Peace in Our Time

Originally published in Hebrew as a column in the Maariv-NRG newspaper, 2007.

They gathered on the abandoned seashore of Tel Aviv, dimly lit by a crimson sunset almost entirely hidden by the shiny skyscrapers across the waters to the west. Ten of them wore keffiyehs and ten – yarmulkes. The air was hot and humid. The fresh sea breeze cooled the new city on the artificial island to the west and largely remained there. What little wind reached Tel Aviv carried with it excess heat and a faint smell of frying shrimp.

The beach was littered with old plastic chairs, but the gathered men remained standing, silent, glaring hatefully at the glowing towers near the western horizon, the new city emitting irreverent music and unkosher food and an intolerable air of self-satisfaction. The oldest amongst the men remembered that in this, the new city wasn’t so different from the Tel Aviv of the past.

Eventually, someone broke the silence.

“This,” he said and pointed at the towers blocking the last rays of the sun, “this is what happens when people have no values. When no one cares for anything except for themselves.”

“This”, someone else answered, “is what happens when you demand peace no matter the cost. A coward’s peace. A dishonorable peace. This isn’t peace, it isn’t. It’s worthless.”

“And they took everything worth anything,” someone added. “They exploited this country, then ruined it, and then ran away to that godless, artificial place, the cowards.”

He turned his gaze towards the city beyond the waves. The top windows of the towers blinked in the dying light, as if insolently winking at him.

“Something must be done,” the first speaker said. Everyone nodded.

“Something must be done,” said someone else, a bit more emphatically. They all looked at the spitefully-joyous city, existing despite their best wishes, and then at the heavens that have ignored their prayers for years. Their frustration reached a boiling point.

“Something must be done!” they shouted, over and over again.

After some minutes the shouting gradually receded and someone hoarsely mumbled, “But what?”

“We’ll throw them into the sea!” said one of the Keffiyeh wearers.

“We all saw what happened last time you tried,” said one of the younger Yarmulke bearers.

“We’re getting better at it,” the first one answered. “Every dog has his day.”

“So that’s what you think?” Young Yarmulke said. “You better think again!”

He ran at his opponent, but their friends from both sides took quick action and separated them before any damage was done. The Keffiyeh wearer grunted and said loudly, “How, oh how did it come to be that Al-Yahood cowardly ran away,” he turned his head towards the west, emphatically, “and only you miserable bastards remained?”

“We are the true Jewish peoples!” the young Yarmulke shouted. “Only us, not them! Sinners! Assimilators! Haters of the true Israel!”

Eventually, someone silenced him by sitting on his chest.

“Maybe we could send commando motorboats,” said someone else, slightly more practical. “We can fill them with explosives, send them to their east shore. Under their radar. It’ll hurt, kill their tourism.”

“We tried it. Didn’t work. The entire circumference of the new island is filled with sonar and mines.”

“I know – we can use gliders!”

“Nope. They’ve got lasers.”

“What?”

“Check this out,” said a keffiyeh wearer who hadn’t spoken so far, and took a rifle out of his bag. 

“Relax,” he told the yarmulke boys who jumped at the sight of the weapon. “It’s just a demonstration.”

He pointed the rifle west, at a point above the shining towers. “Look,” he said, and pressed the trigger.

They couldn’t see the bullet, which was fired in absolute silence, but they all saw the flash of light which destroyed it well before reaching the farther shore.

“You’ve got to admit that they’re good, those Jews,” said one of the keffiyeh wearers. “They went away, built this New Tel Aviv, and left us stuck here with you zealots and with the holy places.”

You’re the zealots!” said one of the Yarmulkes.

“And they are not real Jews!” shouted another.

“Those Israelis.”

“Oh, fine.”

“And if you’re not into the holy places,” added another Yarmulke, “what have we been fighting for a hundred years for?”

“That’s the problem with this so-called ‘peace’,” someone said. “Those secular rich bastards took their money and moved away, left us here with a ruined country, and everyone wants a visa to their new city, instead of keeping the faith right here.”

“I know!” said one of the Yarmulkes. “Biological weapons! It’ll be like the ten plagues of Egypt, blood, boils, pestilence, death! I’m sure we can find some first-grade biohazard in Iraq or Eastern Europe or…”

His comrades silenced him and apologized to their friends-enemies. There’s always some fanatic who spoils everything.

“We can ignore them just like they’re ignoring us,” someone said. “We’ll fight here like men over the holy places and be done with it.”

But this idea, while theoretically fitting with everyone’s beliefs, did not practically appeal to anyone. Not even to the fanatic. 

Eventually they turned away from the western vision, got back to their homes in the mostly abandoned city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and went to bed, frustrated but rather unexcited. They’ll continue the discussion tomorrow. Something must be done.

And the city beyond the waves, proud and noisy, utterly devoid of morals, honor or respect for any religion whatsoever, continued its existence, unperturbed. One day something will be done, someone will do something. But until then – who cared?


Mingus X 5

Exactly 99 years ago, jazz giant Charles Mingus was born. To celebrate his birthday, here’s a short true story: At the age of 19 I was not yet a musician, nor aware of Mingus, and spent most of my time wasting the Israeli Air Force’s time, and resources, by pretending to be working. I used to read a lot on the way to and from the base, and one day got myself (yet another) science fiction anthology to fill the time. One Thursday, on the way home (I used to spend two or three weeks in the base before being allowed to visit home for a weekend), I read a weird story in that anthology: the protagonist took a drug which enabled him, for a few hours, to become Charles Mingus. I was intrigued. The next day I went to a CD shop (remember those?) and got me the most Mingus-y album I could find: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus. That night I listened to it, in my tiny room at home, and didn’t get it. I’ve never heard music like that before. But whoever wrote that story I read had such immense respect towards the musician, that I had to try again. I pressed the “Play” button of my old (even then) CD player, and promptly fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning I made discoveries: the first – the CD player was on repeat-mode, and the album played all night. The second – I’m in forever love with Charlie Mingus. Happy Mingus day, everyone! Do try this at home, kids!

UPDATE: The anthology is “Digital Dreams” (1990), and the story is “The Reconstruction of Mingus” by Phil Manchester.

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The Voice Remains

My new album, The Voice Remains, has just been released.

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2017

My 2017 in chronological order: moved to LA, found love(!), finished 8-years-long novel, finished new album, then new short film, lost some weight. Sorry, world, I know it’s been a somewhat rough year for you, but for me it was one of the best!

Nir's 2017

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Putting the Shirt in T-Shirt

I invented a T-Shirt which, unlike other, mundane T-Shirts, has a printed T-Shirt on it, on which another T-Shirt is printed, and so on and so forth, ensuring that, for the first time in the history of the universe, you can enjoy the full T-Shirt experience.

The Real T-Shirt

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My new site

is here.

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My First Halloween

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Transitional Literature

“So basically,” I said, “Tron is a version of Narnia in which religion was replaced by fake computer science.”
She didn’t answer. Further inquiry revealed that she was fast asleep. I still wonder whether it’s the religion or the fake computer science.

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Facebook is Kaka

The following is a monologue I heard in a bar in Tel Aviv about a year ago, poetized only slightly by myself, and now hastily translated into English. So there:

I don’t do Facebook / Facebook is kaka / I don’t / conform /
I am Romanian / my dad also / knows Romanian / I / don’t / conform /
don’t do Facebook / I told everyone / never / look / look at this nice dog /
in the picture / it’s so funny / it’s killing me / I / don’t conform /
We were in a hotel / in Romania / they told me / I told them / I don’t /
don’t know / Romanian / only my dad / knows / how would I know? /
But look / what a dog / eh? / it’s killing me /
look / look / look / look /
Here’s another / picture of him /
not my dad / the dog /
look /
Isn’t it funny / eh? / isn’t it amazing / eh? /
Isn’t it cute / eh? / isn’t it pretty / eh? /
I follow it /
on facebook.

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New York in June

“I like New York in June, how about you? I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?”
I love that song, but let me tell you, I’ve been to New York last June, and it was hot and humid and rainy and generally a mess, and therefore I hereby vote to change it to “I like New York in April”, but this kills the meter, so let’s compromise for, say, May, which leaves us with merely an awful rhyming problem, which can be easily yet dreadfully solved thus:
I like New York in May, how about ye?
I like a Gershwin Play, how about ye?
Thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience, please don’t lynch me.

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