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Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon (Ferenc Hoffmann), who maintained a column, “Had Gadyo” (“One Young Goat”) in Maariv for thirty years, for twenty of them on nearly a daily basis, was born in Hungary on this date in 1924. He narrowly survived in several Nazi concentration camps before escaping en route to Sobibor, after which he passed himself off as a Slovakian worker for the length of the war. Returning to Hungary under the name Kishont (to disguise his German origins), he came to Israel in 1949 and has his name modified by an immigration agent. Kishon mastered Hebrew within two years and launched “Had Gadyo” in 1952. Kishon became especially admired for his punning and word-play in Hebrew and rapidly grew into one of Israel’s favorite humorists. His books include (in English translation) Look Back Mrs. Lot (1960), Noah’s Ark, Tourist Class (1962), The Seasick Whale (1965), and two books about the 1967 war, So Sorry We Won (1967), and Woe to the Victors (1969). There were many more books (including collections of his plays) before his death in 2005, and his work has been translated into thirty-seven languages around the world. Kishon also expanded his creativity into film in the 1960s and was twice nominated for Academy Awards. In 2002, he was awarded the Israel Prize, “even though I’m pro-Israel,” he remarked. “It’s almost like a state pardon.”
“Israel is a country so tiny that there is no room to write its name on the world map. It is the only country in the world which is financed by its taxpayers abroad. It is a country of boundless boundaries. It is a country where mothers learn the mother tongue from their sons. It is a country where one writes Hebrew, reads English, and speaks Yiddish. It is a country where everybody has the right to speak his mind, but there is no law forcing anybody to listen. The State of Israel It is the most enlightened country in the region, thanks to the Arabs. It is a country where all the capital is concentrated in Jewish hands, and there is much grumbling because of this. It is a country where one can buy anything in the world for his money except an apartment, which is very expensive. It is a country of elections, but no choice. It is a country where nobody expects miracles, but everybody takes them for granted. It is a country where every human being is a soldier, and every soldier is a human being.” —Ephraim Kishon
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.