on ari shavit’s “my promised land”
ari shavit, a leading israeli opinion leader, columnist and writer, with a strong zionist descendence, recently published “my promised land. the triumph and tragedy of israel”, a passionate yet balanced and truthful account of what, why and how has israel become the nation it is today, both on domestic and international levels.
he recalls the story of israel from herbert bentwich (shavit’s great-grandfather) to today’s coloured and vivacious tel aviv and tomorrow’s middle eastern anxieties. he fully acknowledges the palestinian tragedy, and he talks in the most open way one can hear today about israel’s nuclear program, the nuclear power plant in dimona, and the technological boom that made israel march in one of the fastest growth processes one has ever witnessed. shavit gives a gruelling account on the 1975 settlement, on the peace movement, and on how the dynamics of the political scene in israel evolved throughout the 1990s. it openly talks about the way in which the youngsters of israel found their liberation in night clubs, and on how several israeli family businesses turned into giant corporations dominating the international market.
but, most importantly, ari shavit writes about fear. about the existential fear that drove israelis on this harsh piece of land in the middle east, that made the kibbutz an existing, functional reality, that transformed zionism in a way that its creators would have never imagined (nor accepted, most probably). the fear that gathered together jews from all around europe, that somehow put together left wing secularism and ultra-orthodoxy, ashkenazim, mizrahi and spehardi jews.
it is also worthy to get a closer look at shavit’s aproval of benjamin netanyahu’s policies and politics on the iranian issue, or the blaming process for israel’s failure to win over hezbollah in 2006.
the book has been criticised for depicting arabs as a very distant collective character, not being talked to enough. yet, the book never dares to be a fully objective account on israeli history, but a very personal one, of people that lived and made the israeli reality. an account of a promised land which failed to be perfect and sinned in the most brutal way it could have ever done.
definitely worth a read.
(and i might have found the starting point for my thesis. not to mention that one day i’d like to visit the yad vashem memorial in jerusalem.)