Category Archives: Israel

“ENDGAME”— A New Film from Israel

“ENDTIME”

A New Film from Israel

Tomorrow will be the last day of your life. Where will you go? Who will you share your last moments with? What will you mourn the most? 

Veronica Kedar’s “Endtime” tells the story of eight friends who choose to spend the last day of their lives together at home. The disturbing situation, the accessible alcohol and the complex dynamics cause everyone to face the meaning of their lives, their most painful regrets and the dreams that will never come true.

What do people do when they only have a few more hours to live? In an evening, with no tomorrow, there are no regrets, no second chances and no guilt. Only tonight exists and the night is young.

“FAUDA”— Picked Up By Netfix

“Fauda”

Picked Up By Netflix

Netflix has picked up “Fauda,” the nail-biting Israeli television series about a deep-cover unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. The streaming site will begin airing the drama’s first season, which played to critical acclaim on Israeli satellite network YES last year, on Dec. 2.

Netflix has also purchased rights to “Fauda’s” second season, which is in production.

“Fauda” follows a close-knit unit of mista’arvim, the commando unit of the Israel army whose soldiers are trained in the language, dress and mannerisms of Palestinians, and whose undercover work is hailed in Israel for scuppering terror attacks and guiding military operations.

The show was the most-watched in YES history and also earned a best drama statue at the 2015 Israeli version of the Emmys.

The series was created by Avi Issacharoff, a journalist and Arab affairs specialist, and actor Lior Raz, and directed by Assaf Bernstein. The show broke barriers in Israel by giving its Arab characters equal screen time and equally complex backstories as its Jewish characters. The terrorists, in this show, are as much fathers and brothers as they are combatants, and are drawn with equal complexity as the Jewish soldiers. Neither side, the show insists, is innocent.

With both Arabic and Hebrew dialogue, the show also found its way into Palestinian audiences’ hearts, and its plot twists, hostage negotiations and close-combat battle scenes were rehashed on Arabic social media at a level never before seen for Israeli television.

The Netflix deal was brokered by Hadas Mozes Lictenstein from ADD Content Agency and Danna Stern from Yes DBS Satellite. According to the deal, Fauda will be dubbed a Netflix Original Series — the first-ever Israeli series to receive such a label.

The show will be aired in its original languages of Arabic and Hebrew, with English subtitles.

Issacharoff and Raz were on hand in Los Angeles for a screening and premiere party on Nov. 28.

“The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping: A Novel” by Aharon Applefeld— A New Life and a New Place

Applefeld, Aharon. “The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping: A Novel”, (translated by Jeffrey M. Green), Schocken, 2017.

A New Life and a New Place

Amos Lassen

Erwin is a Holocaust survivor who does not remember his trip across Europe after the war probably because he slept through it and other survivors carried him as they were headed to refugee camps in Naples, Italy where they had no idea what the future held. Once in Naples, Erwin had to struggle to stay awake and when he did manage to do so, he became one of a group of boys who were being trained by a representative from what was then Palestine. The idea was to get them ready for their new home in the Middle East.

The members of the club were held in a detention camp in Israel and from there were assigned to a kibbutz where they learn how to work the land and speak their new language. Even in this new environment, a part of Erwin desperately clings to the past. He has memories of his parents, to his mother tongue and of the Ukrainian city where he was born—and he knows that “despite what he is being told, who he was is just as important as who he is now becoming”.

After being wounded by snipers, he has to spend months recovering from surgeries and he has to learn how to use his legs as if he is walking for the first time. It was not enough to exercise his body, he also uses his recovery to also exercise his mind

and works at learning Hebrew by copying Biblical passages (I did the same—it must be a trick that Hebrew teachers used on their students. Erwin was able to learn that way; I simply discovered that the Hebrew of the Bible was a different than the Hebrew spoken when I lived in Israel) as well as attempting to write in his new language (as well as his mother tongue) in hopes that he could succeed as a writer, something his father wanted so badly to do but was unable to achieve. He is encouraged to write by his friends and fellow survivors and by his mother

who visits him in his dreams. When he tries to walk again with crutches, we see that he will succeed just as he will succeed with his writing. Erwin joins Aharon Applefeld’s gallery of memorable characters that reflect the mind of modern Israel.

I have always loved Applefeld’s use of metaphor and find it amazing that he is able to be so universal while writing from such a small country. Through Erwin we see humanity and understand that it was his painful experiences and self-determination that lead him to become the writer and the person that he becomes. We also see through him what becoming a writer entails and that the values of the past are as important as the present. Prose (in this case Applefeld’s) comes from personal experience that can become universal and we understand that struggle is struggle wherever it takes place. to create dazzling, masterly fiction with a universal resonance. It is Erwin’s (and Applefeld’s) own experiences in attempting to find an identity that makes up this novel of redemption and regaining what was lost to history. We see and, in effect, become part of the process of becoming… (a writer). The details of the past often become the issued of the present and here it is Erwin’s being a survivor and a refugee that act as catalysts for who he is to become. What I find so amazing here is that when I moved to Israel, I did so with the idea of building a nation and never thought of myself as a refugee but I suppose that is exactly what I was. Like Erwin, I searched and longer for an identity that would tie me to the land and to the people. The difference is the Holocaust here and it was such an important part of Erwin’s past that he had to find a way to transfer that memory into “translucent prose”.

There is great sensitivity in that prose and we really understand the difficulties of responding to post-Holocaust living. The prose is powerful that it is sure to be not easily forgotten just as the Holocaust stands in our past.

 

 

“The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East” by Guy Laron— When It All Changed

Laron, Guy. “The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East”, Yale University Press, 2017.

When It All Changed

Amos Lassen

There are some dates that become part of us and that we remember our entire lives. Just as most mothers remember the dates they gave birth to their children, we tend to associate actions with dates. November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 are dates we cannot hide from and every year when they come around, we remember all to well what they represent. June 5, 1967 is one of those dates for me—it was two days after I moved to live in Israel to help build a Jewish nation. We are all so idealistic then and that idealism followed me as I was inducted quickly into the Israel Defense Forces and prepared to head to battle— military training would come on the road. Little did we know then that this was the war that would change everything and we are still feeling those changes today, fifty years later.

We will be seeing a lot of literature being published for the 50 anniversary and I have looked at several but decided to concentrate on this one by Guy Laron because of the way it examines the Six-Day War, its causes, and its enduring consequences against its global context.

It took just one week to redraw the map of the Middle East but what is fascinating is that with all that has been written about this war, very little explains why this conflict began. Some believe

that the war was simply the result of regional friction that would show the crucial roles played by American and Soviet policies facing a global economic crisis, and restoring Syria’s (overlooked) centrality to events leading up to the hostilities. Laron says that this is not the case at all. He takes an interdisciplinary approach and has done much important research in order to significantly reassess the war that was responsible for the downfall of Arab nationalism, the growth of Islamic extremism, and the non-ending animosity between Jews and Palestinians. Laron looks at the “trigger-happy generals” behind the war.

What makes this different from other books about the war is that Laron uses sources that up until now have not been used. This was a war in the Middle East but whose events were not confined to that the Middle East. Some of these sources come from the United States, the former Soviet Union and sources related to the Warsaw pact. When these are all taken together, we see a detailed narrative that is both military and political. Laron explains it all from the origins of the conflict to the outcome and the changes that came with it. We see how important it is to understand the war politically as well as militarily because politics played such a huge role in all of the dynamics.

“Hayim Nahman Bialik: Poet of Hebrew” by Professor Avner Holtzman— Success and Tragedy

Holtzman, Avner. “Hayim Nahman Bialik: Poet of Hebrew”, (Jewish Lives), Yale University Press, 2017.

Success and Tragedy

Amos Lassen

For as long as I can remember, Hayim Nahman Bialik has been a part of my life. As a toddler, my nursery school teacher who was an Israeli taught us some of Bialik’s children’s poems (which were not actually children’s poems, at all), and I would often sing myself to sleep with his words about Israel.

By his twenty-eighth birthday, Bialik was considered to be the national Hebrew poet even though he had only published one collection. It was easy to sense that what we wrote came from the heart and was deeply personal and he shared that with us. He teetered on the edge between secular and traditional ideas and this became the identity of the Jewish people in the twentieth century. Bialik’s unexpected and untimely death in 1934 brought about an outpouring of grief from the entire Jewish that cemented his place as “a father figure for the Zionist movement in Palestine, and around the world”.

Avner Holtzman’s biography looks at how Bialik overcame intense personal struggles and became a “charismatic literary leader at the core of modern Hebrew culture”. Through the poetry and research, we are taken into Bialik’s life, read of his complex personality, his gorgeous poetry and his popularity as a person and as the laureate of Hebrew poetry.

Even though Bialik, himself, was an orphan, he knew that children needed something to sing about and so he provided that. He was a lover who did not have that love reciprocated during his lifetime and he was a poet who was tortured and on the brink of modernity yet made the Hebrew language a language of love and he was a seer who brought prophecy back to the people of Israel with his visions of a Jewish state.

For many, Bialik’s poetry has been enigmatic and here Holtzman tries to solve the puzzlement of some of his poems and at the same time he explains Bialik’s influence not just on those of his age but still today. The details of Bialik that seemed lost to us are presented here in detail.

“There was a man— and see: he is no more;

before his time this man died;

and his life’s song in mid-bar stopped…”

“After My Death”

“CAST OFFS”— Trash or Treasure?

“Cast-Offs”

Trash or Treasure?

Amos Lassen

 Vered Yeruham and Oren Reich’s new documentary is looks at what Israelis throw away. I was so reminded at how some Bostonians furnish their homes by waiting until the school year is over and the students put their furniture out on the streets for whoever wants it. The film follows some of the things that Israelis throw out that then end up in the Palestinian Authority, where they return to life.

The film shows that there is an underworld that exists alongside of our consumer reality – “a transparent existence of transparent people whose livelihood depends on the objects we discard offhand, without even giving a thought to their fate”. We truly see the meaning of “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

Every day, thousands of appliances, toys and pieces  of furniture are left on Israel’s streets and they are the debris of an obsessively consumerist society. “Cast Offs” is the story of the junk collectors from both sides of the border, Israelis and Palestinians, who salvage these items and  sell them to the people who can’t afford the “real thing”.

“Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman” by Itamar Rabinovich— An Intriguing and Admired Modern Leader

Rabinovich, Itamar. “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman”, (Jewish Lives) Yale University Press, 2017.

An Intriguing and Admired Modern Leader

Amos Lassen

It has been more than twenty years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin (1995) and he still remains intriguing and admired as a modern leader and as a person. He was the first Prime Minster born in Israel and was an integral part of the history of pre-state Israel and its evolution into a modern nation. Itamar Rabinovich was Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 1992-1996 and was a Rabin insider who now shares an

“insider’s perspective on the life and influence of Israel’s first native-born prime minister, his bold peace initiatives, and his tragic assassination”. We read here about Rabin’s life, contributions and character based on original research and Rabinovich’s own memories and recollections. Perhaps the single memory that describes who Rabin was and what he wanted is how hard he tried to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict at the Oslo Peace Accords. Politically Rabin was awkward yet he became a statesman. He has been a soldier that defended Israel against her neighbors yet he became a peacemaker.

Rabinovich presents new insights into Rabin’s relationships with leaders including Bill Clinton, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Henry Kissinger and he explains his desire for an Israeli-Syrian peace plan as well as the important political issues that came to identify him. For me, the most interesting part of this book is Rabinovich’s look at the repercussions of Rabin’s murder that resulted in Netanyahu’s election and the rise of Israel’s radical right wing. Rabin dedicated himself to the cause of peace in the Middle East and was determined to find a way to ensure peace with Syria and Rabinovich was at Rabin’s side as talks were underway. I doubt anyone else had been that close to the man and from this closeness comes Rabinovich’s perspective. Without going into all we learn here, it is enough to say that it is the author’s personal relationship with Rabin that makes this such an important and valuable read. It can change the way you see the history of Israel.

“Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol” by Solomon Ibn Gabirol— The Realm of the Intellect

 

Ibn Gabirol, Solomon. “Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon Ibn Gabirol”, translated by Raymond P. Scheindlin, Archipelago, 2016.

The Realm of the Intellect

Amos Lassen

Solomon Ibn Gabirol was an 11th century Hebrew poet who was an intellectual and wrote heavy poetry of lament, complaint and praise, devotional and love poetry, descriptive meditations on nature, and epigrams. He was a man who was obsessed with the impediments of the body and the material world and often dreamt of leaving the corporeal constraints and launching his soul into the realm of the intellect. His poetry was written in a style that did not conform to the esthetics of his age but that today is part of the way we live. Ibn Gabirol thought of himself as a “vulture in a cage” and yearned to elevate his soul to his heavens. His poetry proved to be influential and we can even say that he provided the framework that others would use. His poems are filled wit and imagery as well as beauty and his devotional poems are gorgeous. His poetry is also a window to his own life as well as a tribute to his Judeo-Arabic culture. This volume is the most extensive collection of Ibn Gabirol’s poetry ever published in English. I never really thought about Ibn Gabirol in English; I studied him in his beautiful Hebrew and of course this limits his popularity. We can open that with this book more will discover him and he will be as much of a poet of the people as he is a poet of intellectuals. I remember some thirty years ago at an Esther Ofarim concert in Tel Aviv, the singer opened with an Ibn Gabirol poem set to music, “Ani HaSar” that from that night became one my favorites. Listening to it makes it easy to understand how he came to be regarded as one of fathers of Hebrew poetry.

Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol an Andalusian-Hebrew theologian, philosopher, and poet during the 11th century, was responsible for a body of work made up of meditations on the nature of the sacred, and the relationship between himself and the divine. divinity. These poetic writings on himself are seen through the lens of selfhood as he strives to understand the transcendental and the mystical as experiences that are part of and inseparable from the personal reality of the individual. His descriptions are brilliant as he portrays the majesty of the cosmos through the complexity of the individual.

He sees himself as a person being trapped and angry because he is unable to be free from whatever holds him back. At the time that he lived (the 11th century), poetics were anti-expressions of strong emotion and those around him were accustomed to presenting strongly held ideas and deeply felt emotions in a literary style and in poetic forms that are reliant upon and bring about harmony and balance. We understand that he was an extreme figure but we have no clue as to why. It is believed that he was born around 1021 in Málaga and died in Valencia in 1058. His parents died when he was fairly young, and he was sickly during his short life. He lived for a time in Saragossa, where his patron was Yekutiel Ibn Hassan (d. 1039), a prominent Jewish courtier and their brief relationship had its ups and downs, as it seems that all of his relationships did. He was also involved with an older contemporary— the great Jewish statesman, poet, and rabbi Samuel the Nagid, in Granada. Ibn Gabirol wrote about other patrons who cannot be identified. As a philosopher, he specialized in metaphysics and logic and engaged in Biblical exegesis. He wrote in verse on Hebrew grammar and wrote poetry both secular and sacred and came to be considered one of the greatest poets of the Hebrew Golden Age. His liturgical poetry was preserved by communities that incorporated it into their religious services and included it in their prayer books.

Ibn Gabirol claims to have written many prose books, but only three, all written originally in Arabic, have survived. None of these works has any particularly Jewish content and, in fact, “The Fountain of Life” is only available in Latin translation and for centuries it was thought to be the work of a Muslim author. It seems that Ibn Gabirol belonged to the “interconfessional” class of intellectuals known in Arabic as “’Faylasufs’— people who had a common reverence for the Greek philosophers of antiquity, whom they studied in Arabic translation and discussed in circles of like-minded thinkers, sometimes to the consternation of peers and the condemnation of clergy.

We must not forget that the ideas of Jewish intellectuals and religious leaders was one of the developments in Jewish culture that was the result of the spread of Islam throughout the Mediterranean world. By the mid-tenth century, most Jews lived in Islamic domains and spoke Arabic as their native language. Through Arabic, Jews had access to the high culture of the age , including, Arabic poetry going back to pre-Islamic times and still thriving wherever Arabic was spoken.

The Judaeo-Arabic culture that came about had its own characteristic form of expression when tenth-century Jewish grandees in Spain began using Hebrew for poetry within Jewish society as poetry functioned in Arabic society. It was to be a way to express social relations, public discourse, and sophisticated entertainment. Therefore we get the emergence of a new Hebrew poetry alongside of the old tradition of Hebrew liturgical poetry. It was then that liturgical poetry continued to evolve and developed new genres and styles that were adapted partly from Arabic literary traditions.

Ibn Gabirol came onto the scene some eighty years after the introduction of the new Hebrew poetry and when it had already passed its experimental stage but still had a significant body of tradition behind it. The aforementioned Samuel the Nagid (993–1056), about thirty years older than Ibn Gabirol, became one of the most memorable figures of medieval Jewish Spain with his very personal body of poetry and it was this personal voice that was taken up by Ibn Gabirol and developed into a more somber and even sometimes even bitter way.

Ibn Gabirol wrote in well-defined in genres taken from Arabic poetry; it was addressed to and celebrated the glamour of patrons and men of stature; lamented the dead; poetry of complaint, in which a poet lays out his grievances against life or his fellow man; invective, in which a poet excoriates someone in order to damage his reputation. Then there are descriptive poems on nature, love poetry, poems about wine drinking, riddles, and epigrams. The emotions found in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry is in the rhetoric with the constant pairing and balancing of sounds and images, reminiscent of biblical poetry, though derived by the poets not from the Bible but from Arabic models and though considerably more formalized than biblical poetry.

He was the first Hebrew poet (as far as we know) to write poetry in which an individual speaker addresses God on intimate terms, thus creating the first true devotional poetry in Hebrew. Many of his poems are addressed to God and are organized in such a way that each verse brings together the “I” of the speaker with the “You” of God. The contrast in style between his worldly and devotional poetry comes from his seeing his natural home as the realm of the spirit rather than the realm of men. He complains about being frustrated in fulfilling his ambitions and we become very aware that he strove for worldly distinction and fame. He also had great ambition for wisdom, and he expresses frustration about the attempt to achieve it. To his fellow men, we see his arrogance and superiority but to wisdom he comes as a beggar.

As I read I began to think of the famed Tel Aviv street named after Ibn Gabirol (which in Hebrew becomes Gvirol) and wondered how Israelis knew who this man was. I did because I studied him and I always found it ironic that I lived once on the corner of Imber and Ibn Gvirol, two poets who were very different in their likenesses.

Ibn Gabirol shows the scope of medieval religious language “in their explorations of nature, drink, love, sex, boasting, friendship and loneliness. They are by turns, witty, satirical, elegiac–and always allusive.” -Jane Liddell-King, Jewish Chronicle.

 

“DIMONA TWIST”— Female Strength and Resiliance

“Dimona Twist”

Female Strength and Resilience

Amos Lassen

If you have ever visited Israel, you probably did not get to Dimona. Some time right after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the desert town of Dimona was established and it was to be the home of Israel’s atomic weapons. Otherwise there is nothing there. In all of the years that I lived in Israel, I went to Dimona once—I did not exactly go to Dimona, I passed through it on my way to somewhere else but that also could be a trick of memory since Dimona doesn’t sit on the road to anywhere else. Nonetheless I do remember driving through.

Seven women who arrived in Israel by ship in the 1950s and 1960s were sent straight to Dimona and became “the women of the desert”. How they were able to start new lives and a build a society in the middle of the desert s what this film is about. Michal Avid made this documentary as a tribute to them and their strength and resilience. Israel, until recently, was not an easy country to live in especially for Europeans and Americans. It required sacrifice and change. If I could describe my first visit to an Israeli bank, you would understand. Immigration to Israel, in many cases, is the result of Zionist upbringing and the idea of helping to build the Jewish state. Immigration can also be an act of desperation as well as an act of hope. That desperation comes from what were once rough living conditions somewhere else and the hope that it will be better in a different place.

In the early years, new immigrants to Israel found harsh conditions and unwelcome environments and for the seven women who came to Dimona, this is exactly what they found. Dimona was settled in 1955, mostly by Jewish immigrants from the Northern Africa. This documentary is the extraordinary story of that settlement as seen through the eyes of the women who went there. They share their stories which are exciting and many times dangerous. All of them save one came form North African countries, mainly Morocco and Tunisia. Hana Levinstein came from Poland and all seven were in search for the “promised land”. The documentary is divided into five chapters with chapter about a different period of life in Dimona. The narrators guide us as we explore the extreme circumstances and the difficulties of settling down in the new inhospitable city.

I found that fascinating probably because I am an Israel citizen and also because so much interesting archival information and photos tell a story I had only heard in bits and pieces. There is sheer physical beauty all around Dimona and when we add footage of the places in North Africa that were once home to six of our women, we get a visual treat. The Dimona that we see here is not the Dimona that the average Israeli imagines (and I am sure there are many who have never been anywhere near Dimona).

Looking across the Mediterranean Sea and hearing the women we learn that when they lived in North Africa, they had a good deal of freedom and independence that these women used to have when they lived in North Africa. Morocco and Tunisia were colonized by the French until the 1950s and Jewish women had a high level of freedom and autonomy: they lived alone, they worked, they went to the cinemas and to theatres – they were modern, independent and dynamic women.

In a period when it became very common and in style for Jewish people to migrate to Israel, these young women (some of them still underage) left North Africa for Israel. However, when they arrived, they were sent directly to the recently established town, Dimona. Dimona sat in an empty desert with few buildings and isolated from the rest of the world. Our women began from nothing and started from to create a new life and a new society where none had been before. There women were determined and because they wanted so badly to have new lives, they succeeded. Their attitudes are inspiring as is their psychological resilience and the determination.

“Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist: A Life of Activism through Dialogue” by Debbie Weissman— She Is Always Debbie

Weissman, Debbie. “Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist: A Life of Activism through Dialogue”, Urim Publications, 2017.

She is Always Debbie

Amos Lassen

Many, many years ago when I was a teen and active in Young Judaea, I would spend my summers at the national Young Judaea camp, Tel Yehudah, in Barryville, New York. I would also stay over to get to attend the national Young Judaea convention there at the end of each summer which would determine the leadership of the movement. Movement was what Young Judaea was back then—a Zionist youth group that aligned itself with the state of Israel in her early days. I met a young girl there named Debbie Weissman who was from the New York area and would go on in few years to be the national president. Everyone who know Debbie saw something special in her. But then as life does, we went our separate ways—I went home to New Orleans for college and my M.A. It was several years later after I moved to Israel that I came across Debbie again. I often visited a friend in Jerusalem over the Sabbath, a young woman from my home town who I got to know when I was in college. She knew of my interest in my youth movement and it just so happened that she was friendly with Debbie Weissman who lived in the neighborhood and had moved to Israel the year after I did. At that time, Bayit v’Gan was home to young Orthodox women and I often joked that all one needed to do to find a wife was to visit there on Saturday afternoons when the young women could be seen walking two-by-two.

I would see Debbie on those walks and we always had something to say and then my life took me to kibbutz and I rarely got to Jerusalem for Shabbats after that. This quite naturally stopped our visits and to be honest, I forgot about Debbie until last week where I read on Facebook that she had written a book. Now I knew that this was a book that I had to read because of the people whose lives we shared and to hear what she had to say about Young Judaea which had had such a powerful influence on our lives and the reason that we had both gone on aliyah.

What I did know was how Debbie had been living her life but we who knew that she was destined for great things will not be surprised just as I was not surprised to see Debbie with the Pope on the cover of her book.

“Dr. Debbie Weissman was president of the International Council of Christians and Jews from 2008-2014. After moving to Jerusalem in 1972, Debbie Weissman taught Jewish education and women’s studies at the Hebrew University, and was also the director of the Kerem Institute, a teacher training institute for Israeli high school teachers”. I read this through several times. Even though I was living on kibbutz, I worked for the Ministry of Education and taught in both the school system and in higher education in Israel as well as supervised kibbutz schools. I did not understand how it could have been possible that our lives had not crossed after those early years in Jerusalem. Debbie and I worked in the same areas but our lives had gone in different directions. I loved living on the land and experiencing what the Israel that the early Zionists saw was all about. I could not be a city person. Debbie, on the other hand, was a city girl and an organizational genius. Surely we should have seen each other at Ministry meetings or on campus and perhaps we did but each of us was so involved we did not notice. What I am saying is that everything about Debbie that I now know comes from her book, “Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist” and it gives me the idea for a title of a book I might write, “Memoirs of a Pessimistic Hopeful”.

Debbie is an observant Jew (much more observant than I am), a feminist and a pioneer in the field of interfaith issues. Many of us may wonder how these three go together but all you have to do is watch Debbie for a while and you will see. These are the three issues that make Debbie who she is. I remember her as dynamic and passionate and from what I read here, I see that she still is. She is the first Jewish female president of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ). It is Debbie’s journey to do interfaith work and as she had done this, she has met some of the most influential people in the world and she has forged deep friendships with them. Debbie is one of the founders of a progressive Orthodox synagogue community in Jerusalem. She is, in fact, part of history and among the things she has done are institutions and movements in areas of interfaith relations, women’s education, Israeli peace initiatives, a new prayer community, and much more. She shares her life with us and she does so with humor, grace and lots of style. Here is a pessimist whose works are those of an optimist.

One of the blurbs on her book is by Aviva Gottleib Zornberg, one of the women I respect most in the world. I study with her when ever I get the chance and I hold on to her Torah commentaries as if they are the absolute truth (most of the time). I remember receiving a letter from Zornberg’s husband asking if they could use a sentence from my review on the paperback edition of her second book. I cannot remember being so flattered. Zornberg commends Debbie on her wonderful life and he gifts to the world and shares that Debbie Weissman describes the development of a religious and political consciousness in which she says she “dances” between opposite poles of tradition and liberalism. She is both an idealist and a pragmatist and she shares both the public and personal sides of her career. I could not say it better than Aviva Zornberg who states that Debbie’s “memoir is a fitting testimony to a life of commitment and achievement.”

She has quite a story to tell and we should feel honest that she shares it with us. Debbie has dedicated herself to “breaking through boundaries and building connections based on our common humanity.” In rereading this review, I sometimes wondered if it is okay to call the author by her first name but I also realize that I have known her for so long that she will always be Debbie to me and I beg your indulgence on that. I am fascinated that in knowing someone years ago and finding her again is one of the great happenings in my life.