Posted by: jbwuk | April 23, 2011

Balancing act.

I’m now in Tel Aviv and so wishing my friends from PalFest were there with me. The power of the wall was such that seen from the West Bank, I felt Israel could dissolve out of sheer will power and wishful thinking from the Palestinians. Now in this vibrant crazy Babel of  a city, I know it won’t which still does not answer my question on how is everybody going to live together, particularly if no one trusts the other or thinks a two state solution is still possible….

What a pleasure to sit on the beach (even if it’s warmer in London than in Tel Aviv)! Although after my stay in the West Bank, I’m acutely aware of the people landlocked behind the fence. Yet, they seem so far away from here. In Jerusalem, you see the wall. Here you are in a bubble. You don’t even feel it’s Passover apart for the people wishing you chag sameach. I’d never been in Israel at this time of year and I love that idealistic feeling of being among “my” people.

This morning I met with the very lovely Etgar Keret and we discussed JBW 2012 when we celebrate our 60th anniversary.  He should have a new book of short stories in English. He says it was by far his most successful book in Israel and I really look forward to reading it. I’m a huge fan. We’ve been planning various events: Etgar and Amos Oz on Israel’s literary output, Etgar with Nathan Englander who translated his stories, and maybe Etgar chairing Jonathan Safran Foer, Nathan and Howard Jacobson on the new Haggadah to be published next year. And why not too a book with stories or extracts from all the important authors who came to JBW over the last 60 years…. We did not really talk politics or the future of Israel. He just said he thought the boycott played completely into the hands of the right.

I spent two days staying with friends who do try to do their bit to make things change. He told me how broken hearted he was when the boycott stopped a Palestinian children’s choir from performing in Israel. He has completely given up on the left, votes for the Arab partyand hold on to the hope for a two state solution. She makes films with young people on both sides of the wall and builds bridges wherever she can. They are great and inspirational but part of a tiny minority.

I was invited to a lunch in honour of Yoram Kaniuk who has just won the Sapir Prize. His Adam Resurrected was recently republished in the UK. 81, he almost died of cancer a few years ago but has seemingly been given a new lease of life and with it, new creativity and, amazingly, a new young readership who loves his books. Nicole Krauss is a huge fan of The Last Jew. I tell him who were the Israeli writers at JBW this year and he tells me he’d be happy to come next year. He’s charming, funny, self deprecating.

We were sitting in a wonderful garden and I finally had a taste of gefilte fish. The other guests present were mostly famous Israeli writers who are shamefully not published in English. I was sorry not to speak Hebrew while listening to a conversation of which I could only grasp one word here and there. Then someone finally took pity on me and switched to English. There was some talk about the expected UN vote declaring the Palestinian state. They welcomed it as the magic wand which would put an end to the occupation in a way Israel itself was incapable of achieving on its own. I hope they are right…

On the whole, the people I’ve met are not too keen to talk politics and even less interested in hearing about life in the West Bank. They are concerned about their kids going into the army, “three years in jail” as one of my friends told me and will do all they can to protect them from it. A young friend who has just had a baby hopes that by the time her little boy is 18, it will all have been sorted. Fingers crossed!

I just love Tel Aviv, its Bauhaus architecture, its vitality, its cafes and so much more I look forward to enjoying.

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