The Balcony — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Barak and Bona Washingtonia are one of those couples who have grown apart over the years. Barak’s an army buddy of mine, a regular guy, and at least from my point of view he’s as great as he always was. Bona, who’s an old friend of Ilana’s used to be a lot of fun, too, but in recent years she’s drifted into this weird hypernationalist New-Agey Breslov stuff and it’s been a strain for Barak. More than a strain. The poor guy is having a real tough time, especially now that the kids are all out of the house.

So when he invited me and Ilana over for Friday night dinner, we felt a special duty to go, even though it was freezing outside and we really felt like staying in. It’s a mitzvah to make peace in the home, between husband and wife, and all the more so on Shabbat.

illustration by Avi Katz
illustration by Avi Katz
Unfortunately, when Barak opened the door in answer to our knock, we could see immediately that things were not good. So much blood was rushing to his head that his normally olive complexion had gone dull and gray. He looked like he was about to punch a hole in the wall (something he was very good at back when we were in Nachal) and using every gram of will-power to keep himself from doing it. Ilana took one look and headed straight into the kitchen to help Bona.

“Hey, what’s eating you, ahi?” I said. “Here, let’s sit down. Don’t keep it in. Let it out. Lay it on me.”

He clenched his fists and hissed and covered his face with his hands and leaned back and looked at the ceiling and finally said, “I can’t believe she invited him!”

“What do you mean? Who?” I asked. “Hey, should I get you a drink of water? A beer?”

I could hear animated conversation in the kitchen. It didn’t sound like Bona was upset. In fact, she called out in her singsong voice: “We’ll just be a few minutes. We’re waiting for a very special guest!”

Barak took a big breath and finally got it out.

“Bibi!” he sizzled.

Read moreThe Balcony — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Lock Me Up! — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Your honor, I realize that it is irregular that counsel for a member of the courtroom audience approach the bench. But I hope that you will hold your peace and allow me, before you hand down the sentences of the men and women convicted in the Holyland case, to present my client’s plea.

     illustration by Avi Katz

     illustration by Avi Katz

My client—this is he, sitting here in the front row, the one with the funny nose, no, he’s not in a coma, that’s just his way of displaying interest—is a man of modest means, a freelance writer whose words have quickened the hearts of a handful of readers around the globe. He’s a family man, devoted to his community and his country, the salt of the earth, as we like to say. Unlike the movers and shakers who sit in the dock before you, Haim Watzman is barely known to anyone of importance. Like millions of other Israeli citizens, he labors long hours silently, without wealth and fame. And he has come here to ask, Judge Rosen, why he, too, should not be provided with room and board by the state for the next several years.

Has he committed a crime? No, he has committed no crime—because Israeli society has given him no opportunity to do so. Had he been born into wealth, he might have used it to corrupt one of our leaders. Had he been appointed to a position of power, he might have used his influence for personal gain. Never having been invested with the public trust, he was barred from violating it.

I ask you, your honor, is this fair?

Read moreLock Me Up! — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

That’ll Be the Day — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

The American ambassador wearily removed a cleaning cloth from the black case he’d placed on the prime minister’s desk. He shook it open, gazed sadly at the dust that danced in the beam of the ceiling light, puffed on his lenses, and rubbed the cloth over them. Holding his glasses up to the light, considered the flexible frames that had cost him an arm and a leg, and saw that they were still smudged. But at this point he no longer cared. Perhaps, he thought, Israel’s leader was better viewed blurrily. The prime minister seemed to be shouting in a deep, throaty voice.

       illustration by Avi Katz

       illustration by Avi Katz

“Come on everybody, clap your hands!” the blurry premier seemed to be saying. “Are you lookin’ good?”

The ambassador tried to collect his thoughts. He knew he did not look good at all, and this did not seem to be the prime minister’s voice.

He felt two strong hands grab his and pull him out of his chair. “We’re gonna do the twist and it goes like this!” the voice explained.

“Weren’t we talking about American aid?” he mumbled as the body before him gyrated like a dervish with an inner ear infection.

Then he saw that the voice was coming not from the prime minister but from the large plasma screen on which the pm generally monitored the BBC for anti-Semitic news coverage. A black man in a suit was singing: “Yeah, let’s twist again, twistin’ time is here!”

Read moreThat’ll Be the Day — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Little Secrets– “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

“Don’t look,” said my friend Alon. “But the former Shin Bet chief just sat down at the table to our right.”

I gazed intently into my soy latte and then, without moving my head, squinted over in the direction of said table.

illustration by Avi Katz


“All I see is a blur,” I said. “I think I need to get my peripheral vision checked.”

“No, that’s really the way he looks,” said Alon.

Alon is a correspondent for one of the major dailies. I’d called him in desperation on Saturday night because I had a column to prepare and had no idea what to write. Alon knows everyone and everything and I figured he’d be able to slip me a scoop.

“Meet me at 10 a.m. in the Aroma Café on Arlosoroff Street,” he told me. “We’ll brainstorm. And it’s a good place to pick up a tidbit or two.”

The cafe was buzzing at mid-morning. Nearly every table was taken, and at least one person at each table was a familiar face. Over the bar hung a large sign with large letters: “Aroma Arlosoroff: A Quiet Spot For Intimate Encounters.” The morning sun flooded in through the plate glass windows that made up three of the café’s four sides.

“It’s where I meet my most confidential sources,” Alon whispered as we walked through the door. “If you come here, you gotta know how to keep a secret.”

“I see there’s free WiFi,” I said.

“Hey, stop staring,” Alon hissed.

“But that guy over there, surrounded by the paparazzi,”

Read moreLittle Secrets– “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report