Con­grat­u­la­tions to the 2023 win­ner of the Paper Brigade Award for New Israeli Fic­tion in Hon­or of Jane Weitz­man: Tehi­la Haki­mi, for Hunt­ing in Amer­i­ca, trans­la­ted by Joan­na Chen. This selec­tion from the win­ning title can be found in the 2024 issue of Paper Brigade.

The Paper Brigade Award for New Israeli Fic­tion in Hon­or of Jane Weitz­man seeks to hon­or an out­stand­ing short work or excerpt of Israeli fic­tion pub­lished in Hebrew. The goals of this prize are to intro­duce Amer­i­can read­ers to new Israeli writ­ers; to help Israeli writ­ers gain access to the Amer­i­can mar­ket; and to inter­est Amer­i­can pub­lish­ers in pub­lish­ing new Israeli fiction.

Tehi­la Haki­mi is one of the most orig­i­nal writ­ers of Hebrew lit­er­a­ture today. Inspired in part by three months she spent in Iowa, her lat­est nov­el, Hunt­ing in Amer­i­ca, is nar­rat­ed by an unnamed Israeli woman who relo­cates to Amer­i­ca on assign­ment from her tech com­pa­ny. As soon as she arrives, the nar­ra­tor strives to adapt to the social and cul­tur­al cli­mate in which she finds her­self. After join­ing her col­leagues on a deer hunt, she becomes gripped by the sport. With pre­ci­sion and clar­i­ty, Haki­mi reveals her protagonist’s past — a past that returns to haunt her despite her con­cen­trat­ed efforts to leave it behind. Haki­mi writes in a restrained yet poet­ic style, thrust­ing her read­ers into a world in which the bonds between woman, man, work, and nature threat­en to dissolve.

Hunt­ing in Amer­i­ca explores vio­lence and alien­ation both in the work­place and out­side of it, exam­in­ing what is con­tained in sub­ter­ranean words and actions. As a lit­er­ary trans­la­tor, I always lis­ten for unique voic­es that don’t just tell a sto­ry, but also ques­tion the reader’s assump­tions. This book chal­lenges us to think about what relo­ca­tion of the indi­vid­ual might real­ly mean. 

—Joan­na Chen

The first time I went shoot­ing in Amer­i­ca I hit a tree. We’d been out­doors for a while, prob­a­bly a few hours. The first shot hit a tree, but the next one whis­tled through the leaves. I stopped shoot­ing, the ani­mal fled, and every­thing went quiet.

When I raised my head from the gun­sight, I noticed David and the oth­ers star­ing at me and I was embar­rassed. I left them where they stood and approached the tree. I searched for the bul­let but couldn’t find it. It must have pen­e­trat­ed the trunk. The scent of the earth was pun­gent and over­pow­ered the acrid smell of the gun­pow­der, which dis­si­pat­ed into the air. I remained by the tree a few more moments. 

We had left the office ear­ly that day, short­ly after lunch. There had been an awk­ward con­fer­ence call with Israeli man­age­ment that morn­ing. The infor­ma­tion they offered was unclear, their mes­sages mixed, and the con­ver­sa­tion left every­one uneasy. 

I was catch­ing up on emails when David came into my office and asked if he was inter­rupt­ing. He told me they’d decid­ed to fin­ish up for the day, and when I looked at him in con­fu­sion, he smiled and said he was going out to the field to shoot with some of the guys. Would you like to join us?”

When I returned to where the oth­ers stood, David pat­ted me on the back. His arm extend­ed across my shoul­ders and I shud­dered, feel­ing each of his fin­gers through my sweater. They were spread apart, like in yoga class when the instruc­tor tells you to extend your fin­gers and toes like duck feet. David mur­mured some­thing like Way to go” in a some­what per­func­to­ry tone that nonethe­less felt good. I usu­al­ly didn’t like it if some­one offered encour­age­ment when I was already doing my best — it had the oppo­site effect on me. I smiled and said it had been twen­ty years, maybe more, since I’d shot a gun. Until that moment I’d pre­ferred to put behind me the fact that I’d once han­dled firearms, and sud­den­ly it came back. It just slipped out. I bare­ly noticed.


I thought I had a pret­ty good under­stand­ing of Amer­i­can eti­quette long before that, but no amount of TV, movies, email cor­re­spon­dence, or video con­fer­ences with Amer­i­can col­leagues had pre­pared me. For starters, the dai­ly office rou­tine was more tir­ing than what I was accus­tomed to back in Israel. For an entire month, I found myself wan­der­ing around feel­ing jet-lagged. This wasn’t the usu­al fatigue of a transat­lantic flight, nor was I home­sick. I didn’t regret my deci­sion to leave Israel. On the con­trary, I arrived in the Unit­ed States with a sense of relief and anticipation. 

Dur­ing the first few weeks, my long work­days end­ed with a pound­ing headache. Flash­ing an auto­mat­ic smile every time some­one approached me became a habit. On the one hand, the smile need­ed to be wide; on the oth­er hand, it couldn’t be the kind of smile that cre­ates wrin­kles. My smile was con­vinc­ing enough, although I didn’t entire­ly rec­og­nize myself. It was the kind of smile suit­able for a pro­file pic­ture on LinkedIn, or maybe a dat­ing app. 

I got to know David bet­ter dur­ing that first week. Every day, he dropped by my office to invite me to join the engi­neer­ing team in the cafe­te­ria for lunch breaks and to let me know what time they were meet­ing up. Besides David, I chat­ted a few times with Sean, a young guy I’d already cor­re­spond­ed with a lit­tle before I arrived in the Unit­ed States. And there was Joan. We shared an office, and she was nice from the start. 

The days were filled with con­stant stress. I made an effort to speak Eng­lish with­out an accent. I wrote metic­u­lous emails, try­ing to emu­late the wordi­ness of my col­leagues. It was Joan who’d tipped me off about the emails. One morn­ing, before the dai­ly grind began, she cor­nered me, clos­ing the door to our office. She said she knew it wasn’t delib­er­ate, and I shouldn’t be embar­rassed — she had fam­i­ly in Israel and under­stood the men­tal­i­ty — but the direct tone of my emails might be mis­con­strued as aggres­sive. They already have a boss,” she con­clud­ed with a smile. Lat­er that day she sent me an email with copi­ous com­ments. She’d copied one of mine and attached it to a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment with cor­rec­tions. She opened brack­ets after every oth­er sen­tence and explained how to rephrase it. Her expla­na­tions were detailed and most­ly began with these words: It would be even bet­ter to write this.” In addi­tion to her dele­tions and com­ments, she made sure to occa­sion­al­ly com­pli­ment me on a suc­cess­ful turn of phrase. When I thanked her for her help, she said it was her plea­sure, that it was no big deal. You’re a quick learn­er. Soon you won’t need me any­more,” she added.


The sec­ond time I went shoot­ing in Amer­i­ca, David brought along two of his friends. It was a Sat­ur­day, and this time no one from the office joined us. I was the only woman again, but I was used to this. Most of the time I was the only woman on the team, the only woman in the meet­ing. Some­times I was the only woman in the entire building. 

David said we were going to dri­ve far­ther out, to a dif­fer­ent area. They’d received an email from the local fish-and-wildlife author­i­ty with whom they were reg­is­tered invit­ing them to help reduce the num­ber of deer. The idea was to shoot to kill but also to scare them off, to move them away from the most dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas. Like warn­ing shots,” I told David, who didn’t seem to get it and threw me a sus­pi­cious look. On the way there, he said it would be good hunt­ing prac­tice for some­one like me, who was just start­ing out. He explained there was usu­al­ly a spec­i­fied bag lim­it, but that licensed hunters had been repeat­ed­ly called on since the begin­ning of the sea­son to help with the deer sit­u­a­tion. I most­ly kept qui­et and lis­tened care­ful­ly while he was talk­ing; I want­ed to get up to speed. At this stage I still didn’t have my own rifle, so David lent me one of his. Most of my cowork­ers pos­sessed firearms at home, and some even kept a gun in the trunk. There were also a few who kept a small pis­tol in the glove compartment.

It was rain­ing when we arrived, but this wasn’t a prob­lem. David said the rain would help us, that it would make it hard­er for the ani­mals to feel our pres­ence. Under the cov­er of rain,” I said, nod­ding my head know­ing­ly, and he looked at me weird­ly again. 

We drove fur­ther along. The road nar­rowed into a dirt track, and David slowed down. After a while, he stopped the pick­up, turned to face us, and said, Ready?” He didn’t wait for an answer.

David led the way, I walked behind him, and the oth­er two fol­lowed. After thir­ty or forty min­utes, I heard the sig­nal we had agreed on, a bird­like chirp, to indi­cate that an ani­mal was close by. We froze on the spot. David sub­tly lift­ed and low­ered the palm of his hand. This was the sign to hun­ker down. We sprawled on the ground. 

When I saw the buck stand­ing in front of me, it was in repose, bare­ly mov­ing. Now it was up to me. Before the oth­ers had time to exchange glances or deter­mine which of us had a direct line of vision, I had already fired. One shot and then anoth­er. One to the tor­so and the oth­er to the neck. A moment lat­er the buck fell heav­i­ly to the ground. 

The trip to IKEA took two and a half hours each way. Strange­ly, the store made me feel so at home that I almost for­got I was in America.

We approached the dead buck, and David iden­ti­fied the points of impact. He looked care­ful­ly at the first point, bleed­ing at the cen­ter of the tor­so, and then he turned to me and said it was a beau­ti­ful hit. After­wards he point­ed to the neck and said, But not that one.”

The three of them dragged the buck to the car. First, they wrapped it in a kind of tarp and then cov­ered it with thick mate­r­i­al that David had tucked into his back­pack ear­li­er. Final­ly, they tied it up with rope. Every­thing hap­pened fast — they were clear­ly skilled in this line of work. They took turns, two of them drag­ging it at a time. I fol­lowed slow­ly behind. All was qui­et. Dur­ing one of our paus­es, David turned to me and said, That’s one hell of an ani­mal you got your­self. Not bad for a first hit.”

The buck land­ed in the spa­cious car­go bed, and the pick­up sank down. We drove back. After we had dropped off the oth­ers and it was just David and me, I apol­o­gized for mov­ing so quick­ly, fir­ing before a deci­sion had been made. After a few moments, he said there was no need to apologize. 

I think you’re a nat­ur­al,” he said, almost in a whisper. 

We didn’t talk on the way back to my place. When he pulled up beside the path lead­ing to my house, David said he had a lot of work ahead of him: he had to take care of the ani­mal, he had to take care of the meat. He said he would come pick me up lat­er. As soon as I slammed the truck door he drove off. He may even have dri­ven off a split sec­ond before the door actu­al­ly closed. From where I stood, I could see the pick­up sag­ging under the deer’s weight. From the side­walk it looked even wider. The car­go bed almost touched the road. 


Those first few weeks in Amer­i­ca went by quick­ly. I was busy fig­ur­ing out how things worked in the office and find­ing my way around the spa­cious house in which I lived. I made no effort to keep in touch with friends back in Israel. I spoke to my par­ents once a week, despite my mother’s nag­ging me to call more often. They let me be only after I explained that I was under a lot of pres­sure at work and that week­ends were a bet­ter time to talk. The atmos­phere in the office was tense, but it wasn’t clear why. Joan taught me every­thing I need­ed to know to nav­i­gate my way around the huge build­ing and avoid mak­ing tac­ti­cal errors with my col­leagues — those I didn’t know, and those I did. It was often tougher with the ones I already knew. 

Some­time dur­ing those first few weeks, Joan sug­gest­ed that we go out for a drink togeth­er after work. She was a big-boned, hefty woman, but when she drove her pick­up she some­how seemed small­er, almost my size. On the way to the bar, she asked me how I was doing, whether I had every­thing I need­ed in my new home, and whether they were tak­ing good care of me. Her ques­tions were not pre­sump­tu­ous; she didn’t ask any­thing over­ly per­son­al. When we got to the bar, I tried to resume our ear­li­er con­ver­sa­tion and asked about her fam­i­ly in Israel. When had she last vis­it­ed them? Where did they live? I’m not real­ly in touch with them,” she said. Joan ordered a beer, and I ordered the same. The beer was strong, and I didn’t enjoy it. But when the bar­man sug­gest­ed anoth­er round, I agreed right away and didn’t wait to see if Joan was going to have anoth­er one, too. When Joan said, No thanks,” I briefly con­sid­ered can­cel­ing my order, but in the end I drank it down all at once. When we left, I was slight­ly buzzed. 

As we drove back to the com­pa­ny park­ing lot to my car, Joan blurt­ed out that she and her hus­band were try­ing to get preg­nant. We’ve been try­ing for a long time,” she said. After we part­ed ways, I sat in my car until I was sober enough to dri­ve home. 


The new house was already ful­ly fur­nished when I moved in. The com­pa­ny had tak­en care of every­thing. Some­one from human resources had been in touch with me a few weeks before my relo­ca­tion. She sent me pho­tos of couch­es, din­ing tables, rugs, and drapes, but I didn’t respond in time. When I entered the house for the first time, a heady smell of paint hung in the air. Still, it looked nice and tidy, and every­thing was spot­less. It wasn’t until weeks lat­er, when the smell of fresh paint had worn off, that I began to notice a cer­tain mustiness.

One evening, as I was sit­ting in the liv­ing room, it occurred to me that every­thing in the house had been cho­sen by anoth­er woman. I had not picked out a sin­gle object or piece of fur­ni­ture. That week­end, I went to an IKEA store in a city some dis­tance from my house. I knew that some­thing was miss­ing, but I didn’t know exact­ly what. The trip to IKEA took two and a half hours each way. Strange­ly, the store made me feel so at home that I almost for­got I was in Amer­i­ca. I wan­dered around for a few hours until I reached the restau­rant, which was locat­ed in a hall between the two main lev­els. I stood at the entrance for a few moments. Once inside, I couldn’t decide what to order, so I took a few ran­dom plates of food: salmon with green beans, meat­balls in sauce with mashed pota­toes, and a hot dog with fries on the side. I ate a lit­tle of every­thing. It all tast­ed famil­iar, vague­ly com­fort­ing. It was only after I removed my tray from the table and threw the left­overs into the trash that I real­ized I had left my shop­ping cart at the entrance to the restau­rant. It was filled with bed­ding, a tow­el or two, and some kitchen­ware I thought I might need. I didn’t go look­ing for it. Instead of shop­ping some more, I went out to the park­ing lot and drove home. 


Some­time dur­ing my third month in Amer­i­ca, Joan dis­ap­peared from the office. At first, I didn’t ask ques­tions. It didn’t seem impor­tant. I thought she was on vaca­tion and had for­got­ten to tell me, or per­haps she was on sick leave. All of her per­son­al items were still there, includ­ing her com­put­er. After a while, her desk was emp­tied and noth­ing remained of her in the office. When I asked David what had hap­pened, it took him a moment to fig­ure out who I was talk­ing about. Joan had had very few inter­ac­tions with our team. On rare occa­sions she would reply to emails from clients, because she worked in the com­mer­cial depart­ment. David and I worked in project man­age­ment, and we inter­act­ed with a lot of oth­er depart­ments with­in the company. 

A few days lat­er, at our week­ly meet­ing, David told me that he’d inquired about Joan, and that she was on unpaid leave for per­son­al rea­sons. I assumed it was because of her attempt to get preg­nant, but I said noth­ing about this to David. A week or two lat­er, I went down to the human resources depart­ment. I want­ed to get her phone num­ber, I thought maybe I’d write her some­thing. When I reached the door, I changed my mind. If she’d want­ed to keep in touch, she would have left a note on my desk, or sent an email. As it hap­pened, there was no one in human resources anyway.

Tehi­la Haki­mi is an award-win­ning Israeli poet and fic­tion writer. Her nov­el Hunt­ing in Amer­i­ca was pub­lished in Hebrew in 2023.

Joan­na Chen is a writer and lit­er­ary trans­la­tor of con­tem­po­rary poet­ry and prose from Hebrew to English.