Bananas — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

illustration by Avi Katz

Yes, that’s my seat, but don’t worry about it, just let me squeeze past, I’ve gained some weight and the belly doesn’t squeeze like it used to, I’ll sit over there next to you. No, really, it’s just fine, yes, that’s my name on the seat, but how could you know, you’re a stranger, and who would bother to tell you because I hardly ever show up. Anyway, I built this synagogue, with some help from my brothers and sisters, so all the seats are really mine. Do I smell bananas or is it just my imagination?

That young rabbi gets on my nerves. See the way he parades behind the Sefer Torah, looks just like Eli Yishai from Shas, I think at the yeshivot they bring in plastic surgeons and acting coaches to make them all look that way. Same short-trimmed beard, same beanpole physique, same clothes, same words coming out of their mouths. You think it’s not polite for me to talk to you while everyone’s blowing kisses at the holy scroll? Don’t let it bother you, like I said, I built this place and I can do whatever I want.

You know why I’m here? To say kaddish for my father. Died 27 years ago today. And not a day too soon, believe me. He was a domineering bastard. You know the kind, from the old generation, no education, no knowledge of the world, no interests beyond telling his wife and kids what to do every day of their lives and every minute of their days. Each year I tell myself that, enough, I won’t go this year,

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Boring Subversion

It’s out! The new issue of Ma’ayan, Israel’s most notorious literary magazine, lives down to its reputation. Here’s Dada without the humor, subway graffiti without the color. The prose reads like what you’d get if you transplanted George W. Bush’s brain into the body of Israeli anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe (I’m thinking of Bush’s wooden English style and cluelessness chimeraed with Pappe’s hysterical grandstanding and Hebrew kindergarten invective). Most of the poetry was, I suspect, written on Jerusalem’s infamous 15 (recently demoted to 13) bus, which wends its way irrationally and endlessly through streets that no one particularly wants to visit.

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