I’ll be in the US this coming winter, dates to be announced. There’s still time to book a talk or performance!
Book me for a talk or performance via the Jewish Book Council’s Read On Speakers Bureau
About the Necessary Stories Show
The new Necessary Stories Show offers dramatic readings of a selection of my stories. It’s a flexible and modular entertainment, offering stories happy, sad, and reflective, and can be adapted to any venue. I appear with my friends Jane Golbert and Annabelle Landgarten. Here are some photos, by Mizmor Watzman, from our performance at Jerusalem’s fabled literary cafe, Tmol Shilshom, in May 2016.
Plaudits for the one-man version of the Necessary Stories Show:
“Haim Watzman transports his audience both in time and place in an authentic, heartfelt and intellectually thought-provoking performance.” – Doris Traub, Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn
“Haim Watzman brings the Israeli experience to life in a way that a history book never can. He reminded me again why Israel means so much to me. Mr. Watzman’s program was at once funny, thought-provoking, wise and enjoyable.” – David Greenberg, Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn
To book performances, contact me by e-mail at [email protected].
I’m also available as a speaker on my books and stories, service in the IDF, and Israeli affairs. I’ve spoken at synagogues, and Jewish Community Centers, to Birthright groups, university Hillel organizations, schools, and student programs in Israel, as well as to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Selected Speaking Topics
“Sin Offering”: Israeli Soldiers, Sudanese Refugees, and a Talmudic Debate
“Sin Offering,” a story appearing in my short story collection, Necessary Stories, reenacts a debate by some of the greatest sages of the Mishnah, placing it in the mouths of a group of Israel Defense Forces soldiers assigned to patrol the Egyptian border. The soldiers’ primary mission is to prevent Sudanese refugees from crossing onto Israeli territory.
The Talmudic discussion argues the meaning of a verse from the Bible’s book of Proverbs. Five of the six sages seek to interpret the verse as one that praises the righteousness of the Jews and vilifies the evil of gentiles. Their leader, Rabban Yohanan ben-Zakai, rejects their interpretations and instead offers one that places gentiles on an equal footing with Jews.
In the story, the soldiers brief their commanding officer about a border incident in which one of the soldiers was bitten by a refugee woman. The soldiers have accomplished their mission—they detected the refugees before they crossed the border and sent them back into the Egyptian-controlled Sinai wilderness, knowing that they would probably be murdered there by the Egyptian army. Most of them believe they have done the right thing. As they report what happened, they also debate the meaning of the verse from Proverbs.
“Sin Offering” casts a spotlight on the moral dilemma faced by Israeli soldiers, and by Israeli society as a whole, in the face of the influx of desperate refugees from Africa. It also demonstrates how ancient Jewish sources, like the Talmud, can serve as scaffolding for a contemporary work of fiction.
Presented at the Washington Square Minyan, Brookline, Oct. 28, 2017, and at American University’s Israel Studies Center, Nov. 7, 2017
“Why Israel’s Horrible, Awful, and Really Bad Electoral System is the Best for Its Needs: An Explanation of the Coming Israeli Elections, the Parties, the Opportunities, the Dangers, and a Few Thoughts and Predictions.”
Haim Watzman, author, translator, Jerusalem Report columnist, and concerned Israeli citizen in good standing will offer a quick briefing on Israel’s electoral system, its historical roots, how it has worked over the course of Israel’s history, and how it plays out in Israel’s elections. Presented in February 2015 at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and as the opening Tzion Lecture in Cleveland, Ohio.
A Crack in the Earth: Turning the Landscape of Israel’s Rift Valley into a Story
In this slide show talk, I tell the story of my trip through the rift valley that stretches from the Red Sea through the Jordan River valley to the Sea of Galilee and beyond, and how it turned into a book. The raw material of experiences and library research became a narrative in which three geographic segments of the rift each takes on a theme. The bare desert of the Arava become a place where the rift is seen by people who study the physical evidence on its surface; the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley are disappointed utopias; and Lake Kinneret and the Hula Valley are the realm of myth, where stories move over the landscape.
Company C: Conscience and Duty
A major theme in Company C is my service as a soldier during conflicts in which I opposed the Israeli government’s policy. I served in Lebanon as an enlisted man and in the West Bank during the first Intifada as a reservist, despite my opposition to Israel’s occupation of these areas. My story of my doubts and questions, leading to my decision to serve as a soldier while protesting as a civilian, serves as a basis for a broader discussion of current trends in the army and in society, and about how I can be a committed Zionist even if I disagree with the Israeli government’s policies.
“Thank you so much for sharing your story and views at Cardozo. I think the event was a huge success and lent some much-needed diversity and passion to the debate over Israel-related issues on campus. I also think you handled the tough questions and some harsh feedback from a few attendees quite well. You conducted yourself professionally but at the same time came across very personable and approachable.” – Josh Gajer, Cardozo Israel Alliance, Cardozo Law School, New York City