LAND OF DREAMS: An Israeli Childhood by Mordecai Schreiber

LAND OF DREAMS: An Israeli Childhood

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An intermittently engaging memoir recollecting the difficult birth of the State of Israel, by a novelist and translator. The best parts are Schreiber's childhood memories of Jewish-Arab Haifa and his impressions of the Jewish state's struggle for independence. The reader gains an element of unencumbered honesty from the author's perspective as an eight-year-old but loses much in forgotten or unlived detail, because Schreiber was too young to participate in or understand much of his era's drama. His father was a principle figure in the pre-state colony, smuggling arms in his fishing truck before joining the ragtag, fledgling army that became the Israeli Defense Forces. Schreiber also offers some engaging scenes of what it was like for longtime settlers in Palestine to cope with a constant influx of refugees. He expresses sorrow that the Arabs didn't show similar hospitality to their refugees--some of whom were his childhood friends from nearby Arab Haifa. A pursuer of peace, Schreiber regrets that the Arabs didn't get their own state. The book comes alive in its anecdotes: Some Holocaust survivors, for instance, excelled in the black market. Schreiber also catches how the long straggle to create and protect the nation took its toll on some of its citizens; many members of his generation, he notes, burned out and emigrated. The second, post-independence half of the memoir is weaker, more maudlin and repetitive. Schreiber's energy picks up when the topic is politics. He argues with some vigor that Menachem Begin was a better man than either David Ben-Gurion (""not a very likable person"") or Yitzhak Rabin, noting that ""it was left to others, who did not preach socialism, to be more kind and social."" A memoir of early Israel of uneven literary and historical worth.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1998
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: "Shengold (P.O. Box 2142, Rockville, MD 20847)"