THE IMAGINARY VOYAGE
With Theodor Herzl in Israel
Israel’s quirkiest visionaries, present (Shimon Peres) and past (Theodor Herzl), tour the country in a book that might possibly be appropriate for children, but not for grown-ups. Before scoring any philosophical, political, or cultural points about the State of Israel, former prime and foreign minister Peres spends tens of pages acting as travel writer and historian. His ghostwriters, thanked later, don’t do badly, but the spectral premise of meeting and traveling with the 19th-century founder of political Zionism is often forced and unfruitful. After traveling by ship and train, meeting other undead like Trotsky, Marx, and Heine, the two legends take to the air, and visit the late David Ben-Gurion (the founder who made Peres’s career), who reiterates his prophecy of making the desert bloom. Flying over the Dimona nuclear reactor (part of Peres’s legacy), the statesman explains how the giant nuclear shadow he cast over the region will bring peace. Awkwardly, as their helicopter next passes Herzl’s tomb, “tears streamed down Herzl’s cheeks.” The fractured fable ends with an additional message on the comparable greatness of Peres’s hero, his mentor, and his own policies: “their vision is peace.” A secular, Zionist version of the Thriller video, but Michael Jackson’s original is catchier and less moribund.