Maggie Rennert was hardly the ardent Zionist. But as a widow of 50 with one Jewish grandmother in the family tree, a heavy medical dossier, and a few novels under her belt, she decided to shed the ""ideological coziness"" of Cambridge, stow her antique tea wagon, and settle in Beer-Sheva to write a book about becoming Israeli. The ""book"" turns out to be 400-plus pages of a shapeless journal: chatty discourse on domestic comedies in the desert and a loving portrait and defense of the Israelis who made her shelanu (""ours""). Maggie-the-heroine demonstrates charm and resiliency in befriending fellow-Americans (Rob, the Ph.D. with an appointment at the university and a complex about killing lizards; the ""earnest immigrants"" Yehuda and Yael Artzi, nâ€še Bob and Sally), Moroccans like Yoshua, the local cafâ€š man who grills ""white steak""--forbidden pork--for his hip customers, and Argentinians with whom she has no language in common. Maggie is quickly mastering Israel's bureaucratic obstacle course, and has begun peppering her journal with Hebrewisms and setting up house in the desert: plans for ""European Jerusalem"" are abandoned as she opts to stay on with the die-hard survivors in ""Asian Beer-Sheva.' Then the 1973 war catches her by surprise, munching crackers with cocktails on Yom Kippur. Her descriptions of war-weary fellow townsmen are among the most moving in the book, along with several parables drawn in single pictures: a heavy man finding room for himself and his groceries--with Yiddish and a smile--on a bus already bursting with passengers; or the washing down every day of the stone floors of Beer-Sheva against the encroachment of desert winds. The journal closes with children, and a typical Israeli hopefulness. Maggie-the-new-Israeli is cheering company, but less of her would have gone further.