Necessary Stories–The End of an Era?

Haim Watzman

Dear readers,

Illustration by Avi Katz
I wrote my first Necessary Story in April 2008. At the end of last month I posted the link to “The Azedarach Tree,” my 157th. At the beginning of this week, David Horowitz, the editor of The Times of Israel, where the stories have appeared for the last two years, regretfully notified me that his publication will no longer be able to serve as a home for the stories.

The notice didn’t come entirely as a surprise. From the start, it was clear that my stories would draw far fewer readers than the news and analysis that is TOI’s core mission. And, as we all know, money is tight in the news world. It’s been a privilege to appear under the banner of this fine news site, as it was during the column’s first eleven years at The Jerusalem Report. The Necessary Stories column has always been something of a throwback to a bygone era when readers went to newspapers not just to find out about facts in the world but also to read fiction. Some of our greatest writers, from Chekhov to Bashevis Singer, wrote short stories for newspapers, and I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to follow in their footsteps.

I’ve also had the special pleasure of reviving another part of that tradition, the collaboration between writer and illustrator. Avi Katz provided illustrations for most of the stories, pictures that added extra dimensions to my prose.

Today Avi posted on Facebook an illustration from the feature’s first year that seems oddly appropriate. It accompanied a satirical piece called “Move Over, Madoff .” I still find that early story amusing, but I think I’ve become a much finer and more complex writer over the years, and I hope you agree.

While I’d be delighted if another publication adopts the feature and enables me to continue writing a story every four weeks, I don’t think the chances are good in today’s media economy. In any case, I have many other projects to pursue, including peddling my play The Chair to theaters in Israel and overseas, and working on the novel I’ve begun. I hope you will remain on this list to receive occasional updates about these, and about other pieces that appear here and there. For example, I’ll have an essay in the upcoming issue of The Tel Aviv Review of Books griping about the fact that so many contemporary Hebrew novels are way too long.

In the meantime, take a look at the Guest Forum of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, where, in an interview , I talk about my thoughts on writing and what I’m reading these days.

And remember that you can read all 157 Necessary Stories on the Necessary Stories page.

It’s a pleasure having you as readers and I hope you continue to read my work in the future!