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Israeli author Lizzie Doron
Lizzie Doron: 'My protagonists, my heroes, are people who have to fight for their lives'Image: Anke Fleig/Sven Simon/picture alliance

Lizzie Doron: 'The situation is unsolvable'

Annabelle Steffes-Halmer
May 27, 2021

In an interview with DW, the writer says she will probably "die among her books." And as for the current flare-up in Gaza: The situation is tough to resolve.

https://p.dw.com/p/3txhq

Lizzie Doron had long written about the traumatic persecution of the Jews. But in 2015, the Tel Aviv-based author published Who the Fuck is Kafka, her first novel in which she gave voice to the Palestinian side of the story. This was followed by the novel Sweet Occupation in 2017, for which Doron interviewed former Palestinian terrorists.

Neither book found publishers in Israel. The 67-year-old is unpopular in her own country for openly advocating for peaceful understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. In an interview with DW, Doron explains why she doesn't foresee a solution to the conflict anytime soon.

DW: What is your view on the conflict?

Lizzie Doron: Nothing is new. It's more of the same. We have a new trigger every time. I can tell that the difference this time is the COVID pandemic, which brought us to our limits mentally. We are much more restless. We wanted to get back to normality. We were so happy with the vaccination and the success that maybe Israel was the first to overcome the situation. The war was not a huge surprise, but the timing was really awful. And this is the new situation. But wars, in a way, are our life.

But why did the situation escalate so much this time?

We had the illusion — maybe it was an illusion — that there was a kind of solidarity in society during the pandemic days. We found that we had the same enemies, in a way. You know, a virus is a big enemy. I felt that this was the beginning of a new era and I thought also about the process of finding a cure. The vaccination — it was a global solution. It was not just a solution connected to a country, to religion, to a certain people. We all fought together for the continuity of our life.

A woman is vaccinated at a Tel Aviv bar.
Israel has been doing everything it can to quickly vaccinate its population Image: Corinna Kern/REUTERS

I can say that life came back too soon. We learned nothing, and because of the frustration and the hard times of the coronavirus pandemic, we were more aggressive. It caused us to drop all the boundaries and the limitations, combined with the need of politicians to be strong. As I understand them (the politicians), they are using people. They need them to be weak. They want them to rely on leaders, who control them.

In times of war, we need someone to lead us. I cannot make it [out safe] when I have to sit in the shelter. I want somebody from outside to save me.

Book cover of
"Who the fuck is Kafka" tells of friendship across conflict bordersImage: dtv

How do you cope with this situation of constant threat? Can you even think about working?

That's a good question. By the way, I sit here and the wall behind is our shelter. Every home in Israel has a shelter and my shelter is my library. There, I have 5,000 books and water. So, this is the joke of the family: "She will die with her books."

I am an obsessive writer. I write from morning till night. I think that my way of life as a writer has continued through 20 years of wars, sickness and difficulties. But I don't remember that I had any need to stop writing. During this war, I was sitting in front of the computer and I couldn't write a letter, not a word. I was just so depressed, in a way. You know, I'm almost 70. I remember my life full of wars: I was a child in a war, I was a mom in a war and now I am a grandmother in a war. I feel that it's endless and that maybe it's not the place for the future of my family. 

You became known with books about the Holocaust. Then you met a Palestinian filmmaker. In your book Who the Fuck Is Kafka, you shed light on whether friendship between an Israeli and a Palestinian is possible. In Sweet Occupation, you interviewed former Palestinian terrorists. How did it come about that you let "the other side" have its say?

I think that first, it was easiest for me to tell my own story, but then I felt that my neighbor, the one who is under occupation, probably has a similar story to tell about the dream to be free, about the dream to have a country and to raise a family in a peaceful, open life.

Israeli and Palestinian activists have long campaigned together against settlement expansion in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.
Israeli and Palestinian activists have long campaigned together against settlement expansion in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in JerusalemImage: Tania Kraemer/DW

And I think that I wanted to deeply understand people's feelings about the fact that their enemy had made a big change in their life. In my case, the enemies were the Nazis during the Second World War that destroyed all the history of my life.

Not comparable, but still, for a writer, the story is about Palestinians, and that Israelis came to their land, took their homes, and that they live under [Israeli] occupation. My protagonists, my heroes, are people who have to fight for their lives.

But you also have been seen as a 'traitor' by people in Israel…

I still am, because I was an icon of Holocaust storytelling and was obliged to narrate the [story of] Jewish suffering. At the beginning, they were very upset — my publishers and even my readers; when they found out that I was dealing with the story of my enemies, that was very hard for them to digest. Nevertheless, the Holocaust stories are very popular and are selling quite well. 

My new book [Was wäre wenn, German for "What if") will be published on August 20, 2021, in Germany. It's a story of a friend of mine who was against wars. I decided to tell the story of people trying to raise their voices in their own country, in their own place, but nobody is ready to listen. I hope that this book will, one day, find an Israeli publisher. A lot of people in Israel are trying to make a change, but we are in times when it's very difficult to listen to somebody else or to someone who is trying to change the consensus.

Is this your task as an author: to try to make a possible change?

I think an author can sow the seeds for another vision or another point of view. But we know that books by themselves or authors by themselves cannot make the change.

What is your vision of a more peaceful coexistence? How can that happen?

Maybe it's not the right time to give you an answer, because right now, I think there are situations in the world that have no solution. Most of the people from Western world want to find a solution. And, you know, there are religious people for example, who dream that God will solve their problems, or people who think that war is the solution. So, at the moment, I think that the situation in the Middle East is unsolvable; there has to be a huge change in people's behavior.

People have to fight for rebuilding Israel as a democratic country, and a free land for the Jews and the Arabs. But I cannot see we are at the brink of making this real change. It's a dream. For now, my answer is that we are in an unsolvable situation, but you can live in an unsolvable situation. We will live as we did in the past and people will make their own decisions, for the moment.