Sunday, December 27, 2015

In search of the book 'Surprise Balls' by Yoav Tsoor

The information below is from Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by Eyal Press (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012).

In 2003, Israeli soldier Avner Wishnitzer signed a letter that says "we will no longer give our hands to the oppressive reign in the territories and the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians. We shall no longer serve as a shield in the crusade of the settlements. We shall no longer corrupt our moral character in missions of oppression." (p. 110) He and his fellow soldier co-signers were asked to renounce their signatures, but they did not, so they were dismissed from the army.

Eyal Press describes this man's subsequent health crisis:

Two years later, Avner began to feel a nagging ache in his groin. He complained about it to his girlfriend, Hagit, who teased him about how little tolerance men had for certain kinds of bodily discomfort. He mentioned it to his father, a pulmonologist, who assured him it was probably nothing. The discomfort continued, so Avner made an appointment with a doctor, who ran some tests that explained why it hadn't gone away. Not yet thirty, Avner was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Before he was able to process the news, he was admitted into the hospital to have a cyst removed form the gland in his body responsible for the production of the male sex hormone. He spent several weeks recuperating at his parents' house, where he limped around like a geriatric and urinated into a bottle. When he laughed, a stab of pain shot through his body. At night, his mind raced with fears that the disease had spread. He dreamed of his own death, imagining his eyes hollowed out and his neck withered.

Since only one of his testicles had been removed, Avner was told he would still likely be able to have children. He drew comfort from a saying he'd learned from a Tae Kwon Do grandmaster he'd met in Korea who'd lost his son to cancer: 'Fall seven times and get up eight,' the grandmaster had said. But about a year later, in July 2006, Avner felt the pain in his groin again. He went back to the doctor for more tests, which revealed that the disease had spread. 'Fall seven times and get up eight.' Avner ran the adversity-defying phrase through his head while bracing himself for a second surgery, straining to hold his emotions together while feeling himself come undone. One night he rubbed the testosterone cream the doctor had given him into his arms and shoulders, and sobbed until daylight broke.

It was only at our second or third meeting that Avner mentioned anything about this. 'I had cancer,' he said, 'twice.' I was startled, not least since everything about Avner – his steely gaze, the muscles roping his arms – made him seem not just strong but indestructible to me. He was a level-three black belt who still practiced Tae Kwon Do six times a week, and also taught it. I asked Avner what kind of cancer. 'Testicular,' he murmured, eyes lowered. I didn't pry for additional details, and Avner didn't offer any, but the awkwardness of the exchange hinted at the peculiar vulnerability I imagined he must have felt. (pp. 117-118)

Avner Wishnitzer wrote a book called Surprise Balls. (In Hebrew letters, the title is ביצי הפתעה under the pseudonym יואב צור. Transliterated, the title is Bay-tsay Haf-taah and the author is Yoav Tsoor.) According to Press, the book is about Wishnitzer's experience with cancer and of the "macho culture" in the Israeli army. There does not seem to be an English translation available.

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