HEROES AND HUSTLERS, HARD HATS AND HOLY MEN: Inside the New Israel by Ze'ev Chafets


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A wonderfully unsystematic portrait of Israeli society. Chafets, who wrote a serious study of how journalists unfairly report the Arab-Israeli conflict in his previous book, Double Vision, here focuses in a much looser, idiosyncratic way on the fascinating and variegated citizens of Israel. The title displays part of the range of characters Chafets has met since he emigrated to Israel from the US in 1967. Chafets has a great knack for being able to extract from his daily encounters (which themselves seem fortuitously and unendingly exciting) some wider lessons about society. The personalities never dissolve into types, and stereotypes are never substituted for people. Instead, the real people portrayed provide an analysis of the shapes and borders of Israel's social structure. There is, for example, Tikveh, a prostitute who argues about Rabbinic origins; Danny Sanderson, the the king of Israel's rock 'n' roll, and Shaul Avron, who supplemented Israel's available liquor by importing Wild Turkey. Because Chalets served as director of the Government Press Office from 1977 to 1982, he has interesting tales about the rise of Menahem Begin and the Herut Party. There's not much on Begin himself, but there's plenty on party politics and personalities. There also are gossipy, fascinating stories about famous people such as Ezer Weizman, whose penchant for the ribald Chalets amply documents. From his official vantage point, Chafets was also able to get an unusually clear look at the schisms of Israeli society, especially those separating the religious from the secular, and the European from the non-European Jews. Frequently funny, it's full of undisguised good cheer and love of country--a country that, as one Israeli puts it, is filled with ""ordinary people living in unusual circumstances."" In sum, Israel as seen from a very human perspective--and the better for it.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1986
Publisher: Morrow