TO BE ISRAELI by Yair Lapid


The Heart of a Nation, the Soul of a People
by ; translated by
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Short essays on a changing, vilified Israeli identity.

Eminent Israeli journalist and politician Lapid (Memories After My Death: The Joseph (Tommy) Lapid Story, 2011) assumes a reassuring Everyman persona in these briefs, expressing both a sense of pride at what the Israelis have accomplished and confusion regarding how they are often portrayed. The author is an educated father and devoted husband who seeks to protect his family from the engulfing, nearly daily violence by Palestinians, and he craves above all a normal day when headlines don’t scream at him and the radio plays its regular programming. He wonders how his beloved country of childhood friends, refuge for Holocaust survivors, including his father, and magnet for educated, high-tech strivers and young people who serve willingly in the military has moved from a nation of citizens who once believed in an idea greater than themselves to a place where “the struggle to exist is the only form of existence.” Israel has “lost its faith in itself,” he affirms, and while he condemns the tit-for-tat violence and believes in a two-state solution, the anger at Palestinian intransigence (“we know the Arabs don’t keep their end of agreements”) underlies his own inability to alter his entrenched positions. Indeed, the “confusion” about how his country got to this point may strike some readers as disingenuous. In “The Puzzle of Hate,” Lapid ruminates over the hatred the world holds for his people, who have built up the land and economy at miraculous speed, but he makes no mention of the Nakba, the massive forced deportations of Palestinians in 1948. “Did we do something to them? When? How?” he asks. The author’s attempt to think like an everyday Palestinian (“If I Were an Arab”) ends in a familiar litany: “We’re here because we have nowhere else.”

By turns gloomy, patriotic, defensive, and gracious, Lapid’s reflective tone will both resonate with and arouse the ire of many.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-04400-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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