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Author tries To Start discussion

by Archives September 29, 2009

“A friend of mine, a cartoonist, told me that the essence of comedy is that you’re going in one direction, and then suddenly you stop and go in a different direction,” said Michael Tregebov, author of The Briss. It sounds like he truly took that advice to heart with his first novel.
The Briss opens with one of the most controversial things a Jewish child could ever do, in the eyes of their parents. “The first idea that came to me was a Jewish kid becoming a human shield [in Palestinian territory] and then it just struck me that it had to go a bit farther. And he had to fall in love with a Palestinian girl.”
Teddy, the protagonist, goes on a Birthright trip to Israel to settle down and meet a nice Jewish girl. But Tregebov, following his friend’s advice on comedy, sends Teddy off to the aid of the Palestinian resistance to Israel. Teddy and his sister Marilyn cause their parents, Anna and Sammy, a lot of grief. Tregebov, having set the stage, sketches the fallout from their behavior on their family and community.
He certainly has enough experience to draw on. Tregebov, a translator, has only visited Israel once in the seventies. He grew up in a tight-knit Jewish community in Winnipeg, where the story is set, though he’s called Barcelona, Spain home for years now.
The Briss is more than a dark, Hebraic family comedy, it’s Tregebov’s last attempt to reason with the community he grew up in on the subject of Israel. “I’ve been arguing with Jewish people about the plight of the Palestinians for many, many years and I haven’t been able to convince one single person. Either with documents, maps or any sort of rational, historical, political arguments; I haven’t been able to convince a single soul.”
It’s a topic that Tregebov finds taboo for most Jews. He himself isn’t allowed to discuss it at home. His wife, who is not Jewish, has banned the topic of Palestinians in Israel because of the consternation it causes. Tregebov explains that in a world where assimilation has become the norm for many Jews in the Diaspora, ties to the homeland of Israel have become an identifying bond for the community. With the memories of the Holocaust and the threat of extinction still fresh, questioning the existence of the state of Israel, or any of its acts, is avoided.
Tregebov believes his novel will always be “timely.” The ups and downs of the peace process, and the increasingly vocal opposition to Israel and the situation of the Palestinian people, amongst both international observers and Jews, have insured that Israel and Palestine remain in the headlines.
If going in a different direction is the essence of comedy, let’s just imagine that Tregebov would want the front-row seat to a pair of people adverse to discussing Israel and Palestine picking up his book, and starting a conversation about it.

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