“Catch the Jew” – Catch its author

November 8, 2017 by Henry Benjamin
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He wrote a book entitled “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room” describing a six-month walking tour in contemporary Germany and followed it with a book on life in the Israel-Palestine region published as “Catch the Jew”…and now Tuvia Tenenbom is heading to Australia not to write a book but to be a keynote speaker for the 2018 UIA campaigns in NSW, QLD and WA.

Hanan Ashrawi with Tuvia    Photo:  Isi Tenenbom

So how did an intrepid traveller born in Israel and whose father was an ultra-orthodox rabbi manage to walk around the occupied territories freely and engage in private conversations with the likes of Hanan Ashrawi and Jibril Rajoub without revealing his true background? Read “Catch the Jew” and/or attend his upcoming lectures in Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.

J-Wire caught up with Tuvia by phone in Prague ahead of his trip to Australia next week.

JW:   You speak Arabic, German, Hebrew and English fluently but did you experience any sense of fear when talking face to face with Palestinian leaders?

TT:    You cannot think for a second what will happen if they find out that I am Jewish. You cannot allow fear to enter your thoughts. I spoke with them in English and Arabic. They don’t understand German. The know Hebrew…but of course I didn’t talk to them in Hebrew.

JW:  How did you manage to arrange a meeting with Hanan Ashrawi?

TT: That was a miracle by itself. There was a Jewish woman in Germany who supports Ashrawi and she asked my wife and I to meet her. The German consul arranged it. After the meeting Ashrawi and I were hugging and my wife was taking pictures and the people in the office saw this and they asked me if I wanted to meet other Palestinians…and I say ‘of course’.

JW:  So who do you meet?

TT: The people in the office introduced me to Jibril Rajoub and to many others. When the people in the office asked my name, I said ‘Toby from Germany’.

JW: Was there any difficult moments the you were in his company?

TT:  I phoned some German academics who were sympathisers and who live nearby his home where we met. He wanted me to talk with him and I was worried as my German  had a Yiddish accent. I knew they would know I was not a true German so I took the phone and I started speaking in Arabic “Allah Akbar” anymore things and then I gave the phone to my wife is Austrian and speaks perfect German. You have to be very quick. I had many experiences. You can be caught any time. You have to resourceful.

Tuvia with Jibril Rajoub
Photo: Isi Tenenbom

JW: Did anybody ask you for ID?

TT: Nope. In that country no-one asks. I was simply Toby from Germany.

JW:  You started the book in Israel, and amongst many experiences you spent tine with the haredi

TT:  Yes I started in Israel and with my wife Isi I would cross two or three times a week into the Palestinian territory…and that was over six months.

JW: How were the checkpoints?

TT:  Going to Ramallah from Jerusalem, the Israelis don’t check you…and the Palestinians don’t check either. But when you came back to Israel, the Israelis check on you.

JW: What passport did you carry?

TT: I didn’t carry any passport. It’s not a good idea to carry a passport. I have two passports. One Israeli and an American but that shows my birthplace being Tel Aviv. I carried only my German press card and an Israeli Press Office foreign journalist’s card.

JW:  Did you record the interviews?

TT: Yes. You have to otherwise people can deny them later.

JW: Have you had any repercussions from any of the interviewees?

Tuvia with the IDF Photo: Isi Tenenbom

TT:  Until the book came out in Hebrew no-one knew anything.  When the Hebrew edition was published Jibril Rajoub learned that I was a Jew and not a German and he tried to get me to go to Ramallah under false pretences….to make me an omelet or a hamburger out of me! I didn’t go.

JW: Did you swing at the haredi?

TT: I didn’t take any swing at anyone…Arab or Jew. I just wrote what I saw and heard.

JW:  So the idea is to look at the area through a stranger’s eye?

TT: Exactly. You have to remove all your prejudices and biases before writing. Another door opens you go through it and report what you see.

JW: Where is home for you?

TT:  Home is many places. Home is the planet. But is my first time in Australia.

JW: Are you going to write about your trip?

TT:  No. I am going to deliver the lectures. It’s a speaking engagement.

JW: What are other regions have you written about?

TT: The USA and Germany. I told those I met in America I was a German. If I told them I was Jewish, the style would not work.


150 books have been sent ahead of Tuvia’s arrival and he will be happy to sign copies to buyers in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

Tuvia Tenenbom has recently published a new book on the refugee crisis and it is heading the U.K. where he will start work on his fourth book on insights into its contemporary life.

Tenenbom is a theatre director, playwright, journalist, essayist and founder of the Jewish Theatre of New York

Tenenbom will be the guest speaker at UIA NSW’s 2018 Campaign Launch in the Eastern Suburbs on 13 November and North Shore on 15 November.

He will also present at a UIA Western Australia Major Donor function in Perth on 12 November, along with various other events, and a UIA Queensland event in Brisbane on 23 November

Other States will launch in the new year.


One Response to ““Catch the Jew” – Catch its author”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    Was Tuvia being genuinely friendly as depicted in the photos or just a smart ass.

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