly distending a threadbare undershirt charged in and then halted, readying to pounce, his mouth frothing. He stared first at me and then at the woman.

illustration by Avi Katz
illustration by Avi Katz
“Labor party,” she whispered in his direction, as if against her will. He lunged at me shouting “They’re paying you to come here! Paying you!” The woman slapped the door shut just before he tackled me. As I ran down the stairs I heard him beating on the door and his wife trying to calm him. When I got out to the street, he was shouting at me from the balcony and holding a flower pot over his head, ready to cast it at me like a cyclops repelling lost Greek sailors. From another window his wife called out, “Please go away!”

In the summer of 1988 I had been married three years, had two small children, and a mortgage on a housing-project apartment. Israel was in crisis—what else was new? And I was sinking into the obligations and routine of family life. Even though I’d just returned from a long month of reserve duty battling Palestinian teenagers in the villages around Jenin, I felt I was betraying my country.

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Why Israel’s Crazy Electoral System Might Be Best Idea Ever

Haim Watzman My piece praising Israel’s proportional electoral system is now up on the Forward’s website. Jewish suffragettes scored a signal achievement in 1920, when the first nationwide elections were held in the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. They received 600 votes. This smattering of women — we may presume that nearly all of … Read more

The Next Prime Monster — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

“I think you should wear white this winter,” Amir says to Tziporah. He rummages through the box of dress-up clothes and dons a homburg and a brown clip-on tie that matches his hair.

           illustration by Pepe Fainberg
     illustration by Pepe Fainberg

Tziporah is decked out in an orange paisley number with spaghetti straps, over which she’s draped a long, trailing, and somewhat ratty purple boa. “I think I am beautifulest this way,” she says, walking over to the child-high mirror on our living room wall and primping her curls.

Amir frowns and turns to me. “Haim, don’t you think she should wear white?”

Ilana has a doctor’s appointment, so I’ve come up from my basement office for half an hour to take charge of the mishpahton, the small pre-school for three-year-olds that Ilana runs in our living room.

“It’ll be easy,” she says at the door before she leaves. “Just give them a game, or read them a story.”

“I have something in mind,” I say.

Ilana takes her hand off the door handle and turns back to me. “Just let them play.”

“But I want to do something interesting,” I say. “

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Let Them Rage: Why Anti-Zionists Should Be Allowed to Run

Haim Watzman If it weren’t the fact that the fracas at yesterday’s meeting of Israel’s Central Election Committee was theater rather than serious deliberation, I might be more upset about the decision to bar from contesting the coming election two of the three Arab slates represented in the current Knesset. Everyone there, both the right-wingers … Read more