Book Review Or Summaries?
The Israelis by Donna Rosenthal
- QLv 41 decade agoFavorite Answer
From Publishers Weekly
Today's headlines leave the impression there's little to know about Israel outside of its conflict with the Palestinians. Using Hedrick Smith's landmark The Russians as a model, journalist Rosenthal, with years of experience in and knowledge of the Middle East, defies that notion, giving an in-depth look at the rich variety of people in the Jewish state. Relying on dozens of interviews, she gives a lively, variegated portrait of all facets of Israeli life. Terrorism and relations with the Palestinians are covered, but so are secular-religious tensions, Ashkenazi-Sephardi divisions, Israeli Arabs and Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia. Throughout, Rosenthal stresses the contradictions in Israel: a country steeped in historical and religious tradition that is trying to develop a high-tech economic future; a democracy that many see as favoring its Jewish citizens above its Arab ones; a country ruled in some ways by a rigid religious establishment that also maintains thriving gay and lesbian communities. Rosenthal displays prodigious reporting and allows the people themselves-whether Jewish or Arab, men or women, religious or secular-to speak, and their voices are alternately despairing and hopeful, defiant and conciliatory. As a result, she captures an entire country, one full of flux and drama, in as vivid and nuanced a way as possible: a former male model turns Orthodox; an Ethiopian who "had never used electricity... until he was twelve" now designs computers. With the huge interest in Israel among the reading public, this is likely to find a sizable audience.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Depending upon the source of the report, Israelis are either portrayed to Americans as stalwart but beleaguered allies in the war against terror or frequently brutal colonizers determined to maintain control over justifiably resentful Palestinians. Of^B course, both images can be true, and both can be terrible distortions of reality. Rosenthal, a journalist, television news producer, and lecturer at Hebrew University, has written a broad portrait of a people and of individual Israeli citizens that is interesting, compelling, and often surprising. As revealed by Rosenthal, Israel is a vibrant and amazingly diverse nation. Ultra-Orthodox Jews wait for the Messiah and hunt down and abuse "immodestly" dressed women in Jerusalem streets. Nearby, twenty-first-century entrepreneurs break new ground in high-tech industries. Children of Bedouin families strive to carve a niche for themselves in a relentlessly modernizing society, while other Israeli Arabs struggle to define their identity in a Jewish state. This is a refreshing book that humanizes people and helps to counteract news reports that usually stress acts of savage inhumanity. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A light, breezy entertaining bit of pop-ethnology, fit to put on the shelf with such classics as Hedrick Smith's _The Russians_, Dusko Doder's _The Yugoslavs_, and Luigi Barzini's _The Italians_. Rosenthal interviewed an impressive cross-section of Israeli society, from all backgrounds and viewpoints. It's especially affecting to read the interviews with the young people, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, with their too-soon exposure to war's ugliness and their simultaneous brave hopes for the future. Caution: many if not most of the interviewees are pseudonymous.
It's a far-ranging book, with too many interesting foci to list completely: The decline of the collective ethic on Israel's kibbutzes. The insular nature of the ultra-Orthodox communities, and the painfully high human cost of leaving. The presence of ordinary vice and corruption, and how terrorists use the drug trade as a weapon of war. A potted history of Zionism, with many personal reminiscences of the 1948 war. Tours through the minority communities such as the Druze, the Bedouin, the Jews from Arab lands, and subcultures such as Russian prostitutes and gay Israelis.
Welcome inclusions are factual takedowns of widespread lies such as the Jenin "massacre". But polemics are not the meat of the book, the people are. It is very good to finally have some voices to put with the faces of this remarkable people. Let one of the interviewees have the last word:
"We're always in the headlines. _The New York Times_. CNN.
The BBC. We get more coverage than India. Than China. Than the entire continent of Africa. There's so much news about us, you'd think we're also a billion people, not six million. We're all the time on TV and front pages, so people think they know us. Unsmiling soldiers. Screaming settlers. Crying mourners. Bearded guys in black hats. Well, Israelis are much more than those photos. We complain about our teachers. Worry about exams. Flirt at parties. Wonder if we look good in our bathing suits. We curse at traffic jams and cut in line at the movies. We've got normal fears and dreams. Like young people everywhere, we want to find love and be loved. We're just normal people trying to live in this abnormal, tiny, beautiful country."
What a lovely book! On returning from my first trip to Israel not long ago, friends and colleagues were stunned at how totally I -- a liberal secular non-Jew -- had fallen for Israel, and especially for the Israeli people. No doubt I sounded goofily infatuated trying to explain the resilience, toughness, crusty directness, the kindness, the wit, the incredible Israeli smile -- see, there I go again.
Well, they're each getting this book for the next birthday, because Donna Rosenthal so entertainingly illustrates and elaborates all that I was trying to get across, and more. She shines a gentle but penetrating light on the contemporary Israeli culture and people from inside out.
This is a wonderfully written book, intricately but smoothly woven from anecdotes, interviews, vignettes, histories, and possible futures; it is a pleasure to read. Most highly recommended!
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- ridgleyLv 44 years ago
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