Ear­li­er this week, Galit and Gilad Selik­tar shared the mak­ing of the first sto­ry and the sec­ond sto­ry in Farm 54In their final post, they share the back­ground behind Hous­es,” the third sto­ry in their graph­ic nov­el. They have been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Galit: This sto­ry is the most auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal of all three texts, the most true-to-life. I was draft­ed to com­pul­so­ry army ser­vice in 1989 dur­ing the first Intifadah and, after basic train­ing as an edu­ca­tion­al non-com­mis­sioned offi­cer, I was assigned to a base near Beth­le­hem. Already on the first night I asked for a trans­fer away from the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries but, while my request was being processed, I had to remain there for about two weeks. As in the book, on the very first night I went on a noc­tur­nal house demo­li­tion mis­sion, replac­ing anoth­er female sol­dier who did not want to go. The night left its mark on me and for many years I repeat­ed­ly retold the events, until I decid­ed to write them as a short sto­ry. With the hind­sight of a writer I real­ized that, beyond the actu­al events, what was per­haps worse was revealed by the way I described the hero­ine – as a per­son com­plete­ly insu­lat­ed from the sit­u­a­tion and from the suf­fer­ing of the oth­ers. While this dovish char­ac­ter man­ages to refrain from direct­ly and delib­er­ate­ly harm­ing the Pales­tin­ian res­i­dents placed under her respon­si­bil­i­ty, I now think that her (that is, my) deci­sion to obey such orders with lit­tle protest is almost as harm­ful as keen participation.

Galit Selik­tar dur­ing her mil­i­tary ser­vice, 1989/1990

An egg-sort­ing ware­house used as ref­er­ence for Hous­es”:

Gilad: There were parts in this sto­ry that I found to be too direct or dra­mat­ic, too loud. As I approached it, I decid­ed to low­er the vol­ume by giv­ing sev­er­al scenes an under­stat­ed qual­i­ty, which is more char­ac­ter­is­tic of my work, as opposed to some of Galit’s writ­ing that often tends to be more explic­it. One of these scenes was the part where the female offi­cer takes the rab­bit from the Pales­tin­ian boy. In the orig­i­nal text (and, accord­ing to Galit, also in real­i­ty dur­ing that night in 1989) the boy was cry­ing, ask­ing the offi­cer to give the rab­bit back to him. Instead of show­ing the boy cry­ing I drew him sit­ting qui­et­ly on the stairs, star­ing at how the offi­cer hugs the ani­mal, hold­ing it close to her chest and cheek. The pic­ture of that lone rab­bit took me the great­est num­ber of drafts by far. It was meant to facil­i­tate calm­ing the scene while intro­duc­ing a charged and frozen silence that cap­tures the moment with all its fear, resent­ment, and banality.

Ear­ly sketch­es for the scene in which the Israeli female offi­cer is tak­ing the Pales­tin­ian boy’s rab­bi:

Pho­tographs from a Pales­tin­ian vil­lage used as ref­er­ence for Hous­es” (name with­held at res­i­dents’ request):

Galit and Gilad Seliktar’s graph­ic nov­el, Farm 54, is now available.