We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers

We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers

We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers

We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers


A collection of conversations, held over a period of five years, between Chertok (an American-born writer who has lived in Israel since 1977) and eighteen leading Israeli authors. They talk about literature, contemporary Zionism, the lure of Diaspora, women in Israel, the Palestinians, and Judaism's official, cultural, and religious faces. A fine composite portrait of contemporary Israel and an illuminating view of the writers' personal styles and beliefs.


This representative sampling of conversations with Israeli writers stretches from November 1983, when I met with novelist Aharon Appelfeld at the Café Atara in Jerusalem, to March 1988, when I spoke with short-story writer Yael Medini at her home in Ramat Gan--a span of nearly five years. the notion that English-speaking readers might be interested in eavesdropping on the table talk of Israeli writers was initially suggested by Mitchell Cohen, at the time editor of the Jewish Frontier, the Labor Zionist bi-monthly in New York. in fact, in a variety of forms, fully half of these verbal encounters first made their appearance in the pages of the Frontier.

Choosing which writers to approach turned out to be very largely a matter of chance. in 1982 the English-language daily The Jerusalem Post printed my appreciative notice of Appelfeld's novel The Age of Wonders. With it as my calling card, I painlessly arranged a meeting with the author a year-and-a-half thereafter. in fact, most of the ensuing meetings were to be with writers whose books it fell my lot to review either in the Post or in the Jerusalem-based cultural quarterly Ariel.

It might be well for the reader to bear in mind several factors that doubtless affected the tone of these encounters. First, with just a single exception, I did not talk with any writer whose work I do not genuinely admire. Moreover, with those writers considerably older than I, I find that I tended rather naturally to assume a deferential stance. Consequently, though on occasion I did deliberately choose to be provocative, both the selective procedure itself and the given situation served to blunt any inclination toward visceral confrontation.

Three additional matters pertaining to these particular 18 fig-

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