“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” — E.M. Forster (and Omri Bezalel)

My writing contains the cultures I’m a part of, my beliefs, and many of my experiences. No matter the form — short stories, literary and journalistic essays, or screenplays — my words tend to explore the dynamics between the individual and the nation, examine the struggles we face between our desires and obligations, and introduce shades of grey into issues many people see as black and white.

I’m Israeli; I’m a soldier; I’m a veteran. I had to enlist and also wanted to — but once I was in, I wanted to be out. I feel obligated to ideologies that are in tension with my desires. While I also desire those ideologies, living up to them is hard; they are constantly tested in my day-to-day life and I feel I will eventually have to choose between ideology and self-fulfillment. I’m family oriented. My political and ideological beliefs sometimes put me at odds with people who don’t share them. Social injustices infuriate me but I’m aware I have been part of a social injustice — although in my mind it was justified injustice because I value security and protection above all else. I’ve always wanted to serve and defend my country — whether in the military or through my writing — while being aware the situation causes grief to innocent people on both sides. I see the tensions this creates within my cultures. In a sense, much of my work is about war and what it does, in one way or another. But it is also about how much of themselves people are willing to give and sacrifice to an abstract notion such as country or cause. It’s about loss. It’s about how relationships are affected.

I come from a country where kids are raised to love Israel and are required by law to enlist into the military when they’re eighteen (three years for guys, two for girls) and serve in reserve duty for decades after. Not serving can be a source of deep shame, though not always. Kids out of high school are given rifles and trained to kill and not be killed. But they’re also taught values and to differentiate between right and wrong. At eighteen, thrust into an impossible situation, it isn’t easy. Because every citizen knows at least one person who was killed or injured during military service, there is no disconnection in Israel between soldiers and civilians. On the one hand, that’s a good thing because soldiers feel less alone. But on the other, Israel becomes a country full of civilians for whom soldiering and war is a part of life. People think service begins the day soldiers enlist and ends the day they turn in their rifles. But in Israel, service begins when we’re born and it never ends. Soldiers carry the resonances of their service for years, if not their entire lives. I carry these resonances and it informs all aspects of my writing, no matter the subject.

My writing often revolves around this country that exists within its own harsh and unique political, geographical, religious, and social realities. I spent five years in an elite combat unit, and it has shaped — in a sense, even defined — my writing and way of thinking. For me, writing stories about how my characters grapple with that reality is still part of my service. Almost a decade after finishing my military service, I continue to explore issues within the country and military, how it affects familial and brotherly relationships, and mostly what it means in this place and time to do the right thing. My work isn’t about writing what I know, but rather figuring out what I know through writing. My hope is that my work will offer readers a different perspective and lead them to view these issues as complex and multisided.

2 thoughts on ““How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” — E.M. Forster (and Omri Bezalel)

  1. Hi,Omri,

    At KMA, when I had he rare honour opportunity too see you yesterday, your prophetic words were not necessary. Because, I could look through your shirt, see your heart, & the profound sensitivity & love that just poured out.

    You have been one of my greatest teachers, as you have been, are & will be to more people then you can possibly imagine.

    Because, you have a 13 Dan in the most important skill & the profound ability to teach it through your words, your smile. Your heart.

    And that subject is——-L. I. F. E

    THANK YOU,

    MAY THE MOST THAT YOU WISH FOR,

    BE THE LEAST THAT YOU GET,

    PEACE,

    Fred

    Like

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