Matti Friedman to speak exclusively at Sydney Jewish Writers Festival

August 23, 2016 by Eli Levi
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Canadian-born author and former Associated Press journalist Matti Friedman will be speaking exclusively in Sydney this weekend as the guest of the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival before travelling to the Melbourne Writers Festival.Friedman has travelled from Jerusalem to Sydney for the SJWF 2016, and is currently promoting his newly released book Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story.

Mattie Friedman

Mattie Friedman

Pumpkinflowers centres on the contentious withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Lebanon in the late 1990s, and Friedman’s own experience as a soldier for Israel during that time stationed on an isolated hilltop outpost called ‘the Pumpkin’.

Friedman describes himself as “the first, and I fully expect to be the last, historian of this particular hill”.

“For many years, this hill was very important to me and was probably the most important place in the world,” Friedman has written since releasing Pumpkinflowers.

“If you map my mental landscape, the centre of that landscape is the Pumpkin.”

Friedman explains his motivation to write this book: “I thought that if I could nail the story of the Pumpkin and make it comprehensible, and make it understandable to people very far away, it would enrich people’s understanding of what has happened in the Middle East since this new century began.”

The book has received high praise already: The Jewish Standard has described Pumpkinflowers as “well on its way to joining the select group of wartime narratives that continue to grip and grate on the conscience long after they have been read, put back on the shelf, or passed along”; while the New York Times’ book critic Jennifer Senior described it as “a truly fine war memoir”.

The-Aleppo-CodexFriedman will talk to many of the issues raised in his book as well as the broader geo-political realities of the Middle East in the opening night session on Saturday August 28 at Bondi Pavilion.. The session entitled Israel’s battle lines with former Israeli parliament member Dov Lipman will discuss both the internal and external challenges faced by Israel.

Before Pumpkinflowers, Friedman has previously received great acclaim for his 2012 book The Aleppo Codex; as well as viral internet attention in 2014 for essays Friedman wrote in Tablet and The Atlantic about the ties between foreign press corps in Jerusalem and non-governmental organisations that results in media bias against Israel, and in early 2015 for a speech he made on the subject at the annual Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) dinner.

Friedman boldly stood up at that dinner and explained the systematic bias against Israel inherent in media organisations in his experience as a journalist covering Israel and the Middle East for The Associated Press in its Jerusalem bureau.

Pumpkin-Flowers“In my time in the press corps I saw, from the inside, how Israel’s flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased.

I saw how the threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination, even as these threats repeatedly materialised.

I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect by inflating certain details, ignoring others, and presenting the result as an accurate picture of reality.”

The video of the speech can be viewed here.

The Aleppo Codex, which traces the journey of the thousand-year old manuscript of the Hebrew Bible known as “the Aleppo Codex” through the Middle East – discovered hidden in a grotto in the Great Synagogue in Aleppo, Syria; smuggled between countries; and eventually arriving in Israel in the late 1950s. The book explores how 200 of the pages went missing, who was involved, and the cover ups surrounding the whole affair.

The Aleppo Codex earned Friedman the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the American Library Association’s 2013 Sophie Brody Medal, the 2013 Canadian Jewish Book Award for History, and the book was named one of Booklist’s top ten religion books of 2013.

An incredible speaker on all matters relating to Israel and more, Matti Friedman is a must see at this year’s SJWF!

_  _  _ _  _

Matti Friedman will be speaking in two sessions at the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival. In “Israel’s battle lines” on Saturday August 27 from 7:30-8:40pm, Matti will be speaking alongside former Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman about the challenges currently confronting Israel from all angles, moderated by Four Corners reporter Debbie Whitmont.

Michael Visontay will be in conversation with Matti about his own journey and experience as a journalist, soldier and now author on Sunday August 28 at 12:30-1:30pm in “Unearthing Israel’s hidden stories: In Conversation with Matti Friedman”.

Book your tickets now to see Matti in his only Sydney public appearance at www.sjwf.org.au!

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