A close look at Israeli society yields a sense of disorientating psychosis rather than clarity.
Describing herself as a Jew of the vibrant diaspora living in Paris, Pinto visits Israel periodically on business, presumably in her capacity as an intellectual historian and policy analyst. Here, she presents impressions and interviews that reveal both Israeli truculence to go its own road as well as deep schisms within Israeli society. The author’s vivid characterizations of Israeli society expose its deeply problematic nature: as “autistic,” in that its brilliant young people and leaders operate within a self-contained obliviousness of others; as a “realm of collective psychosis” in thinking, as ultranationalist religious Zionists do, that the Temple in Jerusalem could ever be rebuilt, since it would obliterate the Dome of the Rock, a holy site for Muslims; as a postmodern Utopia in its scientific and genetic advances; as a “very large and ultrasophisticated aquarium” containing exotic fishes, all “turning rapidly away to avoid the others, and all of this in utter silence.” From the choosing of which road to take into Jerusalem (through heroic landmarks or the less-traveled Route 443 leading to various Arab exits) to the country’s spectacular embrace of high technology and Asian investment, which offer a glaring juxtaposition to the pre-modern lifestyles of the ultraorthodox, everywhere Israel is awash in contradictions. But does Israel really care who thinks so? Fewer and fewer sophisticated Israelis bother to envision a two-state solution, and Pinto fears that this solipsism is engendering a dangerous “self-satisfaction bordering on hubris”—and it can’t last.
A solid work of intellectual criticism.