No.65: Tel Aviv’s Spaceport

The following is a transcript of Episode 65 of the Identity/Crisis Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

David Zvi Kalman:
Hello, and welcome to Identity/Crisis, a show about news and ideas from the Shalom Hartman Institute. My name is David Zvi Kalman . I’m a scholar in residence. Today’s episode of the podcast is about science fiction. And whenever I bring up science fiction in Jewish contexts, I feel like I need to apologize for bringing something trivial into a serious conversation. Science fiction for a variety of reasons is often put on the margins of what is considered literature. It’s associated with children, associated with big Hollywood pictures and its premises often seem like they’re just about escapism. The truth of matter though, is that science fiction, and maybe we should expand that category and call it speculative fiction, actually matters quite a bit. It inspires people. It helps people think through complex ideas about the future. It’s a compelling way to conduct thought experiments. You can draw a line between the people who watched star Trek and Cosmos as kids and the people who end up becoming scientists later on in life, or who deal with ethics and the history of technology.

David Zvi Kalman:
There’s even an argument that science fiction actually matters more than high literature. There’s a book that I’m currently in love with called The Great Arrangement by novelist Amitav Ghosh. He makes the argument in this book, that literature, which is most highly valued, it’s actually the literature, which is least capable of reflecting the kinds of radical changes that our society and the globe are currently experiencing because the twists and the turns of that literature are really nothing compared to real life. So for example, good contemporary novels, aren’t supposed to be set in a world in which Miami is on the verge of being criminally flooded. So science fiction really matters. And in that context, I want to add one more thing, which is that Jewish science fiction matters too. The science fiction genre is maybe two hundred years old, depending on how you count. And basically for the entire time, Judaism has had a kind of special relationship with genre.

David Zvi Kalman:
Jews were involved in establishing early really science fiction publications. Hugo Gernsback, the namesake of the Hugo awards, which are basically the Emmys of science fiction, is Jewish. There were many Jews involved in writing science fiction, not just in the United States. And Jews also been a really important fan base for science fiction from the very beginning. That being said very little science fiction is about Jews directly. Although there are some notable exceptions. So what to make of it. What’s the value of science fiction to Jewish conversations, to Jewish science fiction itself? And that context I’m really excited to have on the show today, Lavie Tidhar. Lavie is the author of many, many works. There’s something to be written about science fiction authors and being extremely prolific. Many, many works of science fiction and fantasy. Some of which involve Jewish characters or set specifically in Israel. One of his novels, Osama won the World Fantasy Award for best novel and in the process beating out both a Stephen King book and a George R. R. Martin novel that was part of the series that was adapted into Game of Thrones. There’s more to say, but Lavie, welcome to the show.

Lavie Tidhar:
Thanks for having me, man. I mean, you bring up a bunch of great topics. How long do we have?

David Zvi Kalman:
We’ll go as long as we have. So let me start by asking you many people early on in life, who later on become writers decide that they want to be writers, but I’m curious how you came to science fiction as your kind of chosen genre.

Lavie Tidhar:
It’s a good question. I have no idea. And I often actually wonder where writers come from at all, because the only conclusion I’ve ever come to is that writers come from nowhere. They come from everywhere. One of my Israeli writer, friends is Shimon Adaf is, you know, very well-known as a literary author and poetin Israel is a big science fiction fan. And we grew up in the complete opposite sides of the Israeli spectrum. You know, I grew up on a kibbutz, a little kibbutz in the north. He grew up the son of Moroccan immigrants in the desert, essentially in this little town called Sderot. And he was supposed to be a rabbi when he was growing up. And at the same time we share the same books, the same culture, the same love for these obscure books that as you say no one really takes very seriously. And it’s strange. I think the only way I can describe it is some people have a weird take on the world and then you search the books that have that same weird take. And you just see the world a little bit differently than everyone else.

David Zvi Kalman:
Your novel Central Station is set in a future where Tel Aviv’s major bus terminal, which is hard to far to big and mostly empty right now, has become a spaceport of sorts. So can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to set your novel in that state?

Lavie Tidhar:
Yeah, I mean, it’s a fascinating place is the actual reason. The interesting thing is we’re talking about this very Israeli book really that sets in Israel, setting the central station area of Tel Aviv that has all these obscure references as well to a bunch of Israeli literary works and science fiction works. And yeah, you know, I saw someone write about it recently, some academic and he said, you know, there’s nothing Israeli about this guy’s work despite his success in America. And I think my brother always makes the point that you’ll never be successful until you win a Nobel prize or an Oscar. And then you’ve always been the pride and joy of Israel. I mean, Natalie Portman, you know, was born in Jerusalem, but she’s got an Oscar. So she’d always pay a chosen daughter. I’m not in that position yet clearly. No, I was living there at the time, to be honest, I kind of came back to Israel in about 2010.

Lavie Tidhar:
I had this crazy idea of living there for a while and I lived in Jaffa, which was even then beginning to be gentrified, but was still an interesting place to be. And I just got fascinated by the central bus station area, which firstly, the building itself is this monstrous creation that if you look at the original plans were supposed to be some sort of utopian construction and turned into this absolute monster with its own nuclear fallout shelter. And at the same time, it’s the area where all the African refugees were placed that crossed into Israel. There were just dumped there basically. And at the same time you have all the economic migrants, the Thais, the Vietnamese, the Chinese, you know, the people that came to work some for many, many years. And it’s a very poor area. And I thought it was a fascinating area and it was a real commentary about the mix of cultures and the mix of people.

Lavie Tidhar:
And I thought I would be an interesting place to set a bunch of stories in or a novel. The thing was, I also knew no one in their right mind was ever going to publish this book. So I decided very consciously to treat it as sort of a mosaic novel. So I could write individual sections of the book and publish them separately in magazines or anthologies. So at least I would get something out of it. And to my surprise, once the book actually was finished, which took about six years to write, on and off, once the book was finished and we are a small publisher called Tachyon on in San Francisco, took it on it became relatively successful, which I can never understand. And you know, people always complain that it’s not really a book because it doesn’t have a plot, but which they mean that it doesn’t have an action-adventure plot that American science fiction has.

Lavie Tidhar:
Essentially a literary take that it’s just about small people. It’s about weddings and funerals. It’s a very Jewish book. And the other thing I wanted to do was kind of take it away from that idea of American science fiction, which is always about the individual, you know, the loan hero and kind of write about what it’s like to be Jewish or Chinese or Indian, indeed, that concept of the extended family, where you’re never alone because you’re trapped in a web of obligations and familial relations and you have an aunt who’s not really your aunt, but her grandmother was married to your grandfather’s ex-wife at some point in the past and your blood-relations ever since. And you have your messed up cousin, who’s always into trouble. You have that messy family. And that’s really what I wanted to write about. So I was very happy that it was well-received, but I was also very surprised that anyone read it at all.

David Zvi Kalman:
It sounds like what you’re saying is that you are trying to explore these things which exist across many, many cultures, but you’re exploring them through your own experiences through your own time living in Jaffa. And on that, I’m thinking about what it means for Jewish writers and Israeli writers to imagine the future of Judaism, of Israel. There’s a term Afro-Futurism and I’m not going to do the definition justice because it’s a complicated subject, but basically it’s an aesthetic and also a kind of philosophy in which Africans, and especially African-Americans look at the intersection of African culture and technology. Is there such a thing as Judaeo-Futurism? And are you a part of it?

Lavie Tidhar:
I think when you start off, you start of quite idealistic and you want to blaze the trail and lead the way and show how things can be done. And then you realize no one really cares all that much. And you just keep doing your own thing. I don’t know if what I do has any influence on anyone or whether, yeah, it’s very tricky. I think what I’m attracted to is trying to do things that haven’t been done before. And I know for like Central Station simply wasn’t done before. And I went to China, we launched it in China before the pandemic obviously, and when we could still travel and I made the joke that I said, you know, this is the best science fiction novel set in Tel Aviv. And it’s also the worst science fiction novel set in Tel Aviv because it’s the only science fiction novel set in Tel Aviv. Whereas you have a hundred novels set in New York.

Lavie Tidhar:
I mean, if I never read a book about New York, again, it would be too soon for me. So I try to do things that haven’t been done before. I would love to see other people do it. Now. I know there is Jewish fantasy being written and that sort of thing, but, but I still to this day, I can’t really find, even in my own work, I realized the other day, I couldn’t find any Israeli-set science fiction other than Central Station. And so I thought the only thing I can do is I’m going to sit down, I’m going to write a new story in that setting to see what I can do with it. Now, why it’s not being done? I didn’t necessarily know. You brought up the thing about American science fiction was so defined by Jewish writers. You know, Hugo Gernsback who began life as Hugo Gernsbacher from Luxembourg and he’s, I think the only Jew, whoever came from Luxembourg.

Lavie Tidhar:
He really started not just science fiction, but he started fandom, as we know it today, was his invention essentially. And we had Asimov and we had all these other guys, but they never wrote specifically Jewish characters or settings. And I think a lot of it was tied to the antisemitism, even the genteel antisemitism that was present. If you look at people like John W. Campbell, who was the most influential editor of the time in astounding science fiction. He was a horrible man. I had to read his letters recently for a book that I’m writing. You know, I had to research the golden age of science fiction quite a bit. And he was a horrible person. And then referred to Hugo Gernsback as Hugo the rat. That was his nickname at the time, which is incredibly, you know, anyway you look at it, it’s antisemitic, but it’s interesting that there isn’t, I mean, you get Jews popping up, but they’re always a bit weird. I don’t know if you remember the ending of the last book of Dune.

David Zvi Kalman:
I was going to ask you about that.

Lavie Tidhar:
It ends with the weird space Jews show up, but that’s always really confused me. The space Jews show up and then the books end and then there’s never another Dune book. I think he died. It’s the weirdistending to a series. So I don’t know. So what all I can do is really try and write things that haven’t been done. And if other people also choose to go and do that sort of stuff, that would be fantastic.

David Zvi Kalman:
Do you see your work as a kind of corrective then? Or is it just you looking for stories wherever they happen to be?

Lavie Tidhar:
Well, I mean, in a way it is a corrective. I mean, it’s nice to be able to point to an example of a science fiction novel set in Tel Aviv for instance. But at the same time, you know, when I started writing, I was writing short stories, which is still my main, you know, I love short stories and I think the best form for science fiction is the short story. So I was writing stories and I knew that my competition wasn’t another Israeli writers. My competition was the thousands and thousands and thousands of American writers, also writing short stories and submitting them to the same magazines. And you’re talking about magazines that might be going a thousand submissions a month and can publish one story. So I can’t write about New York or Nebraska or Chattanooga, but what set me apart from all those other writers is that I could write about things I can write about. And so I used very consciously as that’s the thing that sets me apart that I can write authentically, I can write honestly, about places that are very rarely explored or completely unknown in Anglophone literature. So there’s still a lot in that. There’s still a lot I can do. And I keep exploring that with different works.

David Zvi Kalman:
Yeah. I mean, in that I feel like your work is in some ways, part of the same new wave of science fiction that you see in novelist like N. K. Jemison, who’s a black woman who wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, which received a Hugo award for each volume of the trilogy, which is unprecedented in the Hugo’s history. And Nnedi Okafor who received aclaim for her novella Binti as a way of kind of having science fiction speak to cultures that previously the authors, even if they had heard of those cultures, didn’t want to enter into the work. I actually want to go back to that rabbi and those Jews at the very end of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, because when I was a kid and I read that it was so striking to me that some time and possibly far in the future, there are still recognizably, basically Orthodox Jews.

David Zvi Kalman:
And I feel like that’s the way in which Jews come across differently in science, fiction than other religions too. I think Christianity in a lot of the science fiction that I’ve read doesn’t do very well. There’s a kind of conflation of Christianity with anti-rationalism. And because I think a lot of science fiction authors are used to rationality and new possibilities they don’t do so well. And I think Islam so recently has been underrepresented in general, but Jews, they exist at least. And I’m curious, first of all, why you think they show up that way, but what you think that says about people’s expectations for the future of Jewish people.

Lavie Tidhar:
Well, I mean, I think the problem with Jews, you know, that’s a great way to start a conversation, isn’t it?

David Zvi Kalman:
Always wins.

Lavie Tidhar:
The problem with Jews. Well, because it’s not really one thing or another, it’s not just a religion because a lot of us are not particularly religious, but it’s not just a genetic disposition. We made up of different people and we have very different levels of faith. And the only way you can really define, Jews is as a tribe, you can become a member of a tribe. You’re not really encouraged, but you can become a member and you know, and we all argued all the time. So it’s a different concept. You know, Christianity is a religion. Ultimately anyone can be a Christian, there’s some good science fiction about Christianity in the future, but Jews are not just that are they? So it’s tricky. And also I think because we might not be able to take it that seriously as a concept. The one example I have is I’ve had this idea for years of writing an entirely Jewish space, opera universe, imagine star wars, which is pretty Jewish anyway.

Lavie Tidhar:
But I mean, imagine just Jews, everyone is Jewish and everything is defined by Jewish concepts. And I wrote a story finally, after years of saying, I’m going to write this story. I think the concept was that the Weitzman Institute in Israel, they invent some sort of portal into another galaxy or the universe. And they quietly just go through it for like 5,000 years. And so this entire galactic milieu is settled by Jews who sat on various planets and obviously become half of them are fighting the other off. And then the alien life forms are called the Treif. And there’s a big argument about whether an alien can be a Jew. You know what I mean? It already sounds like a bad joke. And the only way I could do it is to treat it completely seriously as a sort of classical science fiction story. Right? So people never got the story.

Lavie Tidhar:
People never got the joke because when you read the story on the surface level, it just reads like one of those old school action-adventure science fiction stories with planets and spaceships. But every single line is packed with jokes. People never got it. They never got it. I mean, I had jokes. The space ship was called the Veys Mir. The military has these Av-9 cannons that Tisha B’Av, you know, I thought it was very funny. No one ever got the, they never got any of the jokes. And then I read people reviewing the story and then they reviewed it very seriously in the saying, firstly, this isn’t Jewish at all. It reads very Christian because it’s all about a new beginning, a new Jerusalem and all that Christian imagery, which of course this is a reinvention of Judaism, but also kind of using it saying this is actually about the Israeli Palestine conflict, as they like to say, you know. I’m like, did no one get it? It was my greatest failure as a writer. I think to write something like this that I thought was actually quite clever and just have it fall flat completely. So I think maybe we’re just not ready for Jew in space just yet.

David Zvi Kalman:
And that’s interesting, right? Because in some ways the work like that is in conversation with other Jewish fantasies about having a land, all of their own, which is something explored, not as, quite as I like Michael Chabon and talking about Jews in Alaska, but also thinking about Herzl and imagining Israel as a utopian Jewish state and writing that kind of fictional account of the Jewish state. So I’m curious for works like that, who you imagine yourself in conversation.

Lavie Tidhar:
When I write science fiction, proper science fiction, it’s in dialogue with a lot of the old classical American science fiction. Yes. A lot less with Israeli fiction, although I do reference, but every Israeli science fiction that was, will find a reference in my work. One of my favorite being a couple of short stories from the eighties about sort of robots begging for parts in the streets of Jerusalem, which I’ve used extensively as an image. I just love that image.

David Zvi Kalman:
Say a little more. Say why he loved it.

Lavie Tidhar:
They just stuck with me when I read them years and years and years ago, you know, the robots in my stories tend to be the more Jewish characters, I guess they’re the ones that are still trying to find their way and find where they belong. And they’re not quite one thing. And then another, they’re al like they’re humanoid robots. They’re not us, but what are they? So I think they fulfill that role. But yeah, I don’t know if there is much dialogue. I don’t see anyone being in dialogue with me, if you see what I mean. So who would I be talking to? The other thing, if I go back to something you said in the introduction about how no one takes science fiction, seriously, that’s actually a bit of an issue because the work I do is actually quite political. It’s quite serious.

Lavie Tidhar:
I wrote a book called Unholy Land, which is an alternate history about the Jewish state being founded in Uganda. And then it branches out into other alternative versions of Jewish states along different timelines. I think it’s a very good book, kind of an underrated book. I don’t know if anyone really read it because it was read a science fiction. And again, you know, I read a book called A Man Lies Dreaming, which is my big Holocaust novel, which is about Adolf Hitler as a private detective, that he fell from power and he escaped to London as a refugee. And it becomes a private eye in the Philip Marlowe tradition, which I think is my favorite book probably. And it was not really, you know, I mean, okay, it’s a hard sell to say to people Adolf Hitler private eye, but again, you could start it with the problem with Jews, but I have that problem that once you say genre, it’s an issue because the other problem is the people who like genre they don’t want you to shove Hitler and Israel down the throat. They want the elves in the aliens, which is fair enough.

Lavie Tidhar:
And the people who do want to read about Israel, when, what do we do and the Holocaust? They don’t want to hear about aliens and elves. It’s a real problem that I’m not appealing to both. I’m appealing to neither at this point. So actually my next book to come out next year is I kind of said, okay, look, I’m going to write about Israel, but I’m writing about the situation, the people, the history, the things I know, but I’m not gonna do the weird stuff. I’m just going to take the weird stuff out for once and I’ll see maybe doing it that way you can be taken seriously because people don’t have the crutch to lean on. That says science fiction isn’t important.

Lavie Tidhar:
Even though to me, if you look at Israeli fiction and I’ve said that in the past, I find that completely dishonest because it’s pretending that everything is fine. Everything is normal. Don’t look that way. Don’t look over there. Don’t look behind the screen, you know, Amos Oz and all those writers. It’s just normal life when there’s horror behind every rock. And so I wanted to kind of sit down and write about the truth, the historical truth, and actually doing amazing research, you know, kind of uncovering things that I never even knew. It was a real education, but really just saying, can I do it without the weird stuff?

David Zvi Kalman:
Can you send synopsize the book a little bit?

Lavie Tidhar:
The new book, well, it’s literally, there’s only two people who have read it: my agent and my publisher, both of whom are overthe moon thankfully about it. It’s a huge historical epic it’s set over 40 years of Israeli history, starting with a car bomb attack in 2004, traveling back in time to a murder investigation in 1974, working its way through the invasion of Lebanon, the 1980s, up to the Rabin assassination and back to the two thousands.

David Zvi Kalman:
And it’s science fiction?

Lavie Tidhar:
No. So this is a serious novel. There’s no mutants or maniacs, you know, there’s no aliens or elves. This is a proper novel, which I object to personally. I think it’s ridiculous to say that, but this is the reality that we’re living in. So I’m excited about it. I think it’s a huge book and every word of it is true. I did not like things up. In fact, every time that I thought I can never even make something up because it’s too ridiculous. Reality goes twice more ridiculous than I could ever imagine that it would be. Which I think is quite appealing when you’re writing about real stuff. It’s always weirder than the stuff you would make up. Which is kind of a running theme in the stuff I have written.

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David Zvi Kalman:
Going back a second to that notion of science fiction as a genre in which it’s more acceptable to have catastrophes and truly radical or apocalyptic change take place, there’s a kind of irony in that the same genre, which allows for those kinds of changes is also a genre in which you can kind of play out real optimism, a sense of real positive change. You know, in Central Station, for example, I think people who are thinking about the modern state of Israel and one-state solutions or two-state solutions often come away feeling a kind of despair of what exactly will happen and how it’s possible to get out of the current predicament. And I think you’ve fast forwarded beyond the present moment to a future where yes, you’re a terrible things happen and there are good things that happen, but you imagine, yes, it is possible to have a kind of resolution there. And so I’m wondering if you imagine your vision for Israel’s future as more optimistic or more pessimistic or how you think about that far future?

Lavie Tidhar:
I actually messed up. Cause I didn’t realize this was an optimistic when I wrote it and not just optimistic in that sense, but in the technological sense. And I know people in Silicon Valley really liked the book because they were like, look, it’s this great shiny future where machines work. And we didn’t destroy the earth and everything is great. And then I thought, oh my that’s terrible. I didn’t mean to do that. Just because I loved the toys. I wanted to play with the toys of golden age science fiction. And I kind of made a mistake. Now I think the solution in Central Station, I came up with the idea of a Digital Federation. So you literally have Israel and Palestine intertwine, so you can have one street that’s under Palestinian control. One street is under Israeli control and the machines kind of just move you from one to the other.

Lavie Tidhar:
And everything’s fine. And the funny thing was, again, in the, you can’t make stuff up is shortly after I wrote that I saw someone was seriously proposing it as a viable solution. That was a short-lived movement, which had nothing to do with my book. It was just like an actual political proposal to have this Digital Federation. Yeah. I think being optimistic maybe is why people like Central Station. Whereas a lot of my other stuff is about terrible people doing terrible things. It was about actually people could be pretty good, but that was completely accidental. I’ve promised never to do it again. And I actually now, because I realized even I don’t have science fiction story set in Israel, like I said, we never really see beyond Central Station. I thought I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I’m writing this story at the moment that’s exploring what’s happening elsewhere.

Lavie Tidhar:
It’s beyond. And one of the ideas I had, because one of the things I’ve been fascinated with for a long time was that Israel is actually one of the main places when the Neanderthals lived. It was one of the first meeting points between Homo Sapiens and Neaderthals. And where I grew up was basically Neanderthal country. And they lived, I think there’s a cave in the Carmel, where the Neaderthals and the Homo Sapiens lived together and had children and quite a few humans now have Neanderthal DNA, some amount of Neanderthal DNA. So I thought wouldn’t be great if we brought back the Neanderthals and they lived in the Jezreel valley, that’d be fun. That’ll be interesting. I’d like to explore. And how do they interact with Homo Sapiens, which they’re probably not incredibly fond of at this point because they’ve already wiped them out once.

Lavie Tidhar:
So, you know, there’s plenty life for them. One thing I’d like to do is in an idea of what I would have loved to write one short science fiction novel a year, just to keep mapping things. And in fact the next one will be coming out from Tachyon on as well. It’s a book called Neon and it set in the Red Sea on the Arabian peninsula coast in this futuristic city. And again, kind of deals with the little people and the robots. It’s kind of my big robot novel and it’s very short. So I’d love to do more of that stuff. I’d love to keep exploring this made up future, future history they call it.

David Zvi Kalman:
So at the moment, you’re kind of a trailblazer in this field of explicitly Jewish, explicitly Israeli science fiction writing. I’m curious what you hope the genre ends up looking like in 10, 20, 30 years. How do you hope that it develops both in terms of its relationship to other kinds of Jewish literature, and then also in terms of the kinds of themes that you’d love to see.

Lavie Tidhar:
To be honest with you, I edit anthologies as well. I mean, one of the things I do is I’ve been editing and promoting, trying to promote international science fiction or speculative fiction because to me there isn’t much difference between science fiction, fantasy and horror and any of those fantastical genres. They’re all under the same umbrella.

David Zvi Kalman:
You mean the science fiction doesn’t strike you as being more Jewish than the other ones?

Lavie Tidhar:
No, not really, I think there’s some interesting Jewish fantasy, whereas there’s not so much Jewish science fiction, but there’s definitely interesting Jewish fantasy, but you know, I’ve been trying to edit anthologies I’ve just released The Best of the World SF volume one, which is this big hardcover anthology that collects writers from around the world. And one of the things that I would love to just see more of is I guess, Israeli science fiction that is both Israeli and science fiction, which I’ve been looking for. And you either get stuff like Shimon Adaf stuff, which is very literary, but too literary. And then you get the stuff that’s too Israeli, but not really science fiction-y. And I’m really looking for something in between. I’d love to see some of that. I’ve been reading some Arab science fiction. I think that’s really interesting. There’s stuff like Gulf futurism, that’s coming up.

Lavie Tidhar:
I’ve been looking at some Iraqi science fiction. That’s been a Palestinian science fiction anthology, or a couple of Palestinian science-fiction anthologies recently, which again, you know, look at the future and what possible futures that could be. And you know, just in terms of Jewish science fiction I think if anyone kind of went in and did that, I think it would be great just because we don’t really have that. I can point, you can point we both know the random examples. In other words, that guy, what is it? Joel Rosenberg wrote about Israeli mercenaries on a planet called Masada, which – terrible. There was one story that Robert Silverback did about a rabbi on Mars, or, you know, you can point to those Phillip K Dick wrote about a kibbutz on Mars at some point, but they’re so isolated and I’d love to see someone just step in.

Lavie Tidhar:
But the other thing is not many people actually write science fiction. People write fantasy. Like I said, we are seeing Jewish fantasy, but I’d love to see just some people give science fiction a try. You know, which again, it kind of needs to start with short stories because that’s really where it is. And I’ve no idea what it would look like because don’t forget the concept of being Jewish is also incredibly different between places. I’ve lived in England for 20 years. And I still don’t really understand British Jews. It’s a very different way. You know, it’s a very quiet way of being Jewish. Whereas if you’re an American ,American Jews are a completely different breed. And again, if you look at Israelis there the kind of Jews, everyone hates. They’re loud and brash and irritating. You know, the guys with the accent. And you know, one of my favorite experiences of all time, I think was I lived in Laos in Southeast Asia for a couple of years and this guy tracked me down.

Lavie Tidhar:
At some point he was like, you’re Jewish, right? He’s like, do you want to come over, and I think it was Passover or Hanukkah. We decided to have like a celebration. And this guy was Jewish. I think his mom converted to Judaism, which is unusual in itself that anyone converted and he was married to a Thai woman and he had children and he wanted them to know a little bit about his culture, where it comes from. So he kind of rounded up whatever Jews he could find in Laos. And we went to the Seder when there was not very kosher food I should say. And it was lovely because you had all these children there and the children would be half Jewish, half Thai, half Jewish, half Lao, half Jewish, half Tibetan. And it was that wealth of we’ve got Ethiopian Jews. And in fact, across Africa, you get so many Jewish tribes that we don’t really acknowledge. And you know, the state of Israel doesn’t want to acknowledge. They don’t want them to come over, but there are genuine Jewish tribes all across Africa. Part of the idea that Jews are everywhere. And I think so there’s so many different perspectives. I think whoever steps in and writes this stuff is going to be nothing like what I do. And I think that’s, what’s going to be so exciting about it. I’d love to read it.

David Zvi Kalman:
Send it to me too. And I recommend your work to all of our listeners. Really thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you, Lavie Tidhar. Identity/Crisis is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institue. It was produced this week by me and by edited by Alex Dillon. And music provided by So-called. Transcripts of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after the episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, please visit us online at ShalomHartman.org. We want to hear what you think of the show. You can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected] You can subscribe to our show on the Apple podcast app, Spotify, SoundCloud, audible, anywhere else, podcasts are available. See you next week.