Mandelman’s probing third collection, the first published in the U.S., offers nine stories about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Pity” follows Mickey—a Mossad agent who appears in several of the pieces at various stages of his life—and his Moroccan colleague as they track a former Nazi war criminal known as “The Smiler” to a Paris neighborhood. Their goal: to abduct him and bring him to Israel for trial. Only if something goes wrong are they to kill him. The narrator, whose father helped catch Eichmann, has been trained not to have a soft heart. On the day of the operation, the former Nazi’s routine changes (he has his young niece and her girlfriends with him), and the operation goes wildly awry. In “Terror,” the young son of Auschwitz survivors living in Tel Aviv watches his five-year-old brother respond to another child’s taunts with violence. The injured child’s mother begins to beat his brother, and the narrator shames himself by joining the crowd of children who chant, “Serves you right.” That night his father, who has just returned from leading the first ever Israeli retribution operation against Arab terrorists who had attacked a kindergarten, thrashes him furiously for betraying his brother. “Test” takes Mickey through his final exercise before he becomes a Mossad agent. It’s a fake takedown in a Tel Aviv neighborhood. As his group waits on the roof for the right moment to “shoot” the target (with a camera instead of a gun), they’re distracted by a moaning woman who seems to be giving birth. They go to her aid, only to find she’s a decoy to distract them. “Mish-Mash” adopts a more comic tone, describing the mischief created by a winning lottery ticket in the household of the narrator’s uncle Nathan—his two wives, mistress, four children and the plumber who lives with one of the wives. In the title story, a retired Mickey begs to go along on the retribution mission against terrorists who attacked a kibbutz nursery.
Taut, nuanced stories that offer a rich multigenerational chronicle of Israel since its birth.