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  • Welcome

    Willkommen

    أهلاً و سهلاً

    ברוך הבא

    Maybe it goes back to my father the real estate entrepreneur uprooting our family from New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, and transplanting us to the strip malls of Phoenix. Whatever the cause, from early on I felt drawn in by disruptive and creative environments.

     

    I went off to college to Brandeis because the last of the generation of German-Jewish scholars, including Frank Manual, the one-legged veteran of the Spanish Civil War and an historian of utopianism, still taught there. It was Professor Manual’s suggestion that I continue my studies with the philosopher Ernst Tugendtat, his friend at the Free University in West Berlin. Each afternoon after class I crawled through a hole in the Berlin Wall and returned to a former Stasi apartment, which I squatted. During weekly meetings upstairs in the one East Berlin synagogue still standing after World War II, I grew close to a group of communists and ex-communists, anarchists, misfits, heretics, and non-conformists who believe in making the world a better, freer, more open place, opposing hierarchies, oligarchies, and jingoism. They, more than seminars on existentialism, taught me how to live.

     

    In East Berlin I wrote an unpublished novel, the first of many, and with my friend David I began the first English school in the former communist capital, a short-lived start-up interrupted when, upon exiting the synagogue, a gang of neo-Nazis clubbed us to a pulp. It was a real-life reminder of what Kant wrote regarding the “crooked timber of humanity.”

     

    From there it was off to the University of Chicago for a PhD in history. While doing research on my doctoral thesis in Jerusalem, I developed an enduring interest in some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs: German Jews who were too creative for most Germans of their generation. I stayed in Jerusalem to write more unfinished novels as well as a series of published biographies, in English, Hebrew, and German. Sometimes I found my subjects, and sometimes they found me. My (Hebrew) biography of Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israel’s booming high-tech industry, started with a cold call to Vardi’s home. My most recent book, An Improbable Friendship, began when the then-ninety-five-year-old widow of Moshe Dayan rang me up.

     

    Inspiring in others disruptive thinking unhampered by orthodoxies has become a passion. In the West Bank village of Abu Dis I helped launch the Bard-Al Quds University liberal arts college, where I taught Palestinian students creative writing, media studies, and a humanity’s core. Presently, I live in Tangier, Morocco with my wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Josephine, where I'm the academic director at the University of New England's campus in Tangier.

  • Current Project: Friendly Fire

    The first-person narrative tells the story of Admiral Ami Ayalon, the former director of the Israeli Shin Bet and a central character in the Oscar-nominated The Gatekeepers. It is the tale of a man’s odyssey from the kibbutz of his youth, to the Israeli Navy Seals, and eventually to the interrogation rooms of the Shin Bet. The journey produced in him a principled rebellion against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Labeled a traitor by some, the Israeli patriot is a fierce fighter for an open, democratic, and humanistic Israel.

  • An Improbable Friendship

    Currently published in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland. Hebrew edition currently on its second edition in Israel.

    From the publisher:

    An Improbable Friendship is the dual biography of Israeli Ruth Dayan, now ninety-eight, who was Moshe Dayan’s wife for thirty-seven years, and Palestinian journalist Raymonda Tawil, Yasser Arafat’s mother-in-law, now seventy-four. It reveals for the first time the two women’s surprising and secret forty-year friendship and delivers the story of their extraordinary and turbulent lives growing up in a war-torn country.

    Based on personal interviews, diaries, and journals drawn from both women—Ruth lives today in Tel Aviv, Raymonda in Malta—author Anthony David delivers a fast-paced, fascinating narrative that is a beautiful story of reconciliation and hope in a climate of endless conflict. By experiencing their stories and following their budding relationship, which began after the Six-Day War in 1967, we learn the behind-the-scenes, undisclosed history of the Middle East’s most influential leaders from two prominent women on either side of the ongoing conflict.

     

    Ruth, Raymonda, and I:

    I met General Moshe Dayan’s widow for the first time when she rang me up, said something about a “secret story,” and invited me down to Tel Aviv for a chat. I had just taken up a job teaching literature and history at the Palestinian Al Quds University, in the West Bank. I had no idea how Ruth Dayan had gotten my number or what sort of “secrets” she had to impart. She told me briefly that she had read Once Upon a Country, my ghostwritten book on the Palestinian leader Sari Nusseibeh (who was also my boss at the university) and thought I might be the right person to recount a tale she had been lugging around for decades: her friendship with Raymonda Tawil, Yasser Arafat’s mother-in-law.

     

    I took the bus down. Ruth lives across the street from a power plant, the municipal airport, and apartment buildings fueled by a building boom. Her apartment building is one in a line of nearly identical blocks. There is nothing in the clean middle-class, shrub-lined look of the place to suggest that widow of Israel’s Homeric legend lived upstairs.

     

    That began my friendship with Ruth Dayan. Over the following months, Ruth and I spent a lot of time together - my snickering Israeli friends likened my relationship with Ruth to something out of Harold and Maude. The two of us soon flew to Baltimore to spend a week with Raymonda. To write the book, with Raymonda I carried on a separate line of communication, over email and Skype.

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    “There are many powerful men in this riveting book: Moshe Dayan, Yasser Arafat, Ezer Weizman, among others, and enough intrigue, violence, and danger to fill a thriller. But the two suns at the center of this illuminating dual biography are brilliant, passionate, driven feminists whose unique friendship should serve as a model for international relations and people-to-people dialogue. […] Had Ruth and Raymonda been in charge, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have ended four decades ago. Think about that as you dive into this compelling story.”

     

    — Letty Cottin Pogrebin

    Founding Editor, Ms. Magazine

     

  • More on the Improbable Friendship

    The Friendship that Grew Out of War

    BBC News Magazine

    Click the image for a BBC News interview with Ruth and Raymonda. 

    A Dialogue of Civilization: Can Two Women’s Friendship offer Clues to Solving Political Conflict?

    Lecture at the University of New England's Tangier Forum for Global Studies

    My talk starts at the 10-minute mark.

    Besties

    Israel Story: Episode 14

    How Moshe Dayan’s wife and Yasser Arafat’s mother-in-law became bosom buddies, and other tales of unlikely friendships. 

    A Long Friendship Amid an Old Conflict

    Wall Street Journal

    Israeli Ruth Dayan and Palestinian Raymonda Tawil are the subjects of the new book, ‘An Improbable Friendship.'

  • "[Ruth Dayan] hopes this book offers a sort of case study, through her friendship with Ms. Tawil, of how things could be different.”

     

    The Wall Street Journal

  • Reviews and other Writings

    February 12, 2018
    The friendship of two captivating women, the Israeli Ruth Dayan and the Palestinian Raymonda...
    Read more...
    More Posts
  • Published Works

    The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem

    For the University of Chicago Press, I have completed translating, editing, and annotating the English edition of the Hannah Arendt — Gershom Scholem correspondence. The project is part of a larger research and book project. I am currently completing a book proposal with eight sample chapters of a dual biography on Arendt and Scholem.

     

    The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York recently hosted a performance of a selection of the letters. See YouTube for a recording.

     

    Link to Tablet Magazine review of the book.

    Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life

    Following weeks spent with Sari Nusseibeh at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, I traveled to Jerusalem to interview family, friends, colleagues, and even a few adversaries. It was only after crawling sufficiently into his skin that I began writing. Six months later, Once Upon a Country was complete. The New York Times would call it "one of the best personal accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever written."

     

    Once upon a Country, with Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, was awarded the biennial Siegfried Unseld Prize, presented by Suhrkamp Verlag in Berlin in 2010.

    I Seek You: Inside Yossi Vardi's Head (Hebrew Edition)

    During the Jerusalem Book Fair Yossi Vardi, a big man, approached me from behind, tapped me on the shoulder, and in his gregarious boom of a voice, congratulated me for the Schocken biography. My agent Dorothy whispered his name into my ear, though I already knew the legend’s reputation as the godfather of Israeli start-ups. Sergey Brin and Larry Page even credits him for giving them the “secret formula” for Google.

     

    We shook hands. "Thank you, Mr. Vardi." "Call me Yossi." "Well, thanks Yossi. Now what about the two of us working on my next book?" He looked intrigued. "What would be the subject?" "Yossi Vardi," I replied. My biography of Yossi would end up on the Israeli best seller list.

    The Patron: A Life of Salman Schocken, 1877-1959

    I stumbled across Salman Schocken while the stacks of the Regenstein Library, his name appearing in a footnote buried in a book on Franz Kafka. Already intrigued by innovative-minded German-Jewish entrepreneurs, I continued digging only to discover that I would have to go to Jerusalem to research his life. There, in the archives of the Schocken Library on Balfour Street, I experienced for the first time the thrill of the biographer: how from the dusty warrens of neglected files — thousands of letters, memos, pictures, and diaries — a long-dead man can stir to life. Schocken and I became so close that the dissertation and the subsequent book seemed as if they had been dictated.

     

    “Written with rare verve and psychological insight, Anthony David's biography of the patron of the twentieth century German-Jewish renaissance reads like a compelling novel."

     

    —Paul Mendes-Flohr, Author of German Jews: A Dual Identity

     

    "Anthony David has written an engaging and well-paced biography."

     

    The New Republic

    Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, 1914-1982

    My agent Dorothy Harman got me the commission from Harvard University Press to translate, annotate, and introduce the letters of Gershom Scholem, a man whose “tincture of mind,” as Cynthia Ozick phrased it, “colored the work of Harold Bloom, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, Patrick White.” The only problem was that Harvard wanted a single volume. How was I to select the letters from the thousands of pages of materials published in German? And how could the letters do justice to the enormity of Scholem’s personality, his complexity, his greatness and his flaws?

     

    I decided to present the letters in the form of a biography, the criteria for selection being the dramatic arc of his life from youth, through the First World War, his immigration to Palestine, the Nazi years, and the postwar decades until his death. Ozick’s New Yorker review of the book, while she praises the book for its “illuminating biographical summaries setting out useful links from decade to decade,” she rightly points out that “it is Scholem's uncompromising voice that gives this volume its unified force and striking crescendos. In their unstinting energy, the letters show a man exactly where he wanted to be, and conscious of exactly why.”

     

    "These letters record with admirable frankness how difficult it has been to live a life of the mind in modern times, when everything conspires against such an ideal. This volume should appeal to readers far beyond the narrow circle of those interested in Jewish history and Kabbalah."

     

    The Guardian

     

    In 2003, Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters was a finalist for the Kurt Wolff Prize, presented by the Goethe Institute.

     

    Die Infernos des Dr. Arno Stolz: Verrat - Mord - Liebe (German Edition)

    Lamentations of Youth: The Diaries of Gershom Scholem, 1913-1919

    Harvard University Press also brought out Lamentations of Youth, my volume of Scholem’s diaries, as part of its prestigious Belknap series. Adam Kirsch, writing in Tablet, said of the volume, “These passionate, tumultuous, deeply moving journals document the most important phase of Scholem’s life. … To look on as Scholem evolves his highly personal understanding of Judaism and Zionism is like watching a painter lay down the first tentative strokes of what will become a masterpiece.”

     

     

    Scholem's intellectual power was matched only by his powerful feelings, to which his diaries give free rein.

     

    — Jeremy Adler, Times Literary Supplement

     

    "Lamentations of Youth provides intriguing access to a young man's whoosh of ideas in a time when socialism, anarchism, Zionism, modernism, and cubism were revolutionizing the world. Scholem leaps rapidly from this to that, metamorphosing from an uncertain student at Berlin University momentarily thrilled by Martin Buber, to a more confident thinker, gulping down the writings of Tolstoy, Nietzsche, and S.Y. Agnon."

     

    — Barbara Probst Solomon, New York Sun 

    The Sky is the Limit: Al Schwimmer, Founder of Israel's Aircraft Industries

    In 2000 President Bill Clinton pardoned Brooklyn-born Adolph W. Schwimmer half a century after his conviction in a Los Angeles federal court for stealing surplus World War II machine guns, bazookas, ammo, and fighter plane engines from a U.S. Navy ordnance dumps, and smuggling the tons of equipment to Israel during its War of Independence in 1948.

     

    Schwimmer invited me to his Tel Aviv apartment because he thought it was time to tell his side of the story. Ironically, he wanted his biography first in Hebrew, a language he never learned to read or speak despite the fact, following his trial and conviction, he built Israel’s military industrial complex. The biography covers his role in the international smuggling operation in 1948; his work in creating Israel’s military industry, including purloining plans for an advanced French fighter plane, and working on a missile delivery system for Israel’s strategic deterrence — nukes; and his work with Oliver North in the Iran Contra affair.

  • Curriculum Vitae

    University of New England — Tangier

    Academic Director // 2016 - present

    I serve as academic director and creative writing instructor for the abroad students at UNE's Tangier Campus.

    Al-Quds Bard College for Arts & Sciences

    Assistant Professor // 2009 - 2012

    Sample of Courses Taught:

    • Creative Writing: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction
    • American Colonial History
    • Media and Society
    • Oral History
    • English Composition
    • European Politics and Culture
    • Academic and Professional Writing

    Project Leadership:

    • Created a creative writing and film program in East Jerusalem funded by US State Department (2013)
    • With University of Iowa Writers Workshop, I ran a long-distance writing project in East Jerusalem (2013)
    • With the British Consulate in Jerusalem, I organized and developed a weeklong digital media workshop (2011)

    Training:

    • Workshop at Bard Academic Writing Center, Summer 2010
    • Taught one-year long Language &Thinking (writing across the curriculum) course, 2009-2010

    • Language & Thinking training, Bard College, New York, Summer 2008

    • Language & Thinking training, Jericho, June 2009

    • Language & Thinking training, Abu Dis, 2009-2011

    Al-Quds University

    Assistant Professor for European and American Studies // 2007-2008

    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    Franz Rosenzweig Center Postdoctoral Fellowship // 2001 - 2004

    The Einstein Forum

    Fellowship // Potsdam, Germany // 2000

    The University of Chicago

    Doctor of Philosophy // European History // 1994 - 1999

    Dissertation: Making Culture: Salman Schocken and the Invention of Culture

    • Advisor: Professor Michael Geyer
    • Thesis won the Fritz Halber Prize (1989)
    • Mellon Dissertation Fellowship (1988)

    German Academic Exchange Service

    DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Fellowship // 1996

    Freie Universität Berlin

    Master of Arts // Philosophy // 1992 - 1994

    Thesis: Gottlieb Frege’s Über Sinn und Bedeutung und der Keukantianismus

    Advisor: Professor Ernst Tugendhat

    Brandeis University

    Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy and History // 1986

    • Summa cum laude, highest honors
    • Member, Phi Beta Kappa

    Berlin Language Academy

    Founder and Instructor // 1990 - 1994

  • Published Articles

    • “Gustav Landauer’s Tragic Theater,” Gustav Landauer. Anarchist and Jew, ed. Hanna Delf von Wolfzogen, Anya Mali and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Brill 2014 
    •  “A Liberal in Jerusalem: The Paradoxes of Sari Nusseibeh.” Z-Word, May 2008
    • The Apprentice,” American Prospect, June 2007
    • “Scholem’s Sabbatei Sevi,” Proceedings to the European Association for Cultural Studies, Toledo 1998, ed. Judith Targarona Borras (Brill Publishing, 2000) 
    • “Anthologisiertes Gedächtnis,” in: Erfahrung und Zäsur: Denkfiguren der deutsch-jüdischen Moderne, ed. Ashraf Noor.  (Rombach Verlag, 1999)
    • Introduction to Kafka’s The Castle (Schocken Books, 1998)

     

  • Works in Progress

    Novels: My unpublished novels-in-progress include The Gospel of Mo the Messiah, a satire on the politics of Israel/Palestine; and The Monkey King, set in today’s China.

     

    The Master and his Apprentice: A history of the German Abwehr in Nazi occupied Paris. I'm working on an expanded English version of Die Infernos des Benedikt Stolz, a dual biography in German. The book follows the true story of Benedikt Stolz and Hermann Keller, German Benedictine monks whose friendship ends as the Nazis push Germany, and Europe, into darkness and mass murder. Stolz fights the regime back through mysticism and exorcisms; Keller, through infiltrating the SS as a double-agent.

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