Haim Watzman is a Jerusalem-based writer, journalist, and translator. He is the author of Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel and A Crack in the Earth: A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley, which will be available as ebooks this week. Haim was a 2008 finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. He will blogging here all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.
My Dad and I never watched the Superbowl together. Nor the NBA championships, the World Cup, or the World Series. In my family, the only person who watched sports on television was my grandmother, who never missed an Indians or Browns game. So I grew up with a warped sense of manhood. Watching guys throw balls around was for old ladies. My Dad and I did our small-screen-mediated male bonding on election night.
So I’m happy to report that when this post appears I’ll be on my way from Jerusalem to Denver to spend my first election night with Dad in more than three decades. Tuesday night he and I will be munching pizza and popcorn as we watch the returns come in and tally electoral votes and Senate seats.
Dad, a longtime newspaper reporter, was my first coach in political analysis, as well as in writing. His politics are liberal Democrat; his style is terse, simple, and to the point (he would disapprove of the previous semicolon and these parentheses). So it’s not surprising that I occasionally try my hand at political satire. At its best, it’s a genre that forces readers think about their beliefs in a new way. Furthermore, it can help those of us jaded by the horserace coverage that all too often passes for political journalism to remember that politics is as much a necessary part of our lives as love is, and that it’s important that we get both right.
That’s what I tried to do in my latest “Necessary Stories” piece, published in the current issue of the Jerusalem Report. Called “Persuasion,” it’s a love story in the style of Jane Austen, set in the run-up to the current election.
The Jerusalem Report has given me a platform that few writers enjoy and for which I’m extremely grateful (especially to Eetta Price-Gibson, who offered me the perch during her tenure as editor of the magazine). Once each month I get three pages where I can write whatever I want — memoir, satire, or short story. As I’ve transitioned in recent years from writing journalism and non-fiction into writing fiction, it’s given me a place to experiment with subjects and techniques. Some of my Necessary Stories are funny, some sad, some wistful. By arrangement with the magazine, they are also available in full on my blog, South Jerusalem.
If you like the latest one, you might also sample “Plane Story,” about an encounter with strangers and storytelling on a Delta flight, and “Bananas,” a tale from the immigrant camp that used to occupy the part of Holon where some of my in-laws live. I also recommend “Winter” and “Spring,” the first two installments in a quartet of army stories collectively called Duties of the Heart. “Summer” and “Autumn” are too long for my three pages in the Report and are currently seeking homes elsewhere.
Don’t tell Dad about all those ridiculously long sentences in “Persuasion.” He’d give me a stern lecture on style and we might miss some key returns and projections.
Visit Haim Watzman’s official website here.
Haim Watzman lives in Jerusalem and is the author of three books: Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel; A Crack in the Earth: A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley; and a story collection, Necessary Stories, a selection of the more than 150 he has written. His play The Chair won the 2021 Theater Institute Award of the Contemporary Jewish Drama International Competition sponsored by the Estera Rachel and Ida Makinskie Jewish Theater in Warsaw. He has translated more than 50 books from Hebrew into English, among them works by Shlomo Avineri, David Grossman, Hillel Cohen, Amos Oz, and Tom Segev. He edited the English-language version of Yuval Noah Harari’s worldwide bestseller, Sapiens. Subscribe to his Substack newsletter here.