A thorough, occasionally defensive overview of the young nation from inception to the present by an accomplished Israeli lobbyist and scholar.
The director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel, which sponsors this project, Rubin (The Truth About Syria, 2008, etc.) has marshaled many contributors in this fairly evenhanded survey of the many rich and complex facets of Israeli history, society, government, economics and culture. He establishes immediately that “a great deal about Israel is controversial,” and confronts the issues in a straightforward manner. Such issues include existential insecurity, ongoing Palestinian conflict, fluid borders, diverse immigrant population, living with daily terrorist violence and the sense of being “misunderstood by outside observers.” He reminds readers that Jews even in exile acted as a “national people, arguably the first such in history,” and thus the establishment of Israel was “the continuation of a long historical process,” not merely the result of the Holocaust. The early socialist framework of the kibbutz and moshav, created around farming communities by immigrants with little capital or modern resources, continued well until the 1990s, forming a mostly secular, pluralist, democratic society; today Israel’s economy is driven by technological innovation, while Rubin downplays the country’s vast military strength, insisting that “Israel has never been a militarized country.” The author writes that Israelis want peace and are willing to give up territory captured in the 1967 war and grant a Palestinian state, but are not convinced that the Palestinians are reliable partners. Rubin’s delineation of the numerous political parties is elucidating, and he concludes with an overview of cultural tenets.
A sound, basic survey without a rigid agenda, useful for students, tourists and those planning aliyah.