Five Years on The Leftern Wall – Looking Back & Forward

Five years ago, I started this blog. I’ve checked in each year, on or around the anniversary – years one, two, three, four – to reflect, out loud, on what the past year has contained. This year feels bigger, and more transitionary in many ways, and so instead of just looking back on the past blog-year (which contained the least activity out of any of the past five years – more on that shortly), I thought I’d reflect on the past five years, as a whole.


It’s been quite a half-decade. Since starting The Leftern Wall, I’ve hyphenated my last name, after marrying Kayla Zecher, my best friend and my hero, who spends most of her days doing things that Donald Trump and his ilk would hate, providing legal aid to Asylum Seekers, humanizing the perpetually dehumanized. I’ve been sent to military jail for refusing to enlist in the Israeli military, helped start the All That’s Left anti-Occupation Collective (and been arrested twice with members of the collective for protesting occupation and segregation Hebron), moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and then back to Jerusalem again. I’ve protested against the 2014 war on Gaza, voted for Ayman Odeh’s Joint List, campaigned against the JNF’s planned eviction of the Sumarin family in Silwan, protested the Israeli government’s plans to demolish the village of Susiya. I’ve gone out to the South Hebron Hills with Ta’ayush, worked on building a Cinema in Hebron with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and Youth Against Settlements, marched in East Jerusalem with Free Jerusalem. I’ve been by my younger brother’s side as he bravely recovered from his near-fatal accident, mourned the death of my grandfather, Philip Rothman, and my friends, Baha Nababta and Leibel Fein. I’ve published pieces outside of the virtual walls of this blog in The New York Times, HaaretzSojourners Magazine, Middlebury Magazine, the Berkeley Journal of Sociology, and elsewhere, and tweeted almost 7,000 times. I’ve helped a coordinate, organize and edit a book project that will mark 50 years since the beginning of the occupation — and which now has a name: Kingdom of Olives and Ash, forthcoming from HarperCollins on May 30th, 2017. I’ve become deeply attached to our goofy wonderful dog, Silly, run three ultramarathons, and written a novel.


On a more qualitative level, I’ve written over 400 posts (this is the 410th),  which have been collectively viewed around a quarter of a million times (257,077 as of today) by 112,392 unique visitors.

The five most widely read posts were as follows:

9 Thoughts on the Matisyahu Disinvite, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism and Leftist Discourse

This piece, published in August 2015, generated a lot of buzz and controversy, was referenced by Vox and the Jewish Philosophy Place, and sparked a debate with the blogger Jeremiah Haber, both in the comments section of the piece and elsewhere.

Why I Refuse: On God/Love, Nonviolence and the Israeli Military Occupation of the Palestinian Territories

Published on October 14th, 2012, this letter was a more detailed take on why I was preparing to refuse to enlist in the Israeli military. I spoke and wrote more about that experience in the Times, Sojourners Magazine, Middlebury Magazine, at Kehilla Community Synagogue, and elsewhere, and it was covered in Haaretz, VICE Magazine, the Independent, and elsewhere, but this piece remains the most singular expression of where I was then, and what it was I was trying to say and do.

Before We All Sink into Despair (5 Thoughts on Hope After the Israeli Elections)

This piece, published on March 15th, 2015, feels resonant and relevant for this past week and a half, as I’ve watched with anger and horror as Trump and Bannon and co. have rolled out their obscene Muslim Ban, announced their plans for a border wall (and flirted with Holocaust denial, for good measure). I’ve also watched with energy and a measure of hope as folks have stood up against the new President’s bigotry and obscenity, during the incredible Women’s Marches, at the airports, online and on the streets.

Clarification: I do not think Palestinians are more moral than Israelis

Published during the height of Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014, this piece was in many ways a miniature manifesto (a minifesto?) about the values that were driving my protests, writings and activism against that war. More of those writings and actions here.

10 Things I Really Like About Living in Israel (Note: This is Not a Sarcastic Title)

This was one of the earlier essays I published on this blog, in June of 2012, following a friend’s genuine question: “you know I support you in the work that you do, but do you ever have anything positive to say about Israel on the public arena?” This was my attempt at answering that question then, and a lot of it feels relevant today, as well.


A few other posts that got a lot of traffic were:

10 Reasons You Should Never Visit the City of David [Again] (Feb. 2014).

“Take a Deep Breath and Don’t Touch the American Jews.” (Aug. 2016)

What to do when Rammed by a Man in an Electronic Wheelchair Fundraising for 10 Needy Holocaust Survivors (May 2014).

It was incredibly good to spend today in the West Bank (Oct. 2015)

Reflections on Histroy, Bigotry and Decency from Salonica, ke fue la Madre de Israel (March 2016).

What’s next? 

As some of you have probably noticed, my blogging has slowed down significantly over the past year, and especially over the past six moths. This does not mean I have stopped writing: on the contrary, I am and have been (and plan to continue) writing for hours almost every single day. That said, most of the writing is slower, thicker, stranger (and disconnected from the internet-er) than what I’ve blogged over the past years – I am writing mostly fiction, with a few essays, poems and other longer projects in the works as well (updates to come). In that vein, I am going to an artists’ colony in New Hampshire next month, to write and think and then write more, in the middle of snowy nowhere.

In other words, while the momentum behind this blog – the drive to write, to use words to make sense of realities and cruelties and idiosyncrasies of the world – has not faded, it has been transferred elsewhere. I will continue to hold onto this domain, and to post occasional updates or look-backs, but for the time being, I think that the hiatus I started back in December is going to continue, for a while.

I am beyond grateful to all who have read this blog over the years, either once or dozens of times, for the conversation, camaraderie, encouragement, challenges over the past half-decade. More soon. With a huge amount of love,