Allison Kaplan Sommer was born in New York, grew up in Barrington, Rhode Island, and graduated from Wesleyan University with a BA in Theatre and English, studying for a year in Israel during college. She received her masters degree in journalism at Columbia University, worked as a reporter for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, then became the Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. In 1993, she married Hillel Sommer, an Israeli attorney and law professor, moved to Israel, and continued writing for the Post until 2002. Allison is now a freelance writer and works for Israel 21c, a non-profit organization. She lives in Ra'anana, a suburb north of Tel Aviv, and has three kids: Eitan, 8, Naomi, 5, and Tamar, who was born on July 12. She blogs at An Unsealed Room.
Why do you blog? > I love to write and I want my writing to be read. I was a journalist at a daily newspaper for 12 years, and left it suddenly. Blogging filled the void.
What are your favourite blogs? > Obviously it's hard to limit it to three. I'll say Not a Fish by Imshin because it's my favourite Israeli blog; A Small Victory - not because I agree with Michele on everything, but because for me it epitomizes what a blog should be in terms of a mix of the political and the personal; and Chez Miscarriage, which is an incredibly touching and well-written blog about infertility, by a woman who calls herself Getupgrrl.
What are you reading at the moment? > Nothing, because I've got a new baby and I can't hold a book while I feed her. So I'm watching too much television - thank goodness for the Olympics. Last book I read that I liked was Wicked. I'm technically in the middle of reading Prague but can't finish it - too dull.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Pride and Prejudice - the mother of all chick literature.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Resumé' by Dorothy Parker.
What is your favourite movie? > Chicago.
What is your favourite song? > Anything from a Broadway musical: favourites include Sweeney Todd, Funny Girl, Les Miz and Ragtime. Musically, I'm a gay man in a straight woman's body.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Like many Israelis, over the past four years, I've shifted from the left to the centre on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though I still think of myself as left-of-centre. The big change is that I used to believe that the hopeless situation was just as much Israel's fault as the Arab world's and now I feel the finger of blame clearly points in their direction.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Women and girls are entitled to every basic human right and freedom that men and boys have. Sounds basic, but there are still too many places in the world where this is not implemented.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That Israel has no right to exist.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would make the Knesset into a body of direct representation American-style, instead of the parliamentary system. I see no accountability here of legislators to their constituents, and everything gets decided in smoke-filled rooms of political parties. I'd also set a gender quota system to force more women into the Israeli government, Scandinavian-style.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister (or President), who would you choose? > No specific names, but I'd love to see women as President of the United States, Prime Minster of Israel, and Prime Minister or President of the Palestinian Authority - all at the same time. Maybe they could work things out.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Currently, fundamentalist Islam.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Oh, I hope things will get better, not worse.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Live in and enjoy the moment as much as you can and don't waste too much time regretting the past or worrying about the future.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No. That reminds me: I went on a blind date with John Podhoretz that went badly in the first five minutes when he realized I wasn't a hardcore neocon. (Of course, I could be flattering myself; it could be that he just didn't find me attractive.)
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness and consideration for others: ownership of a conscience and moral code that keeps one's selfish human nature in check.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Laziness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To protect the physical or mental well-being of someone I care about.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I tend to assume that most women are morally superior to most men, though I know this isn't always true.
What is your favourite proverb? > This too shall pass. (It's the mantra of every mother of small kids.)
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching baseball games. Boring. I always end up eating too many hotdogs just to have something to do.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Terrorism and my kids' safety (often the same thing).
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Enjoy being single more, and not spend so much of it worrying if I'd eventually meet someone get married and have a family. I did – and now I see that I should have lived it up more back then!
What would you call your autobiography? > Drama Queen.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Kate Winslet, if she'd agree to gain weight for the role.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > In a penthouse on Central Park West in Manhattan.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Manhattan with an unlimited budget. Though I've never been to the Far East and would really like to go there.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Blogging, what else? Also theatre, movies, and restaurants – less feasible these days with the kids.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > I always wanted the name Elizabeth, but if I lived in Israel as I do now, no one would be able to pronounce it.
What talent would you most like to have? > An amazing singing voice.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Actress - a triple threat - acting, singing and dancing. I was a theatre major in college and if I felt I had more natural talent and a chance at making it, I would have done it. But when I was honest I realized I was a much better writer than I was an actress.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jay Leno. We get his show with two days delay in Israel. His monologue is the way I keep in touch with the zeitgeist in the US.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > A secure and peaceful Middle East. (Is that realistic?) If I was allowed to make the rest of the world secure and peaceful, I'd do that too.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd buy a home in the United States, and be able to truly divide my life between the US and Israel because I'd be able to afford to fly back and forth whenever I wanted.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of previous profiles, and the links to them, can be found here.]