New Zealander McNeish found himself fascinated by a country ""where in wartime people say 'I'm so lucky to be here,' and in peace, 'I wish to God I wasn't.' then refuse to leave just for the pleasure of staying and making life impossible for one another."" And these 15 interviews with Israelis old and new are the result. Some of the testimonies are, predictably, about Israel-as-haven--like those of Erika Levin, a Siberian exile for 20-odd years, and Sylva Zalmanson, wife of the recently released Russian refusenik-hijacker Edward Kuznetzov, and Abba Kovner, author of the first manifesto smuggled out of the Polish ghettos to alert the world to the Holocaust; while natural under the circumstances, they are all abstractions. More willful (and often two-minded) arrivees include a young American from Philadelphia, a Canadian kibbutznik, the non-Jewish wife of an Israeli who has yet to feel really accepted. Most pusillanimous of all, on the whole, are the natives, the sabras (included uneasily in this category must be an Israeli Arab woman educated at the Hebrew University); they seem the most eager for change, the most flexible in their thinking, but also the fastest to despair.Into McNeish's melting-pot are thrown a few individuals--Christian missionary, an Entebbe survivor--who are merely odd, a sop for the curious; and as a whole the book never tries to orchestrate its dissonant chorus into a final chord. Still, the voices are manifestly recognizable as Israeli, which may be the point: contentious, proud, unmannerly, fierce, complaining, determined.