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Friday, 15 July 2016

From His Lips …!


Marsha Kolman introduces Yisrael Ne'eman at last night's packed ESRA Karmiel meeting.

Mr Ne'eman, an Israel-based historian and political analyst was promoting his latest book, Hamas Jihad: Antisemitism, Islamic World Conquest and Manipulation of Palestinian Nationalism.




Ne’eman’s theme proved all too apt as even as he spoke, France's Bastille Day celebrations had been hijacked by yet another  jihadi terrorist attack in which a Tunisian truck driver slaughtered more than 80 people and left many more injured.


The coincidence resonated with me, as only last month I learned of the terror attack at the Tel Aviv shopping mall after returning home from a Nefesh B’Nefesh-hosted event in Nahariya where I had heard a first-hand account of a terrorist murder there in the 1970s.

Plus ça change!

© Natalie Wood (15 July 2016)

Friday, 8 July 2016

White Hats - and Grey ....

Social Engineer (Deep Web Thriller, #0)Social Engineer by Ian  Sutherland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brody Taylor is a ‘white hat’. Not the type who once appeared in gung-ho Hollywood westerns but a good guy who drives a Smart Fortwo coupé, sprays flash drives like bullets and causes high ranking executives to smash posh fountain pens in boardroom brawls.

Taylor is indeed a very modern cowboy – a so-called ‘ethical’ computer hacker who works as a freelance penetration tester, examining companies’ computer security systems by gaining access to them under cover; then explaining how, so allowing senior personnel to improve their I.T. security before it is compromised in fact.

Taylor may have some roguish charm but he’s not altogether nice, forgetting that while he may deceive and mislead strangers in order to discover their company’s frailties, that’s not the way he should treat the woman he loves.

So much is the plot of Social Engineer, written by independent author, Ian Sutherland as a short prequel to his first thriller, Invasion of Privacy.

Although a long-time London resident, Sutherland was born in the remote Scottish highlands and I suggest that something, somewhere inside his head still yearns to break free – even if it’s via the murky netherworld of the ‘Deep Web’ made up of encrypted websites whose users surf with total anonymity for everything that’s bad. Now read on ...
View all my reviews

©  Natalie Wood (08 July 2016) 

Monday, 4 July 2016

PerfectlyWritePoetry: Yeats Saw This Coming

PerfectlyWritePoetry: Yeats Saw This Coming: Even former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Lord Sa cks says the present worldwide political storm is like nothing he’s seen in his lifetime. ...

He Named It ‘Night’

Call me trivial.

Elie WieselBut the universal mourning on the death of Eli Wiesel, the  Holocaust survivor  and Nobel laureate suddenly became deeply personal when I realised  that I no longer have my copy of his memoir, NightIt was among paperback books that I most reluctantly donated to charity early in 2010 as I prepared to emigrate to Israel.

But most rarely for a book still in print and copyright,  it is freely available to read on the web.  Furthermore, it is an updated version with a new preface by Wiesel and a fresh translation written by his widow, Marion.

On this one occasion, I trust I will be forgiven for republishing the preface here in full:


IF IN MY LIFETIME I WAS TO WRITE only one book, this would be the one.

Just as the past lingers in the present, all my writings
Night, including those that deal with biblical, Talmudic, or Hasidic themes, profoundly bear its stamp, and cannot be understood if one has not read this very first of my works.

Why did I write it?
Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness, the immense, terrifying madness that had erupted in history and in the conscience
of mankind?

Was it to leave behind a legacy of words, of memories, to help prevent history from repeating itself?
Or was it simply to preserve a record of the ordeal I endured as an adolescent, at an age when one's knowledge of death and evil should be limited to what one discovers in literature?

There are those who tell me that I survived in order to write this text. I am not convinced. I don't know how I survived; I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself. A miracle? Certainly not. If heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for others more deserving than myself? It was nothing more than chance. However, having survived, I needed to give
some meaning to my survival. Was it to protect that meaning that I set to paper an experience in which nothing made any sense?

In retrospect I must confess that I do not know, or no longer know, what I wanted to achieve with my words. I only know that without this testimony, my life as a writer—or my life, period— would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes
he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory.

For today, thanks to recently discovered documents, the evidence shows that in the early days of their accession to power, the Nazis in Germany set out to build a society in which there simply would be no room for Jews.

Toward the end of their reign, their goal changed: they decided to leave behind a world in ruins in which Jews would seem never to have existed. That is why everywhere in Russia, in the Ukraine, and in Lithuania, the Einsatzgruppen carried out the Final Solution by turning their machine guns on more than a million Jews, men, women, and children, and throwing them into huge mass graves, dug just moments before
by the victims themselves.

Special units would then disinter the corpses and burn them. Thus, for the first time in history, Jews were not only killed twice but denied burial in a cemetery.
It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition,
therefore Jewish memory.

CONVINCED THAT THIS PERIOD in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness. I also knew that, while I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them.
Painfully aware of my limitations, I watched helplessly as language became an obstacle. It became clear that it would be necessary to invent a new language. But how was one to rehabilitate
and transform words betrayed and perverted by the enemy?

Hunger—thirst—fear—transport—selection—fire—chimney: these words all have intrinsic meaning, but in those times, they meant something else. Writing in my mother tongue—at that point close to extinction—I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again.

I would conjure up other verbs, other
images, other silent cries. It still was not right. But what exactly was "it"? "It" was something elusive, darkly shrouded for fear of being usurped, profaned. All the dictionary had to offer seemed meager, pale, lifeless. Was there a way to describe the last journey
in sealed cattle cars, the last voyage toward the unknown? Or the discovery of a demented and glacial universe where to be inhuman was human, where disciplined, educated men in uniform came to kill, and innocent children and weary old men came to
die? Or the countless separations on a single fiery night, the tearing apart of entire families, entire communities? Or, incredibly, the vanishing of a beautiful, well-behaved little Jewish girl with
golden hair and a sad smile, murdered with her mother the very night of their arrival? How was one to speak of them without trembling and a heart broken for all eternity?

Deep down, the witness knew then, as he does now, that his testimony would not be received. After all, it deals with an event that sprang from the darkest zone of man. Only those who experienced Auschwitz know what it was. Others will never know. But would they at least understand?

Could men and women who consider it normal to assist the weak, to heal the sick, to protect small children, and to respect the wisdom of their elders understand what happened there?

Would they be able to comprehend how, within that cursed universe,  the masters tortured the weak and massacred the children, the sick, and the old?
And yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it was to speak.

And so I persevered. And trusted the silence that envelops and transcends words. Knowing all the while that any one of the fields of ashes in Birkenau carries more weight than all the testimonies about Birkenau. For, despite all my attempts to articulate the unspeakable, "it" is still not right.

Is that why my manuscript—written in Yiddish as And the World Remained Silent and translated first into French, then into English—was rejected by every major publisher, French and American, despite the tireless efforts of the great Catholic French
writer and Nobel laureate François Mauriac? After months and months of personal visits, letters, and telephone calls, he finally succeeded in getting it into print.

Though I made numerous cuts, the original Yiddish version still was long. Jérôme Lindon, the legendary head of the small but prestigious Éditions de Minuit, edited and further cut the French version. I accepted his decision because I worried that some things might be superfluous. Substance alone mattered. I was
more afraid of having said too much than too little.

Example: in the Yiddish version, the narrative opens with these cynical musings: In the beginning there was faith—which is childish; trust—which is vain; and illusion—which is dangerous.

We believed in God, trusted in man, and lived with the illusion that every one of us has been entrusted with a sacred spark from the Shekhinah's flame; that every one of us carries in his eyes and in his soul a reflection of God's image.

That was the source if not the cause of all our ordeals.
Other passages from the original Yiddish text had more on the death of my father and on the Liberation. Why not include those in this new translation? Too personal, too private, perhaps; they need to remain between the lines. And yet…

I remember that night, the most horrendous of my life:
…Eliezer, my son, come here… I want to tell you
something…Only to you…Come, don't leave me alone…Eliezer…"
I heard his voice, grasped the meaning of his words and the tragic dimension of the moment, yet I did not move. It had been his last wish to have me next to him in his agony, at the moment when his soul was tearing itself from his lacerated body—yet I did not let him have his wish. I was afraid. Afraid of the blows.
That was why I remained deaf to his cries.
Instead of sacrificing my miserable life and rushing to his side, taking his hand, reassuring him, showing him that he was not abandoned, that I was near him, that I felt his sorrow, instead of all that, I remained flat on my back, asking God to make my father stop calling my name, to make him stop crying. So afraid
was I to incur the wrath of the SS.

In fact, my father was no longer conscious. Yet his plaintive, harrowing voice went on piercing the silence
and calling me, nobody but me.

"Well?" The SS had flown into a rage and was striking my father on the head: "Be quiet, old man! Be quiet!"
My father no longer felt the club's blows; I did. And yet I did not react. I let the SS beat my father, I left him alone in the clutches of death. Worse: I was angry with him for having been noisy, for having cried, for provoking the wrath of the SS.

"Eliezer! Eliezer! Come, don't leave me alone …"
His voice had reached me from so far away, from so close. But I had not moved. I shall never forgive myself.
Nor shall I ever forgive the world for having pushed me
against the wall, for having turned me into a stranger, for having awakened in me the basest, most primitive instincts.

His last word had been my name. A summons. And I had not responded.  

In  the  Yiddish  version,  the  narrative does not end with the image in the mirror, but with a gloomy meditation on the present:

And now, scarcely ten years after Buchenwald, I realize that the world forgets quickly. Today, Germany is a sovereign state. The German Army has been resuscitated. Use Koch, the notorious
sadistic monster of Buchenwald, was allowed to have children and live happily ever after…War criminals stroll through the streets of Hamburg and Munich. The past seems to have been erased, relegated to oblivion.

Today, there are antisemites in Germany, France, and even the United States who tell the world that the "story" of six million assassinated Jews is nothing but a hoax, and many people, not knowing any better, may well believe them, if not today then tomorrow or the day after…

I am not so naive as to believe that this slim volume will  change  the  course  of  history  or  shake  the  conscience of the world. Books no longer have the power they once did.

Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.

THE READER would be entitled to ask: Why this new translation, since the earlier one has been around for forty-five years? If it is not faithful or not good enough, why did I wait so long to replace  it with one better and closer to the original? In response, I would say only that back then, I was an unknown writer who was just getting started.

My English was far from good. When my British publisher told me that he had found a translator, I was pleased. I later read the translation and it seemed all right. I never reread it. Since then, many of my other
works have been translated by Marion, my wife, who knows my voice and how to transmit it better than anyone else.

I am fortunate: when Farrar, Straus and Giroux asked her to prepare a new translation, she accepted. I am convinced that the readers will appreciate her work. In fact, as a result of her rigorous editing, I was able to correct and revise a number of important details.

And so, as I reread this text written so long ago, I am glad that I did not wait any longer. And yet, I still wonder: Have I used the right words? I speak of my first night over there. The discovery of the reality inside the barbed wire. The warnings of a "veteran" inmate, counselling my father and myself to lie about our ages: my father was to make himself younger, and I older.

The selection. The march toward the chimneys looming in the distance under an indifferent sky. The infants thrown into fiery ditches… I did not say that they were alive, but that was what I thought. But then I convinced myself: no, they were dead, otherwise I surely would have lost my mind. And yet fellow inmates also saw them; they were alive when they were thrown into the flames.

Historians, among them Telford Taylor, confirmed it. And yet somehow I did not lose my mind.

BEFORE CONCLUDING this introduction, I believe it important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.

Earlier, I described the difficulties encountered by Night before its publication in French, forty-seven years ago. Despite overwhelmingly favourable reviews, the book sold poorly. The subject was considered morbid and interested no one. If a rabbi happened to mention the book in his sermon, there were always people ready to complain that it was senseless to "burden our children with the tragedies of the Jewish past."

Since then, much has changed. Night has been received in ways that I never expected. Today, students in high schools and colleges in the United States and elsewhere read it as part of their curriculum.

How to explain this phenomenon? First of all, there has been a powerful change in the public's attitude. In the fifties and sixties, adults born before or during World War II showed a careless and patronising indifference toward what is so inadequately called the Holocaust. That is no longer true.

Back then, few publishers had the courage to publish books on that subject. Today, such works are on most book lists. The same is true in  academia. Back then, few schools offered courses on the subject. Today, many do. And, strangely, those courses are particularly
popular. The topic of Auschwitz has become part of mainstream culture. There are films, plays, novels, international conferences, exhibitions, annual ceremonies with the participation of the nation's
officialdom. The most striking example is that of the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; it has received more than twenty-two million visitors since its inauguration in 1993.

This may be because the public knows that the number of survivors is shrinking daily, and is fascinated by the idea of sharing memories that will soon be lost. For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.

For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.

SOMETIMES I AM ASKED if I know "the response to Auschwitz"; I answer that not only do I not know it, but that I don't even know if a tragedy of this magnitude has a response. What I do know is that there is "response" in responsibility. When we speak of this
era of evil and darkness,
so close and yet so distant,  "responsibility"  is the key word.

The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.

E. W.


© Natalie Wood (04 July 2016)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Plagiarism? It’s Plain Theft!

Atlantic MagazineThe Atlantic magazine is a hugely respected literary journal whose influence spreads throughout the English speaking and reading world.

So when I learned from Book Marketing Tools that the magazine’s online edition had produced an in-depth study of plagiarism in self-publishing, I knew that  it would make a sobering must-read.

It seems that the phenomenon largely affects authors writing in the most popular genres of both fiction and non-fiction like romance novelists or food writers. But I know poets have also been the victims of what amounts to brazen theft and while I worry for all honest fellow writers, I must consider my own position. Few people have either the financial means or even the opportunity to sue their rivals. What could I do, I wonder, if something like this ever happened to me? I sincerely hope - while I continue to edit my collection of micro stories for potential publication - that I never have to find out! 

© Natalie Wood (22 June 2016)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Terrorism –Then and Now

It was Wednesday last week and I’d barely assimilated details of a terroristDigital Camera attack from the 1970s when I was assaulted by a barrage of fresh news headlines about the murders at the Sarona Market, Tel Aviv.

I’d been in Nahariya, northern Israel to hear the story of Mottie Zarenkin, whose entire family was wiped out during a raid in June 1974 by three men from the Palestinian Fatah terrorist group.

This was the first time Zarenkin had ever discussed his experience in public and when I later compared his account with that published online, it made me consider once more how time may heal but can also blur the distinction between actuality and the personal recollections of those involved in such incidents.


David.HazonyOn Friday, David Hazony, Managing Director of The Israel Project who also edits The Tower magazine, wrote to supporters thus:

Dear TIP community,

Wednesday afternoon, like many of you I was following closely the terror attack in Tel Aviv. At around 3 pm, I got a call from my wife that her dear cousin Ido Ben Ari had been shot twice in the back. She could barely speak. Two hours later we learned that he was dead. His wife Tal was also shot twice and is still in serious condition. His two teenage kids, had been there too but escaped unharmed.

Ido Ben Ari was a wonderful friend, a consummate prankster, a sales executive for Coca-Cola, a decorated reservist for the elite IDF Sayeret Matkal special forces, and a loving father. I got to know him and his family over the years. His father Avi, a retired air force commander, was in charge of the honour guard that received Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Ben-Gurion airport in 1977 - you can see him in the old photos. It was heartbreaking to see Avi yesterday, on the news, eulogising Ido, held by his loving daughter, surrounded by other members of my wife’s family.

The loss is devastating, and not just for those who knew him: for Ido embodied much of what I love about Israel.

In every grief cycle there's a phase of anger, and mine hit yesterday. The feeling of impotence, the frustration that I don't have the ability to personally get back at the people who did this to him, who did this to my wife's family.

And then I realised: I do. The work that I do at TIP is the greatest contribution I can make.

In Israel's history, the terror and the wars, and through centuries of persecution of Jews, violence was always coupled with a campaign of delegitimisation and dehumanisation. Blood libels, boycotts, lies. Without them, virtually none of the violence can happen; without it, Israel today could handily defend itself militarily and economically and could live in peace.

Sometimes it might feel like our small organisation is fighting an enormous, overwhelming combination of threats - threats to the West from those who hate America and democracy and liberal values; threats to Jews in France or Belgium or Britain or on American campuses; threats to Israelis from the stabbers, the shooters, the rocket-launchers and tunnel-diggers and boycotters. What unites them all is hatred, and a willingness to act violently against people whose only crime is to want to have dinner with their wife and kids.

For me right now, in the middle of this nightmare, I see my work at TIP being, first of all, about protecting the physical safety of many of the people I love: My children, my extended family and my wife’s, and the many wonderful friends I made over twenty years living in Israel. I know that TIP's fight is Israel's fight, and that we are playing a role that nobody else can.

Every one of you is vital. TIP’s blogging or research or coalitions or digital or work with the press and diplomats and partner organisations; every event we host, every anti-boycott bill we pass or viral video we produce -all of these, in my mind, are no less important for protecting Israeli lives than are Israel's own soldiers in uniform and diplomats in the field …

So I wanted to thank all of you …. In the thick of the events, it was hard to breathe much less communicate properly. Some have reached out with words of comfort in our grief, which were moving and irreplaceable. All of you, however, have earned my deep and enduring gratitude.”


Zarenkin, who lost his entire family in the attack, began by taking us to the scene of the massacre at 19 Balfour Street, where the terrorists arrived after sailing to the resort by an engine-run inflatable boat.

Digital CameraHis version is that the incident took place on the night of Sunday – Monday June 23 – 24 1974 when his wife and two daughters were murdered by the assailants and he was seriously injured by accidental military fire. One soldier was also killed in the attack.

The online report maintains that it began the following night “shortly after 23:00 on 24 June” and that Zarenkin, “who lived on the first floor of the building, feared that the militants would break into his apartment and had his wife, son and daughter escape the apartment from the bedroom window on a rope woven from sheets. 

“After reaching the ground, they began running toward the street, but were spotted by the militants, who shot at them and threw a grenade, killing all three of them. Zarenkin, who thought that he had saved his family, tried to escape the apartment as well, but was accidentally shot by Israeli security forces. Wounded, he returned to his apartment, where he hid until found by soldiers.” Digital Camera

Zarenkin, who still bears a deep scar from the bullet wound in his thigh, explained between tears that as he began to recover in hospital he determined to start life anew, remarried and had more children. I understand that his second wife also died and that he now lives in Haifa with his third wife.

But the truth is also that Mottie Zarenkin learnt how to remake his life from a very young age. As the four-year-old son of strong-minded east European Holocaust survivors, he was dragged through much of war-ravaged Europe and spent time in internment camps in Cyprus after his parents’ thwarted attempt to enter Mandate Palestine illegally. The family moved to Israel once independence was declared. Quite remarkably, Zarenkin’s father still lives, aged 99.

Mottie Zerenkin’s talk, hosted by Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Anglo immigrant Israel aid agency was arranged in conjunction with Tamar Pinto, Demographic Growth Coordinator of the Nahariya, Galilee Development Authority.

© Natalie Wood (11 June 2016)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

What a Lot of Bottle!

Wine06Take one enchanted evening.

Line with unreasonably pretty surroundings at the Baron’s Gardens, Rosh Pina, Galilee.

Pour in hundreds of wine lovers and watch the brew ferment as they’re left to sup and nibble the produce of 30 regional wineries, bakeries and dairies. Wine04

Add a pinch of well-played jazz and a dash of  imagination from Avihud Rasky, head of the town’s municipality and you’ve created the sixth annual Galilee Wine Festival.


You can’t bottle it!

© Natalie Wood (05 June 2016)

Monday, 16 May 2016

PerfectlyWritePoetry: The Right to Write in a Small, Still Voice

PerfectlyWritePoetry: The Right to Write in a Small, Still Voice: Charles Adès Fishman is a Pulitzer Prize nominated Jewish poet who lives in the United States. Smita Sahay, young enough to be his daughter...