About Near and Apparent
I chose the name 'Near and Apparent' in a not-so-humble attempt to pay homage to the greatest Hebrew writer of the modern age, and the most illustrious byline ever to grace the pages of Haaretz: Shmuel Yossef "Shai" Agnon.
Near and Apparent (Samukh Ve'nireh), released to the public in 1950, was the sixth collection of Agnon's works, many of which appeared first in Haaretz. The Near and Apparent collection includes my two favorite Agnon tales, "The Two Sages Who Were in Our City" and "Hemdat, the Cantor." Both stories are prime examples of Agnon's mastery of shtetl-lore, full of the humor, irony and richness that marked the life of the east European Jewish township.
But Agnon's Near and Apparent isn't just a collection of period pieces from a vanished world. The second half of the book contains a segment called "Chapters in the Book of the State", a biting satire on modern politics and officialdom, written during the years of the British Mandate in Palestine and in the very first days of the new state of Israel. The book ends with "A Prelude to Kaddish – A Eulogy for the Martyrs of Eretz Yisrael," which Agnon wrote at the beginning of the War of Independence.
The thread that binds all of these stories together is the role of the individual, and his challenges and perseverance in the face of indiscriminating fate and faceless authority. It encompasses the triumphs and tragedies, both personal and public, of Jewish existence among the nations and in Israel.
Most of what you read on Haaretz.com was originally written in Hebrew, the language spoken at most of the events that we cover. Despite the valiant efforts of our indefatigable translators and editors, words and meanings will always get lost in the translation, comprising an entire layer of understanding, culture and experience that often remains hidden.
But translation can also be an advantage, particularly with the richness and versatility of the English language, which affords us opportunities to add nuance and complexity, not always possible in muscular, Spartan Hebrew.
The original Hebrew title of Agnon's collection, Samukh Ve'nireh, is a Talmudic term denoting proximity to a town, and can literally be translated as "close and visible".
The English words Near and Apparent, though not the precise translation, contain an extra dimension of ambiguity, a sense that things may not be as they seem or are presented to us.
Challenging those near and apparent perceptions of Israel and the world around it is the essence of Haaretz journalism.