Los Angeles transplant Gordis chronicles his family's first few years of emigré life in Jerusalem through a mix of news headlines, essays, and e-mails sent to friends around the world.
In 1998, Rabbi Daniel Gordis planned a one-year sabbatical in Jerusalem as a fellow at the Mandel Institute in a professional enrichment program. Entranced by an idyllic 12 months, he decided with his wife and three children to make their stay permanent, little knowing that soon would follow Rabin's assassination and a second intifada. Suddenly, the family was challenged in ways they hadn't imagined, and Gordis related it all in a series of e-mails to friends. (Some of the correspondence was eventually reproduced in the New York Times.) The missives convey the bewilderment of a man who had expected to live in peace with his family in the land of Israel, only to wake up and find himself in a gas-mask distribution center (conveniently located in a downtown Jerusalem department store) arguing about correct sizing for the kids. Day by day, Gordis struggles with his twin commitments to Israel and justice; a visit to founding father Ben Gurion's home prompts a meditation on the agony of Israeli and Palestinian children, both dying in the most absurd of ways. Much of the story is conveyed through the particulars of his own children’s acclimatization to a new city and their reactions to the moral and political morass. Pages of very readable political analysis provide an overview of the progression of what is called in Israel “the situation.” The author's conclusions are not happy ones: “This is an ugly, dirty war, and we're being ugly and dirty enough to bring the world's wrath down on us, but not nearly ugly and dirty enough to win.”
A work that dazzles with its nuance as it winds up to sock you in the gut.