Watzman, Haim 1956-
Watzman, Haim 1956-
Born 1956, in Cleveland, OH; married; wife's name Ilana; children: four. Education: Duke University, B.A.
Home—Jerusalem, Israel. E-mail—[email protected]
Author, editor, translator, and journalist, 1978—. Israel correspondent for British science journal Nature; former Israel correspondent for Chronicle of Higher Education.
Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature nomination, Jewish Book Council, 2007, for A Crack in the Earth.
David Grossman, Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1992.
Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1993.
Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete, (sociology), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.
Tamar El-Or, Next Year I Will Know More: Literacy and Identity among Young Orthodox Women in Israel (interviews), Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Yaacov Lozowick, Hitler's Bureaucrats: The Nazi Security Police and the Banality of Evil (history), Continuum (New York, NY), 2002.
Igal Sarna, The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives (biographies), Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002.
David Grossman, Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years after Oslo (sociology), edited by Efrat Lev, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.
David Grossman, The Yellow Wind (sociology), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2003.
Igal Sarna, Broken Promises: Israeli Lives (biographies), Atlantic Books (London, England), 2003.
Also translator of other books from Hebrew, including Elvis in Jerusalem, by Tom Segev.
Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel (autobiography), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor) The History of the Jews in Romania, Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center (Tel Aviv, Israel), 2005.
A Crack in the Earth: A Journey up Israel's Rift Valley, Farrar (New York, NY), 2007.
American-born Israeli journalist Haim Watzman has earned a strong reputation for his many translations into English of modern works originally composed in Hebrew. Most of these comment, to one degree or another, on the continuing violence of the Palestinian intifada and how that affects modern Israelis. In 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed, people throughout the world believed that the generations-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians was finally about to end. The decade after that time showed such hopes to be misguided. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Watzman's translation of David Grossman's collection of essays Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years after Oslo "chillingly, sometimes agonizingly, eloquent on hope's fading light" for peace. Grossman's own divided feelings on the subject of peace, wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, give his words "credibility, which, mixed with a heartfelt love of Israel and a courtly tone, lend the book an uncommon force."
The authors Watzsman translates also comment on the vagaries of life in modern Israel: the stresses caused by living in an immigrant society and the problems posed by the Holocaust, even now, more than half a century after the end of World War II. In Watzman's translation of journalist Igal Sarna's short biographies, titled The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives, the author and translator show how Israelis—who, despite their common nationality, come from a wide variety of backgrounds—cope with the pains and traumas of everyday existence. Sarna tells the story of one immigrant, dazed and confused following an automobile accident and longing for his native Russia, wanders off into the desert, never to be seen again. He describes a boy raised in an Israeli orphanage who, following a long career as an Army officer, finds his birth mother living as a Muslim in Jordan. "Together," declared a Publishers Weekly contributor, "these deftly written, often piercing stories form a complicated, sometimes contradictory tableau of Israeli life."
Watzman comments on his own situation, an expatriate American living in Israel, in his memoir Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel. As an observant Jew, Watzman struggled to understand the 1975 United Nations declaration equating Zionism—the goal of establishing a Jewish nation with its capital in Jerusalem—with racism. When he immigrated to Israel in the 1970s, he was drafted into the army and served on active duty for eighteen months. Over the next eighteen years, he spent at least one month a year in military service. His time in the army gave him a unique perspective on important world events, including the original intifada, the occupation of the West Bank, and the Camp David and Oslo accords, both of which were efforts to broker peace between the warring groups. "Watzman himself defies easy stereotyping," declared a Publishers Weekly critic, and the descriptions of the men and women he worked with over the years "is likewise unclichéd, affectionate but critical." The author's "bold … captivating accounts," wrote Ethan Pullman in Library Journal, compel reexamination of "the idea that fulfilling an obligation to one's country is absolute or that one's country must be immune to reform."
In A Crack in the Earth: A Journey up Israel's Rift Valley, Watzman tells the story of a trip he made in the valley of the Jordan River. "Part travelogue, part autobiography, part rough draft for future scientific articles," declared Daniel Orenstein in Israel News, "the book takes place along Route 90—the road that parallels Israel's eastern border, stretching from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona, passing through the West Bank, along the Syrian-African Rift Valley." The valley is unusual both historically and geographically: for decades it has served as a border between the nation of Israel and many of its neighbors, including the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan. The Jordan valley also marks the northernmost extent of the African Great Rift Valley, which splits East Africa from Ethiopia to Mozambique. "Blending science and faith," said reviewer David Brumer in his Brumspeak blog, "Watzman tells a story about geological phenomena, scientific analysis, archeological examinations, and philosophical musings through the distinct perspectives of biologists, zoologists, kibbutzniks, and other ordinary, modern-day inhabitants of the rift."
In his tour through the valley, the author-journalist examines not only the geologic history of the area, but also the cultural heritage that characterizes the people who dwell along its margins and the biological diversity of its bird species (over five hundred different species make their home in the region). "Watzman actually tells two stories—one explicitly of the Rift Valley and one implicitly of modern Israeli identity," Orenstein explained. "He covers geological history (going back millions of years), archaeological history (from the progenitors of our species who crossed into Asia and Europe from Africa, through Joshua and Jesus, to Salah a-Din and Crusader Raymond III of Tripoli), and modern Zionist and Israeli history of Rahel (Bluwstein) the poet and Moshe Novomeysky, the socialist engineer who first extracted minerals from the Dead Sea on a massive scale." "From the Israelites crossing into the Promised Land from Egypt, to Jesus being baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan, all the way up to modern Zionists like Rachel the Poetess—," Brumer stated, "these are the stories of the people that fascinate Watzman, and his infectious love of the land and its people enraptures us as well."
In general, critics celebrated the Israeli journalist's accomplishments in A Crack in the Earth. "Watzman," stated a Publishers Weekly contributor, "is a talented storyteller, deftly engaging readers interested in the Earth's constant evolution, along with those more likely to be interested in the humanity affected by it." "A graceful, erudite guide," declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "leads us across a fractured land." A Crack in the Earth, stated a reviewer for California Bookwatch, is "a fine blend of travelogue and introduction to the Rift Valley's politics." "This is a beautiful book," Brumer concluded, "that radiates a personal warmth and love of the land and its people. It is as uplifting as it is inspired."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Watzman, Haim, Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, March 15, 1993, George Cohen, review of The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, p. 1295; September 15, 2002, George Cohen, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives, p. 195; April 15, 2003, George Cohen, review of Death as a Way of Life: Israel Ten Years after Oslo, p. 1445.
California Bookwatch, October, 2007, review of A Crack in the Earth: A Journey up Israel's Rift Valley.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 2003, L.D. Loeb, review of Next Year I Will Know More: Literacy and Identity among Young Orthodox Women in Israel, p. 1023.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, p. 1288; March 15, 2003, review of Death as a Way of Life, p. 440; April 1, 2005, review of Company C, p. 410; March 15, 2007, review of A Crack in the Earth.
Library Journal, April 15, 1988, David P. Snider, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 73; March 1, 1993, James A. Rhodes, review of Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel, p. 94; April 15, 1993, Mark A. Raider, review of The Seventh Million, p. 111; May 15, 2003, Michael Rogers, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 134; June 15, 2005, Ethan Pullman, review of Company C, p. 85.
Middle East Journal, spring, 2001, Lawrence Davidson, review of One Palestine, Complete; summer, 2005, review of Company C, p. 514.
Middle East Policy, spring, 1993, Michael Rubner, review of Sleeping on a Wire.
National Review, May 13, 1988, David Klinghoffer, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 54.
New Leader, April 4, 1988, Harold M. Waller, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 18.
New Republic, June 20, 1988, Leon Wieseltier, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 29.
New Statesman & Society, May 28, 1993, Stephen Brook, review of Sleeping on a Wire, p. 37.
New Yorker, December 19, 1988, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 81.
New York Review of Books, June 10, 1993, Amos Elon, review of Sleeping on a Wire, p. 14.
New York Times, March 3, 1988, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 29.
New York Times Book Review, March 6, 1988, Walter Reich, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 1; March 7, 1993, Robin Wright, review of Sleeping on a Wire, p. 17; April 18, 1993, Lawrence L. Langer, review of The Seventh Million, p. 3.
Present Tense, November 1, 1988, J. Robert Moskin, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 57.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Yellow Wind, p. 78; January 11, 1993, review of Sleeping on a Wire, p. 50; February 8, 1993, review of The Seventh Million, p. 62; September 16, 2002, review of The Man Who Fell into a Puddle, p. 56; April 14, 2003, review of Death as a Way of Life, p. 58; April 4, 2005, review of Company C, p. 49; March 26, 2007, review of A Crack in the Earth, p. 74.
Brumspeak,http://brumspeak.blogspot.com/ (December 16, 2007), David Brumer, review of A Crack in the Earth.
Haim Watzman Web page,http://haimwatzman.com (December 16, 2007), author bio.
Israel News Online,http://www.haaretz.com/ (December 16, 2007), Daniel Orenstein, review of A Crack in the Earth.