Friday, DECEMBER 12, 2014 



As the veteran diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, the main share of Herb Keinon’s writing focuses on the serious meat and potatoes of Israeli politics, military affairs and foreign relations.

It’s routinely heavy material, neither light-hearted nor whimsical, but that doesn’t mean that Keinon can’t work ably and comfortably in the human interest department, too.

Every now and then, in his “Out There” column in the Post, Keinon exercises those less-called-upon skills. In his newest book, French Fries in Pita, he showcases some of the best examples.

Divided into four sections — one for each season of the year — the book is casual and breezy, often humorous, sometimes poignant or ironic, but always on target when it comes to describing what it’s like to be an immigrant to Israel.

Although he’s been an Israeli for decades now, Keinon remains keenly aware that he is an immigrant himself — a Denver native, actually, and a former intern at the Intermountain Jewish News — and his observations on the aliyah experience will be immediately familiar to anyone who has made aliyah, not to mention valuable to diaspora Jews giving serious consideration to the big move.

Many of Keinon’s observations have to do with Judaism (Jewish holidays especially) and many deal, not surprisingly, with the tension and peril that are invariably part of daily life in Israel.

But his anecdotes often focus on the sort of universal, close to home, even banal, routines and rituals of ordinary domestic life.

Somehow, it’s in these pieces that Keinon seems to find the best expression for his wry, often outright funny, wit. Check out the column entitled “Bowling for Burekas,” in which he highlights the differences between American and Israeli bowling alleys and etiquette.

Veteran newspaper readers in Keinon’s hometown of Denver might recall the columns of Rocky Mountain News writers Gene Amole and John Coit. This reviewer has no idea whether Keinon’s own writing was influenced at all by those eloquent Colorado scribes, but the observant reader will find familiar, and quite welcome, echoes of their writing in Keinon’s.

In virtually all of his columns, Keinon incorporates his family, underscoring how important his wife, children and parents are to him, and how much a part of his experiences as an Israeli he considers them to be.

Ultimately, family is the common thread that manages to tie together and harmonize the crazy quilt of Israeli life that Keinon portrays in French Fries in Pita. It too is universal, not to mention warm, often funny and always essentially human.

“French Fries in Pita” may be ordered on amazon.com. Chris Leppek may be reached at IJNEWS@aol.com.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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