Inside the Whale

September 15, 2006

Israel 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — noahsimblist @ 7:09 am

Blog 3


Thursday began with an interview in Tel Aviv with Eitan Bronstein, the founder and director of Zochrot ( Then I met with Danny Yahav Brown, an artists who spent 8 years in the US and just returned to Israel. We walked to a couple of galleries and made an appointment for later.

Israeli Poet Yehudah Amichai at Tmol Shilshom

At the end of the day, I met my friend David Ehrlich who runs a café called “Tmol Shilshom.” The café hosts readings in Hebrew and English regularly by some of the greatest Israeli authors like Yehudah Amichai, David Grossman, and Amos Oz. He invited me to hear a talk that he was going to give to a small group from the American organization, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

David Ehrlich on left, Amos Oz on right

David talked about the relationship that writers in Israel have to politics. He began by talking about his friend David Grossman, who lost his son in the last war a month ago. David Grossman is typical of authors of his generation in that he writes political commentary as well as fiction. His books “The Yellow Wind” and “Death as a Way of Life” are examples of writing that he has done for newspapers and magazines.

There was a member of this group that took issue with the idea that novelists write about politics. His problem was the lack of qualifications. “Should a writer then perform heart surgery?” he asked, “what makes political writing so easy?” A huge conversation blew up about the issue of the role of the artist in a democracy. Behind this was also a larger conversation about the function of art – is it expression? Description or mimesis? Or a kind of craft at the service of beauty but uncomplicated with the difficulties of the “real world?”

It also raised the issue of how a democracy accounts for the wide range of not only opinion but also education. This conversation is obviously close to what I’m doing here and past projects like “Inside/Outside the Whale.” But it also reminded me that these questions have a different significance here in Israel/Palestine, where politics affect everyone’s life. The example of Grossman’s son, not only as a cultural loss but a human and personal loss reminds us of this.

At the same time, David Ehrlich was talking about the difference between younger authors like Etgar Keret who tend toward surrealism and abandon a literal relationship to the political that older writers like Grossman or Oz have used. This was similar to what Danny, a young, secular Israeli said was characteristic of his generation – now sick of an obsession with politics – eager to simply get the peace process started and finished and get on with his life.


1 Comment »

  1. Hello.

    I am a friend of Danny’s from the US. He contacted me, but I don’t have his phone #. Would you mind forwarding my e-mail and giving him this message.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Molly — January 25, 2007 @ 2:59 am

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