The Anemone’s Smile — “Necessary Stories” from The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A lone flower spurs memories of my soldier son, who died nine years ago in the springtime

illustration by Avi Katz
A lone anemone, petals open to the sky, catches my eye as I cross the trampled lawn in the park near my home. In other parks and vacant lots, the flowers appear in exuberant flocks, patch after patch of red within the sun’s incarnation in green, the smiles of springtime’s return. This flower stands alone, vulnerable to the feet of ball-playing children and the paws of racing dogs. Tears come to my eyes.

It’s the Shabbat in the middle of the Pesach holiday. Nine years ago, on this Shabbat, my younger son Niot died.… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Previous Necessary Stories about Niot:

Read moreThe Anemone’s Smile — “Necessary Stories” from The Times of Israel

Doors — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Being alone and being together–Pesach in the time of Corona.

illustration by Avi Katz

The door opens just enough that I can see a single eye examining me. For a second, I can’t breathe. There’s something familiar about it. But the feeling passes.

Below, about waist high, another eye blinks at me, then lurches back, as if a hand belonging to the eye above has just yanked it.
“Who are you?” a woman’s voice accuses me.

“Yinon. Your neighbor.”

The little boy squeals.

“You’re the old man? You live next door?”

I wince at the description but acknowledge the fact. “You’ve seen me. But I don’t go out a lot, so maybe not much.”

“What do you want?”

I point at the floor. “There’s a package for you. From SuperPharm. It’s been out here since yesterday. Tonight is the holiday, the Seder. I thought you’d want to know.”

The eye glances down and the voice softens, just a bit. “Oh, thanks.” Then: “Don’t get any closer.”… continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreDoors — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

How Should We Tell the Story? — Thoughts for the Seder in Memory of Niot z”l

Haim Watzman

This is a Hebrew translation of my annual dvar Torah for Pesach in memory of my son Niot z”l, whom we lost nine years ago during Pesach. The Hebrew original, in this week’s issue of “Shabbat Shalom,” the weekly Torah sheet published by Oz Veshalom, the religious peace movement, can be found here.

I was in shock at the first Seder I celebrated in Israel, in 1979, just a few months after I made aliyah. I was volunteering at the time in a development town in northern Israel plagued by poverty and unemployment. The mother of one of the teenagers I was working with invited me to celebrate the Seder with her family. When we reached the Ten Plagues, the son who was reading the Haggadah explained that, as he named each plague, we were to dip our little fingers into our wine and shake off a drop of it into our plates. He warned that we were forbidden to drink this wine because, by taking this wine out of our cups, we were cursing the Egyptians.

At every Seder I had attended up to that point, most of them led by my father z”l, we learned that we took these drops of wine from our cups to demonstrate that our joy at being redeemed from slavery cannot be complete. Even though the Egyptians who enslaved and oppressed us were evil, this symbolic act made us aware that our freedom came at the price of the lives of large numbers of Egyptians.

I was certain that the family hosting me in that development town was simply ignorant of the correct interpretation of the custom. But when I looked into the matter,

Read moreHow Should We Tell the Story? — Thoughts for the Seder in Memory of Niot z”l

Masks — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A Purim story, about men and masks.

illustration by Avi Katz
Rivka Street ascends so steeply from the traffic light by the Hadar Mall that I often stop to rest halfway up, and to reprimand myself for not getting more exercise. Today I’m puffing all the more because the Pulcinella mask that my daughter insisted I wear for Purim is pressing on my nose.

There’s a little tree I like to stop at because it blocks the view of the open garbage bins on the other side. This Tuesday morning my spot is occupied. It’s a young woman with a two-wheeled shopping cart… continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreMasks — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

On the Fast Train — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A woman finds friendship, but not her own, on the fast train to Jerusalem.

illustration by Avi Katz

The two young men glance at me in concert but immediately turn back to their conversation. I position my overstuffed shopping cart in front of my knees, and arrange my skirt neatly, so that no one can complain that I am blocking the place next to me. I’m facing the other side of the fast train to Jerusalem, which means I’m looking directly at the two young men. They have the seats on the other side, which face each other over a small table… continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreOn the Fast Train — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Heavens — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Love, heartbreak and the night sky: a team of IDF reservists addresses romantic crisis in the West Bank.

illustration by Avi Katz
The girl’s fluent Hebrew did not, Nuriel thought, fit her long sleeves and head scarf. A cold October breeze ruffled her loose-fitting blouse, buttoned up to the neck and reaching down below her hips. Clearly it could not conceal a suicide belt. But when had anyone ever heard of a young woman—clearly from a devout family—in a town in the fundamentalist Muslim region of the Hebron highlands boldly approaching two armed Israeli soldiers? Her very presence in the company of a couple of hormone-soused guys who had not seen their wives for a couple weeks already could, if discovered, fatally compromise her. He meant “fatally” in a most literal way … continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreHeavens — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

A Prayer for Bibi — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

About words and devotion and rules and strangers.

The women’s section was half empty, but the stranger, who stopped several times while walking up the aisle, chose the front row. Not just the front row, but one chair away from where Michal stood, trying to concentrate on the Amidah. Michal was, as always, intense in her devotions, but also, as usual, feeling that the words weren’t getting through, neither to He to whom they were addressed, nor to herself.

She instinctively placed a protective arm over the baby in her womb and evaluated the newcomer out of the corner of her eye … continue reading at The Times of Israel

Read moreA Prayer for Bibi — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

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