Israeli soldiers patrol a Palestinian open market

Searching for Normal in Hebron

IT’S NOON ON A BLISTERING BRIGHT August day in the northern part of the West Bank city of Hebron. I’ve joined a crowd of some 200 Palestinians crammed into the lobby of a renovated two-story building on Ain Khairadeen Street for the grand opening of the Plaza Shopping Center. There are silver, blue and yellow balloons, a host of local dignitaries and gift bags with digital clocks for each guest. There’s a clown and a man in a brown animal suit of indeterminate species and dozens of smiling children in baseball caps and T-shirts, none of whom would look out of place at the Mall of America. First there’s a guided tour of the Bravo Supermarket—wide aisles, spotless floors, fruit and vegetable displays, bakery and butcher counters, and plastic shopping bags in Arabic and English pledging...

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Uncle Xenon: The Elemental Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks opens the door of his lower Manhattan apartment himself because his assistant, Kate Edgar, is in the emergency room with a twisted ankle. He looks somewhat befuddled, although he is expecting us. He is neither tall nor short, slightly round in the middle and wearing a button-down shirt, one middle button undone. His shyness, which is legendary, is evident from the moment he greets us, as he steps back awkwardly to make room for us to come inside. My 15-year-old son Noah is with me, skipping school for the opportunity to meet the writer behind The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, the new Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain and other volumes. Using the old-fashioned but powerful technique of medical narrative, with patients as heroes, Sacks’s work has bridged the...

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Baseball Chapel Grand Slam I was delighted to read Karin Tanabe’s October/November cover story on baseball and religion, “Is the Nation’s Favorite Pastime Pitching Jesus?” What a wonderful tone she was able to weave in while addressing the charged issues of Baseball Chapel, religious exclusivism and the need for wholesome support groups for at-risk young adult males. Tanabe’s handling of Waddy Spoelstra’s motivation for establishing Baseball Chapel was quite sensitive, and I appreciated the wonderful humor and constructive proposal at the end of the article. I was also engaged by Tanabe’s essay, “After Night in Sighet” about visiting Elie Wiesel’s house in Romania. For me, Night continues to be a work that I can use to help my students develop sensitivity to others, to experience the depth of darkness and horror of the Holocaust, while embracing memory without...

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