New book by Ori Alon
Read on Scribd or download as PDF at http://www.alfassibooks.com
A short non-fiction piece about my recent visit to Israel. Any literary magazine interested in publishing it – please send me a brief cover letter, a short bio of your publication and why do you think your magazine is right for my writing (up to 250 words). Submission fee is $7 (paypal to oribeacon [at] gmail.com). Due to a large amount of submissions I won’t be able to answer personally each submission, but I promise to consider any large or small publication without bias. Please share with your editors friends.
Five Days in the Holy Land
Five days in the holy land. It’s been more than three years since my last visit. I am here now, in America, a Jewish man who chooses everyday not to live in Israel. “I’m pregnant,” said the email that brought me here. And what’s here and there these days, what’s a promised land, what’s a cursed one? Give me your hand, said one leader to the other and so they danced naked in the forest while their people are still killing one another.
Rabbi Nachman, the 18th century Hasidic Rabbi left the Ukraine for his journey to the holy land. But he did not make it to Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself is an unfinished journey, trying to make it to all the dreams and illusions people have about it. One night I was walking out of the old city of Jerusalem. I cut my finger somehow, rubbed the blood on the walls of the old city pretending I’m the messiah, knowing how crazy it is. “If I’ll ever forget you, Jerusalem, my right arm would get paralyzed.” says the psalm that Jews have been chanting during the wedding ceremony, as they break the glass to remember the destruction of the city. Our friend Stephan thought it is a political statement and didn’t want to include it in his wedding. The convert lesbian Rabbi refused to conduct the wedding without it.
The Wall by Pink Floyd, that album flushed through my bare teenager soul. And here I am, some twenty years later, comfortably numb. I was once in a party in which they played Mami, one of Israel’s harshest protest songs: the story of a young Jewish girl that is raped by seven Palestinian workers. “We’ll fuck you ’cos we were fucked”. People danced, the land is being raped for centuries, the Greek, the Romans, the Ottomans, the British and the Jews all sodomize the land in one neverending occupation. They build walls and highways all over the ancient hills, but very few bridges.
I talked to a prophet in a cafe in Tel Aviv. He quoted this and that, explaining why it’s all bound to collapse, how capitalism, corruption and Netanyahu ruined Israel. One year there’s an election, the next year there’s a war, he said. But he didn’t look in my eyes while he was saying that. It’s over. The dream is gone. The skyscrapers, the alleys, the guns, the souls of the unprotected folks who had to die through all of this. The cause and the price we had to pay. Wars are always stupid.
A silly pop song, an American one. I remember the first Mcdonald’s in Ramat-Gan. I was ten, there was a one hour line in order to have a taste of the American dream. And now how I crave these hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the old city. The fig tree is poisoned, its fruits are filled with the juice of hate and intolerance. So are the dates, and even the hummus. And what makes a place? Its smell, its food, its music. Its ideas, its violence, its history. Cultures rise, cultures fall, it’s all just stories we tell ourselves.
There’s no privacy in Israel. In government offices and banks clerks scream questions about your private matters to the superviser across the hall, always giving you a sense that they’re doing you a favor. Everyone smokes there. The single justifiable war America had fought in the last fifty years completely failed to make its way overseas. It feels like everything can get blown away any second, and there’s always enough smoke in the air to make it evident there is fire. The tone of voice there. The fact that I don’t miss it so much. It’s been three years since the last visit, and facebook gives me a taste of home without the aftertaste.
The Hebrew in Israel is often broken. “Nahag, shtayim Akhora”, Driver, two back, said the woman who passed money to the shuttle van driver, a sentence that makes no grammatical sense, while passing to the driver twelve Shekels, six Shekels for each passenger who sat in the back. Languages have lives of their own, and so the Biblical Hebrew had to fit somehow into the shuttle van, the street and the checkpoint. Hebrew and Arabic make love for over a century, a passionate, forbidden affair. Bad words here and legal terms there, like semen and eggs.
Some things you just can’t translate; the puns, the context, the sense and the non-sense of a culture, they’re often untranslatable. But I’m writing this in English, I can’t express it that way in Hebrew, not anymore. “It’s scary,” told me an Israeli writer, a wife of, who suddenly found herself in New York. “And what if I won’t have any language?”
The air got thicker, another war started, it’s only a matter of time. The temple is broken, the heart still functions.
I gathered my childhood memories in a small, portable container. Kissed my mom goodbye and went over to the Duty Free store to get a popular book, The History of Tomorrow. I never thought I’d leave. Was never too excited to travel, always happy to come back. Maybe it was the war, or the pregnancy, or New York. Anyway, I’m here now.
Recently I started to make a comics strip using stamps, and here are some examples.
A comics strip sent to the NRA artistic director
The local usps don’t always like my artistic attempts to create comics stripes with stamps. This was my response.
I do believe writing is good for you, though I don’t always write one page a day. Making comics stripes is new to me, trying to phrase complex ideas into one sentence is a great challenge and very satisfying
Find out more about Alfassi Books and order the Facebook Statuses booklet, a handmade booklet collection of my writings on different social media platforms on which I usually make my comics stripes at www.alfassibooks.com
Ohh and before I forget, the new Magic Bagel book is coming soon! This will be the cover (find out more at the Alfassi Books website)
You can see more of my artwork and artistic services at www.alfassibooks.com.
The Magic Bagel is an interactive children’s book I co wrote with my daughter Maayan.
I helped about 20 writers to find typewriters, I’m not in touch with most of them but I know of a lot of great writing that was produced.
Here are some of the colorful handmade sketchbooks I make from old record covers, you can see more at the Alfassi Books website
In first grade I got punished for writing ‘they fucked’ in a story in my little yellow memo pad. I was trying to describe something I saw on TV, got sent to the principal office but was so scared I hid in the bathroom instead. Eventually a shrink stated that I was bored and should attend second grade.
I find the artistic form of writing creative snail mail letters on old typewriters the most efficient, fun and effective way to politely tell my first grade teacher ‘fuck you!’. Whatever shame or other issues she had around sex, she didn’t manage to stop me from enjoying to write like a little boy who just learned that craft, though after that experience it took me twelve years to explore creative writing again.
I enjoy writing letters. Especially in the past few years, as the Internet is developing so rapidly, I’m constantly exploring this ancient way of communication. I see text as material, like a toddler sees clay and letters and envelopes are one of my main playgrounds.
For about five years I lived in a beautiful old building at 31 Alfassi St. in West Jerusalem. The house was falling apart. Balconies got dislocated from the building, walls had scary cracks in them and leaks occurred every time it rained. The owner wasn’t interested in renovation and tried to cut the cost of basic maintenance. Our building was populated mostly by students who shared the 6 apartments and was known for its great roof parties and Shabbat potlucks.
Once an architect student pointed out to me that the cursive stairway created sort of a pier that wasn’t usable for living but only for aesthetics, and today no developer would build such a space. Soon after that conversation we brought some chairs and speakers and hung some artwork on its walls and the old stair room became one of my favorite places in the building. New stair rooms are often narrow, ugly and functional while the old ones are often beautiful and give an ease to the soul when you’re using them.
When the owner demolished 31 Alfassi St. and turned it into a condominium, I was already in Brooklyn. Like all of my friends who used to live there, I felt sadness in my heart, almost as if a friend passed away. The building had personality, the walls could tell our stories and we had so many precious moments that took place within those old brick walls. On my next visit to Jerusalem, it was already a construction site and I couldn’t get in. Jerusalem has lost many of its most beautiful buildings over the past decade, often to much higher and uglier buildings than the luxurious condominium that is now 31 Alfassi St, which is ugly in its own unique way.
Alfassi Books is a named after that building and it’s a publishing company that celebrates the opportunity of having old and new dwell together. It offers an artistic metaphor of what a renovation of 31 Alfassi St. might look like. Alfassi Books is devoted to writings and art projects that combine old and new ways of creative expressions like typewriters and Facebook, old records and ebooks. Alfassi Books offers services that seem to disappear, like snail mail writing help, but doesn’t hesitate using modern technology such as this website in order to show them.
Alfassi Books is an independent publishing house based on the gift economy model.
Alfassi Books products are offered for free via snail mail (what?? Are you serious? yes! let me explain)
Alfassi Books is based on the model of gift economy. The blood bank, Wikipedia and Freecycle are examples of gift economies, where people give their knowledge, blood or belongings not in order to receive money but for other reasons, usually to help strangers they’ve never met who might benefit from their action. There are many variations of gift economy. I chose to offer both a sliding scale if one wish to pay for a book/service and offer an option of giving some of your own time/money/talent to another cause you’d like to support. I wish to value art not as a commodity and I believe this model reflects that. Using that model I managed to raise $500 to Doctors Without Borders from the sales of the first Magic Bagel book, that I dedicated to a friend of mine who passed away a short time before he was supposed to start practicing medicine. I do have costs and spend a lot of time making this art, and I wish to at least cove my costs.
I don’t want to price the booklets and the services – each price might be too much for those who can’t afford it or too little for those who might not value something that is cheap. As for the letters writing service, some letters were rather silly or light and some were equivalent to a therapy session, some were very meaningful and helpful to the writers and some weren’t as much. I leave the pricing of such service to the receiver to decide how much it was valuable to him or her.
An average booklet cost me about $0.50 to make plus postage ($0.50-$0.70 within the US and $1.15-$2.20 abroad). Magic Bagel booklets are pretty fast to assemble while creating a sketchbook using a record cover is pretty time consuming. You can decide for yourself how to price such art based on how much you might pay for it. In book stores such booklets can go anywhere from $2 to $20. You’re welcome to either give something based on the hypothetical price you’d made or try to imagine the worth not in terms of money but in other terms that may speak to you depending on your point of view – love, energy, creativity, art, ideology, faith etc.
I’ve decided to give that model a try. If you’re interested the booklets, you’re welcome to order them and either make a paypal donation that’ll help me make more booklets or support a good cause that’s important to you by giving some of your talent/money/time for free. creating these booklets is a true joy to me and I’d like to explore the idea that art is, after all, priceless.
Sketchbooks and journals made out of old record covers
“Facebook Statuses”, a collection of my writings on Facebook. Mailed inclusively via snail mail.
“The Incredible Story of The Magic Bagel”, and “Around The World with The Magic Bagel”, interactive children’s stories that takes place in Beacon NY and feature a special kind of bagel with special powers.
A thank you letter from “Doctors Without Borders”
Part of “Letters, of all sorts” and a free service I offer occasionaly
2 letters from an on going art project, more details at “Letters, of all sorts”, a new snail mail letters collection. . Available through Skype as well. Please contact if you need help in writing a letter and for more details
From “A Jew Killed”, a short picture book memoir by Ori Alon
Work day at Alfassi Books
Coming soon – “Letters, of all sorts”, a collection of letters and artwork by Ori Alon
Alfassi Books products are available by snail mail upon request (you can fill up this form or email email@example.com)
Alfassi Books by Ori Alon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at themagicbagel.com.
בדרך לפגוש את מיקי
מנסה לצאת מתחנת הרכבת התחתית של כיכר ההסתדרות (יוניון סקוור) אל עבר מיקי שמחכה לי בכדי לצפות בהופעה. אני עולה במדרגות מהרכבת אל עבר היציאה ובדרך נמצאים –
א. קבוצה של כעשרים אנשים השרים בקול ובדבקות ניגוני הארי קרישנה
ב. אחד עם כיפה, מורה לביולוגיה שתלה שלטים שיש משהו שמוצא את הפתרון למשהו, משהו עם התנ”ך המשהו שהוא מנסה לפתור לו את המשהו. או יותר נכון התנכ”ב, הוא התכוון לברית החדשה.
ג. זמרת אופרה ששרה זמירות מתקופה אחרת.
עם שניים מבין שלושת אלה אני נקלע לפגישה.
בדרך להופעה אני עוצר בפלאפל. אני חושש שהבעלים ישראלי אבל לכל העובדים יש מבטא הודי כבד וזה הפלאפל הראשון שאני אוכל בארה”ב שמגוון האפשרויות העומדות בפני הסועד מרגיש דומה לזה שבארץ (אכלתי כבר פלאפלים טעימים כאן אבל לרוב אין אפשרות לבחור סלטים). העובדים בעלי המבטא ההודי לא מבינים את המבטא שלי ואני לא מבין אותם. דומה לארץ אמרתי? אפשר לבחור בין חמישה סוגים של חומוס, הפלאפל אפוי ולא מטוגן (זה הרבה יותר טעים ממה שזה נשמע ומרגיש הרבה יותר נעים בבטן) ובין התוספות השגרתיות יש גם פסטו, אבוקדו, ביצה קשה, זיתים, אגוזים, זרעי חמניות, קינואה, גבינה בולגרית ועוד. בקיצור – בלגן בפיתה מחיטה מלאה. אבל זה מה שפלאפל אמור להיות, זה מה שניו יורק אמורה להיות, זה מה שאני, זה מה שכל אחד ואחת עמוק בפנים. וזה נורא טעים.