Thirst — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Illustration by Avi Katz
A Necessary Story for Rosh Hashanah: a father seeks out the son he sent away, with his mother, many years before.

Eitan presumed that his knock had been heard because he made out a woman’s muffled voice and the sound of children’s scurrying feet. But the door did not open; he looked back at his Kona, parked just off the earthen road, in the shade of a eucalyptus tree.

He’d waited long before getting out and, when he did, he staggered in the thick, damp heat. He leaned against the side of the car as desiccated greenish-brown leaves and pieces of dull bark fell softly on the metallic blue finish and on the wisps of white hair he had combed that morning over the barren spot at the top of his head … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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We’ll Always Have Paris Square — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

When you’re demonstrating against Bibi, you can’t hurry love, you just have to wait.

illustration by Avi Katz
Amihai held the border guards in his hard, straight-in-the-eyeballs gaze for a full two minutes. They weren’t letting him and his best buddy Razi past the roadblock. His look told the troopers that he was acquiescing in their orders not because he was scared. And not because he didn’t think he had full right to vault over the barricades and dash straight into the heart of Paris Square. It was just 200 meters up the street, the epicenter of the demonstration in front of the prime minister’s residence. He gave in because Razi was the quiet, law-abiding type, not a barricade buster.

Also, he’d finally managed to get the boy out and on the street after months of quarantine and self-imposed confinement and he wasn’t going to give him any excuse to chicken out and go home. … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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How Has the Harlot Become the Beloved / Dvar Torah, Parshat Devarim

Haim Watzman

This dvar Torah, translated from this week’s issue of Shabbat Shalom , the weekly Shabbat pamphlet of the religious peace group Oz Veshalom is dedicated to the memory of my father and teacher Sanford “Whitey” Watzman, who left us six years ago on 2 Av.

אפשר לקרוא בעברית כאן: “איכה הייתה הזונה לאהובה”

“Alas, she become a harlot, the faithful city” laments the prophet Isaiah (1:21) in the haftarah for Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av. Isaiah is not the only prophet to portray the city of Jerusalem, and the people of Israel, as a harlot—it is a motif that other prophets also use. The most notable of these is Hosea, in whose book it constitutes the underlying metaphor. On the face of it, the comparison seems simple. There are women who are unfaithful to their husbands and who lie with other men, either to satisfy their sexual passions or to earn money. When the people of Israel worship other gods and act in violation of the values of the Torah, they are like harlots.

But the word “harlot” (zonah in Hebrew) in its various forms is not just a metaphor in the Tanach.

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Coronavirus Hike, with Ninja Turtle — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

Two boys take a hike with their father in an unexpected direction.

illustration by Avi Katz
Gadi realized that the boys were not behind him. The midmorning sun was now high enough that the shade was shrinking on the path in Nahal Kisalon. Gadi’s t-shirt was soaked behind, below his backpack, and a large wet stain was expanding from his chest downward. To endure the heat he had trudged along, allowing his mind to sink into that hypnotic state of half-dream that closed the world off from his mind, or his body from his mind. Now his sons were not in sight.

“Zevik! Tzvi!” he called out.… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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A Detour to Mars from the Jordan Valley — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A family in crisis after its first-grader skips school for a space trip.

illustration by Avi Katz
Paltiel held the plastic container up to the rays of the morning sun coming through the living room window. Transparent, with a close-fitting red lid, it was filled to the halfway point with what looked to be powdery sand, the kind that the hamsin winds blow up from the south each spring. The kind that is the bane of soldiers, that forms drifts against the hills of the Judean desert in which feet sink deep, making every step an effort and running impossible.

Heli’s lips were pursed angrily, and there were tears in her eyes. She stood erect, a few steps behind him, her fingers curled and rigid.
Yoav, their six-year-old, stood between them,… continue reading at The Times of Israel

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Tikkun — Necessary Stories in The Times of Israel

Haim Watzman

A Shas door-to-door emissary explains Shavuot to a non-religious woman–and tells her own story in the process.

illustration by Avi Katz
Baruch Hashem. I thought you’d never open the door. I knew you were home, I saw through the window that the light was on, so I waited. You were in the bathroom? Did you say asher yatzar? The one I told you to say whenever you finish in the bathroom. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just let me step in. The air conditioning feels so good. You wouldn’t believe how hot it is outside. I’ve nearly fainted five times this afternoon, going door to door. … continue reading at The Times of Israel

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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:

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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

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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,

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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

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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

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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

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