How Long, My Lord? — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A prophetic Necessary Story. Except the prophet is a cat.

illustration by Avi Katz

After Isaiah 6

“I am a cat of unclean lips!”

I give the seraph with the live coal my most bellicose stare, the kind I usually save for when King of the Refuse Heap Ahaz perches himself on top of our frog-dumpster at 15 Nahum Lifshitz Street to make a speech. I’m not sure what the thing with the live coal is about, but it doesn’t look good.

“Also,” I point out, “I live among cats of unclean lips. We all eat garbage.”

The seraph keeps flapping its wings and its arms and its legs and gets closer and closer. “Your eyes have beheld the King Lord of Hosts,” she points out. “No other cat has ever been honored in this way.” … continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreHow Long, My Lord? — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

The Next to Last Time I Read Etgar Keret — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

In which I ponder father-son relations while channeling Neil Young and Israel’s second-best writer of short fiction

illustration by Avi Katz
Avri turns the volume up from loud to deafening. I bang on his locked bedroom door with the hand holding my new copy of Fly Already.

“Turn it off!” I bellow. “And open up this door!”
“What the hell is going on in this house?” Etti shouts as she comes home from work. “Can’t a person get a little peace and quiet after a long day?”

I emerge from the hallway, intending to shout back, but instead I just stand there. I can’t speak because of the tears in my eyes… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreThe Next to Last Time I Read Etgar Keret — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Turning the Pages — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

My kids don’t listen to me, my life’s total chaos, who will I vote for, and what is this music?

illustration by Avi Katz
Just as Ekatarina instructed, I walk unobtrusively on to the YMCA concert stage after the performers receive their applause. I sit down on the chair behind Bashkirova’s bench. It’s easy, Ekatarina said, no one will even know you’re there. Just follow along and turn the pages. Don’t let your mind wander. Bashkirova has a nasty left kick when she takes her foot off the soft pedal… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreTurning the Pages — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Meeting on a Rock — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Two estranged friends discover that they betrayed each other one night decades ago.

Illustration by Avi Katz
Snir bit glumly into his eggplant-and-tahini sandwich and squinted at the sun hanging over the line of mountains to the east. He sat atop a train-car-sized gray-green granite rock that a primeval upheaval had cast on top of another just like it on the peak of Monsanto, the sacred mountain where the Knights Templar had built a massive fortress to hold the line against the Moors. … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreMeeting on a Rock — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

“Aethon Fires” at The Tel Aviv Review of Books

Haim Watzman

A very black comedy about a lost and troubled young soldier

“Someone’s knocking,” Yoram shouts from the kitchen, with his usual knack for stating the obvious. I don’t move. On principle, I don’t respond to Yoram, who has been squatting in my kitchen and raiding my refrigerator since Dani moved out three weeks ago. “You need a man around the house,” he keeps telling me. His puffy fingers, fat cheeks, and wispy hair are not what I would look for in a man if I wanted one, in the house or anywhere else.

Anyway, right now he’s decked out as a Greek hoplite warrior. Crested helmet, shin guards, and a breastplate outlining abs that—if he has any—are buried deep under layers of flab. … continue reading at The Tel Aviv Review of Books

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If you want to get to know Ami better, check out “Nobody Smiles ” (which we included with much success in the “Through Women’s Eyes” edition of the Necessary Stories Show a couple years ago), and “Odysseus Eats .”

Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read more“Aethon Fires” at The Tel Aviv Review of Books

Saul at Ein Dor — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

An IDF officer in crisis.

Illustration by Avi Katz
The three faded bars on each shoulder mark the long-limbed figure’s rank, but even without them I would know that he is a company commander in the reserves. Dark of hair and olive-skinned, he has the hard, determined gaze of a man who commands others. His uniform is faded with the desert dust of summer; there is a small rip in his shirt, on the left side, several centimeters below his armpit, but the shirt is tucked in. Holding his low-slung short M-16 to his waist, he stands aside as others board at the stop across from the Valley of the Cross … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreSaul at Ein Dor — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Mo’ed Bet — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Sex, power, and second chances—real and imagined.

illustration by Avi Katz
Reyna paused before the green gate and looked carefully to the left and to the right before entering the well-kept garden half-way up Masaryk Street. It was hard to shake the feeling that there was a film crew nearby and that she was an actress in the opening scene of a new television series. As a teenager, when she watched Srugim religiously, she had fantasized that she, too, was a fictional character in a witty and poignant serial drama set in the German Colony. As she walked from home to school or from school to Bnai Akiva, she’d imagine herself in the sequence that comes before the title of the episode. Then she’d turn a corner, open a door, or enter a yard. She had never been able to imagine what happened after that.… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Read previous Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel. A complete Necessary Stories archive , including those that appeared in The Jerusalem Report, can be found here on South Jerusalem.

To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreMo’ed Bet — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Words of Love — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Language, love, and betrayal, in an update of an old story for the WhatsApp era

illustration by Avi Katz

I keep eyes to laptop as Ze’ev slaps me manfully on the shoulder and places his cardboard coffee cup next to mine. I don’t feel like talking, and even if I did, I wouldn’t choose Ze’ev, whose favorite exercise is gaining a foothold in the affairs of others. It was a mistake to expose myself here, in the little café just outside the gym at the Jerusalem International YMCA Sports Center, at a small table right next to the large window overlooking the pool. Out of the corner of my eye I glance at the Jacuzzi a floor below, and wince when I see Veronica seated on the edge, holding Khaled’s hand, saying nothing … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreWords of Love — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Black Hole — “Necessary Stories” from The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

illustration by Avi Katz
Time ends when a child dies, as it does in the dark heart of a galaxy. The eternal moment, when I dropped Niot off at the bus stop at Fureidis Junction, and he opened the car door to receive a farewell assurance, ask a last question, when I touched him whole for the final time.

No child knows it until he himself becomes a father or a mother. No child really grasps that he weighs billions of solar masses … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreBlack Hole — “Necessary Stories” from The Times of Israel

The Four Slaves — Dvar Torah for Pesach in memory of Niot Watzman z”l

Haim Watzman

In memory of my younger son, Niot, eight years after his death at the age of 20, during Pesach. From the Pesach 2019 issue of Shabbat Shalom, the weekly Torah sheet of the religious peace movement, Oz Veshalom.

להורדת הגליון של “שבת שלום בעברית”

“The slaves of time are slaves of a slave, only the servant of the Lord is free,” sang Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (in Peter Cole’s translation). The poet is referring to the view that, when they left Egypt, the Children of Israel went not from slavery to freedom but rather from slavery to slavery. In Egypt we were slaves to Pharaoh, and when we left Egypt we became slaves to God. In Egypt we lived under the yoke of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and since then we have lived under the yoke of the commandments given to us by the King of all Kings.

But this account of the Exodus is problematic. The biggest problem is that it contradicts the status of slaves as defined by the Torah and Jewish law. A Hebrew slave is obligated to observe fewer precepts than a free person (a free male, not a female; the gendered nature of Torah obligations is an important issue but not germane to the matter at hand). Furthermore, the view that we remain slaves following the Exodus is a problematic one today, given our revulsion from slavery and our belief that it exemplifies radical injustice. I doubt that any reader of this essay can easily imagine life as a chattel who is unable to come and go as he wishes and who is entirely dependent on the mercies of his master.

In other words, religious Jews who are also modern Westerners and citizens of democratic countries can only feel unease with this depiction of the Exodus. The idea that we are slaves—even if God’s slaves—is simply incompatible with the lives of people who live in law-based states that are ruled not by kings but by elected officials subject to laws and the oversight of the other branches of government, the people, and the media. Our acceptance of authority today presumes our right to criticize, to express doubt, to challenge, and to be active partners in the creation of the norms to which we are subject.

Yet, even today, the concept that we were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and today are slaves to God is very much part of how we think of Pesach and the Seder. I suggest, however, that it is not the approach of the Jewish sages. I learn this from an examination of how the word “slave” is used in the Haggadah.

The word “slave” (‘eved / עֶבֶד) appears about thirty times in the text of the Haggadah, but it does not bear the same meaning everywhere it appears. In fact, it is used in four different ways:

Read moreThe Four Slaves — Dvar Torah for Pesach in memory of Niot Watzman z”l

The Chair — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

What you see and what you might unexpectedly get by gazing through rear windows at election time

illustration by Avi Katz
It seemed like an odd place to die, in a hard wooden chair placed in front of a back-facing bedroom window.

“I told you that nothing is to be moved,” Ofek had ordered while showing the apartment, when I tried to place it next to the wall so that I could take in the view. “Especially the chair.”

“And the sign?” I said nervously, looking down on the big black banner hanging from the outside railing. From the outside it couldn’t be missed. It depicted the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreThe Chair — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

The Performance — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

I’m back in the shuk with my new story, but with a different subject. This time it’s about a couple doing political street theater, and how their message gets across, or doesn’t.

illustration byAvi Katz
The little square down the stairs from the Iraqi shuk seemed like just the spot. There was a ready-made audience—the tourists and Tel Avivians eating at the trendy-authentic Azoura restaurant on one side and the old Sephardi men playing backgammon in the dilapidated clubhouse on the other. The Jewish hawkers and their Arab workers at the stands selling greens and oranges, and the old ladies and student couples picking out produce, provided a low-level hubbub of voices better than any background music. Matan and Michal put out their hat, unpacked their backpacks, and began their performance. Continue reading at The Times of Israel

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To receive an e-mail notification each time a new Necessary Story appears (about once every four weeks), sign up here

Necessary Stories, a collection of twenty-four of the best of Haim Watzman’s short fiction, is available as an e-book, paperback, and hardback on Amazon,

Read moreThe Performance — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel