"I opened a bookstore because I like to read.”

Chaim Dotan

Location: Book Shuk, Brodetski Street, Tel Aviv

Residence: Tel Aviv

Age: 70

The encounter: Chaim owns a small used bookstore in northern Tel Aviv. The small space contains thousands of books. The bookshelves are double or triple stacked, and towers of books balance precariously on the floor. But Chaim knows exactly where to find everything. When I asked to see a book he described as his favorite childhood story, he reached behind the piles of books and pulled out a tattered hardcover from a corner shelf. I felt pity for the unread book and bought it for my children. Now it lies unread at our house: none of us has been able to muster the discipline to read the solemn, overwrought Hebrew of those earlier years of Zionism.

What are you doing here right now?
This is my store. It has been since 1978. I sell both new and used books, in English and in Hebrew. Business is all right. It’s not true that people don’t read anymore. Even children still like to read.
I opened a bookstore because I like to read. One of the first books I ever read is called: “Two Friends Went on a Journey,” by Yemima Tchernovitz and Mira Luba. It’s a children’s book about the Holocaust: two Israeli children go back to Poland to rescue their sister, who was left at a Catholic monastery during the war. It was published in 1950. But nobody reads it anymore today. I don’t even know if my own kids have read it.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m a secular Jew.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have three children and four grandchildren. My children are all grown up... and so am I.

Where is your family from?
My parents are from Poland. They came to Israel in 1949. They survived the war in Russia, or, more exactly, in Kazakhstan. First they were deported to Siberia, and then they moved to Kazakhstan. They returned to Poland after the war. They actually had a pretty good situation in Poland after the war: my father became a big manager at a cooperative factory under the Communists. But my mom didn’t want to stay in Poland. So in 1949 they immigrated to Israel. I grew up in Tel Aviv.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
That’s a difficult question! I don’t know... That the situation gets better than it’s now? That we’ll have peace one day? But I doubt it’ll happen. Nobody wants to make peace... not on our side, at least. And I don’t think the other side wants to make peace either. On our side, for sure, they’re not interested in peace. Even if they say they want peace, they’re not doing anything to make it happen. I’d like to have peace, but who cares what I want? I’m done worrying about the future. It’s my kids’ turn to worry now.