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Ambivalence: Adventures in Israel and Palestine

A playwright goes in search of Israel as it really is.

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Canadian poet and playwright Jonathan Garfinkel had reason to be nervous. He sat in a Tel Aviv cafe the day after Israeli forces assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader and cofounder of Hamas. The city was on high alert, having already seen more than its share of horrifying suicide bombings.

All of a sudden, a crash rattled the coffee shop. Garfinkel jumped to the window. Ah, relief. Just a car accident.

“For the first time since I’ve arrived in Israel I see that people other than me are afraid,” writes Garfinkel in his deeply conflicted memoir, Ambivalence: Adventures in Israel and Palestine.

He’d landed at Ben-Gurion Airport just a few weeks before the March 22, 2004, Gaza attack that killed Yassin. It was the height of the second intifada, relations between Palestinians and Israelis were as bad as they had ever been, and Garfinkel was searching for a story about cooperation – and to figure out for himself whether Jews and Arabs could live together in one disputed land.

The idea for the trip had come about when an Israeli theater company suggested he write a new play about modern Israel, the conflict, and the psyche of the Jewish state.


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