Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way Hardcover by Joy Hakim (Smithsonian Books)

Hakim has interwoven creation myths, history, physics, and mathematics to present a seamless, multifaceted view of the foundation of modern science. .At its essence, the book displays the most appealing aspect of science and mathematics: that advances result from a practical need solved by curious mindsIn this first book in a projected series of six, Hakim has interwoven creation myths, history, physics, and mathematics to present a seamless, multifaceted view of the foundation of modern science. The acknowledgments page reads like a Who's Who of the academic physics world, thanking the many researchers and experts who provided fact checking and advice. The entire volume is beautifully organized and the multidisciplinary approach to science is immediately apparent from the table of contents. Chapter headings contain subheadings prefaced by an image that indicates the focus of the chapter–science, math, language arts, technology and engineering, geography, or philosophy. Full-color photos and illustrations appear throughout; quotes and sidebars offer related information. The text never suffers from oversimplification and the writing holds its own with the many compelling visuals. Only a slight amount of fictionalization is evident with the author occasionally suggesting the possible thoughts of ancient groups pondering the mysteries of the universe. At its essence, the book displays the most appealing aspect of science and mathematics: that advances result from a practical need solved by curious minds. Hakim opens the new Story of Science series with a book guaranteed to kick the history of science up a notch. Dividing the text into manageable sections with zingy titles ("Why Mars Is a Little Loopy"), she livens the writing with questions, asides, and changes of tense; recaps, restates, and refers back to important points; strews color illustrations with substantial captions thickly throughout; and sprinkles it all with fresh insights. Best of all, she respects the ability of young readers to absorb difficult ideas--whether that's early developments in physics, or the discovery and refinement of mathematics and geometry. She'll keep visual learners rapt, too, with lucid diagrams, photos, and art reproductions, and instead of drawn maps, she includes dramatic, lightly labeled satellite photos. Hakim does make a few bobbles (the Euclidian axiom "the whole is greater than the part" is incorrectly stated as "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"), and her glances toward Asia and ancient Central America are too brief to change the Eurocentric focus. Still, this account of modern science's dawn, up to the revolution engendered by moveable type, presents a rare mix of visual appeal, intellectual content, and lively personal voice that will propel readers to the end and leave them impatient for more.

The Jefferson Bible, Smithsonian Edition: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Hardcover – November 1, 2011 by Thomas Jefferson (Author), Harry Rubenstein (Introduction), Barbara Clark Smith (Introduction), Janice Stagnitto Ellis (Contributor) (Smithonian Books)

Thomas Jefferson was a devotee of the Enlightenment and of rationality. He brings this perspective to his struggle to find salvation and to understand the great contributions of Jesus of Nazareth to people of faith. In his 'bible', he excises all references to anything supernatural or mystical and he focuses on what many of us would think of as Jesus' core message: a loving Creator whose creations were more likely than not to find Salvation; a prescription for how to carry oneself through life in relation to ones neighbors. In every day use, this book provides a concise compendium of the major statements and life events of Jesus of Nazareth. For scholars, this work, a focus of Jefferson's intellect over decades, show his selection of most important passages from the Christian tradition.

The Smithsonian Edition of his Bible is a true copy of the historical document that was given to our national museum by Jefferson's heirs. It includes side-by-side texts in Latin, Greek, French and the King James version of our 'Holy Bible.' This is the bible I want to turn to in my later years to 'accentuate the positive' in Christianity. This is part of the core of my daily devotions.This is a painstakingly produced full-color facsimile of the original volume that Jefferson created, now at the Smithsonian, where it received top-level conservation treatment prior to its high-resolution reproduction here. Jefferson created his version of the New Testament by cutting and pasting from Greek, Latin, French, and English printed texts of the Gospels, which he placed in four parallel columns and accompanied with his marginal notes. This edition also contains two essays: "The History of the Jefferson Bible," in which curators at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History explain Jefferson's intent and his methods, and an essay on the volume's extensive conservation. The passages that Jefferson selected and pasted together present a much-edited, single chronological account of Jesus's life, teachings, and death—ending with Jesus's burial and avoiding redundancies. The passages are those that Jefferson deemed to be supportable by reason. The "History" essay draws parallels between the way Jefferson revised Virginia's laws and the way he revised the Bible. VERDICT Jefferson's Bible has been published before, but never in full facsimile with all its contents. With great cultural importance for all readers from preteens through scholars in American studies, biblical studies, or the Enlightenment, as well as general readers

This edition is not only the Jefferson Bible. It begins with an historical appreciation of Jefferson's approach to a personal faith and it traces how the bible came to be assembled over time. Another chapter traces its history as an artefact and there is an essay on how it was conserved. Finally, about page 50, the document begins.

As an aside, this is also a 'book' that looks like a classic and feels like a classic. This is a Smithsonian reproduction of one of the most significant texts in American history. The paper feels wonderful. The images reproduce the idea of custom papers so dear to bibliophiles. But, the payoff is in the content.

The Sensualist Daniel Torday Nouvella 177 Pages ISBN: 978-0983658542

This pocket size, slim volume packs all the emotion and detail of a full length novel. Samuel Gerson is a seventeen-year-old high school student from a loving home on the right side of the tracks in 1990s Baltimore. He is a good baseball player, a solid student, and has a female best friend and is ripe to change up the predictability of his daily life. He seeks out friendship outside his expected circle. Dmitri Zilber and his sister Yelizaveta are new Russian immigrants at Samuel’s school who mix with a dangerous crowd. Samuel is smitten with beautiful, street-smart Yelizaveta and intrigued by Dmitri’s confident attitude, protectiveness, and sensitivity. They share an interest in literature. Though the two young men’s lifestyles are vastly different they connect when they compare Samuel’s grandfather’s suffering in forced labor camps and Dmitri’s grandfather’s time in the Gulag. Samuel’s need for friendship with Dmitri leads to spending time with Dmitri’s rough friends. Dangerous situations ensue and some lives are changed for the better while others stagnate or worsen. Readers see and smell Baltimore through Gerson’s drives through the city. This compact and intense coming of age novel is suitable for teens and adults.

On the Landing: Stories by Yenta Mash Yenta Mash; Ellen Cassedy, trans. Northern Illinois University Press 2018 192 Pages

The sixteen stories in this collection, carefully selected and translated from Yenta Mash’s life’s work in Yiddish, form a series of quiet explosions. Though they sometimes cry out, the voices are strangely subdued, recording as they do life behind the Iron Curtain in the decades of Soviet strangulation of subject peoples. Communities in Bessarabia, Moldova, and Siberia were at best unofficial prisons for aspiring souls and curious minds and at worst, official ones. For the surprisingly large, if relatively unknown, Jewish communities, the burdens included that of anti-Semitism.

For some, including Mash, immigration to Israel during and after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the 1970s was a mixed blessing. There was so much that was unfamiliar, so much to get used to. More importantly, there was so much to remember before the memories would vanish.

In one story in this collection, Mash takes us into the lives of two young women, foresters working long hours for a bare subsistence. They cut down trees, prepare the trunks and branches for usable lumber, and carry them to be examined by their boss. The narrator is dependent on her more skillful coworker, Riva, without whom she would be lost. It’s the dead of winter, and there is no expectation of respite from the frozen misery of their lives. These intimates are the family breadwinners. From time to time, they make one another laugh. Though their relationship turns sour in later years, readers are left with their strength and indomitable spirits. What’s enchanting in this story and others is the comfortable way in which the characters carry their Jewish selves—with a mixture of knowledge and habit that sometimes seems more nourishing than any other part of their existence.

Each story is a gem, and they are arranged to interact with one another as parts of a mosaic. The characters are generally described in states of transition, coming or going across borders or to and from meeting places. They share experiences and confidences. They find a way of making do, in spite of their complaints and unfulfilled aspirations.

Mash’s narrative skill is quietly astonishing. She knows when to stop and that less can be more. She knows how to reveal her characters in conversations that at first seem mundane but soon reveal not only complex individuality but also uplifting profundity. Moreover, the world she conjures is not without a tonic ripple of humor.

Readers will not want to go where Mash’s life and imagination have been, but they will consider themselves fortunate for the vicarious journey she has provided.

The Liars' Gospel Naomi Alderman Little, Brown and Company 2013 320 Pages $25.99 ISBN: 978-0316232784

"It is important to quiet the lamb, that is the first thing." So begins Naomi Alder­man's The Liars' Gospel, a fictional account of Jesus' life set against the backdrop of the Jews' struggles against Roman rule.

Alderman gives us four points of view, or gospels, on the life of Yehoshuah (Jesus), focusing mainly on the time between his departure from home and his death. We hear from his mother, Miryam (Mary), who laments her son's departure and has trouble accepting him in his new role as a “teacher.”

We hear from his follower, confidant, and later his betrayer, Iehuda (Judas), one of the most compelling characters in this story. It is through Iehuda's eyes that we see Yehoshuah evolve from a man who has gathered a few supporters through his messages of forgive­ness and healing, to a man who is leading a movement of thousands of followers. Through Iehuda we see how Yehoshuah loses his way gradually, in small missteps, veering incrementally farther away from the messages he started his teachings with and into a more self-serving role.

We hear from the high priest, Caiaphas, whose life's work was to maintain the precari­ous balance between the desires of the Jews and the demands of the Romans.

And finally we hear from a young Jewish rebel, Bar-Avo (Barabbas), in whose hands lies the fate of the Jewish people at the time.

In this fictional account of Jesus' life the sacrificial lamb is an apt metaphor for Jesus' followers, for the Jewish people, and for the high priests who shepherd them through Roman rule.

With exquisite prose, Alderman gives us a human treatment of a man from humble beginnings who, somehow, has been deified. Through her gospel we can begin to answer the question of how, exactly, that might have happened.

The Meursault Investigation 1st Edition by Kamel Daoud (Author), John Cullen (Translator) (Other Press #OtherPress)

On the book jacket of this novel, a reviewer writes that The Meursault Investigation is "a worthy complement to its great predecessor" [Albert Camus' The Stranger]. I wouldn't go that far. Daoud's novel lacks the solid, strong existential and absurdist underpinnings of Camus's work. And, honestly, I almost gave up on the book after I'd read the first couple of chapters. Sort of gimmicky. A retelling of so many plot details from The Stranger, as well as references to so many of its characters (Salamano, Raymond, Marie, the robot lady, etc.). In addition, the post-colonial approach to decolonization, to cultural displacement and to being "unhomed" in one own country is familiar ground at this point in literature, including the "mimicry" of the subjugated individual who feels compelled to learn the language of his oppressors. I get it.

What crept on me---slowly, gradually---was the subtle evolution of the novel's narrator Harun. Progressively, as this short novel unfolds, Harun starts sounding more and more like Camus' Meursault in his assaults on government officials, the judicial system, human hypocrisy, futility of effort, the stupidity of love, the absence of God, and how all religions falsify the weight of the world. And, like Meursault, I think that Harun steps into his true existential self only in the final pages of the novel. In a way---and this is why I ultimately came to appreciate the novel--- this is not the story of The Stranger from an Arab point of view--this is the more universal story of the absurd existence of all humankind, from Algeria to France to every corner of this weird and incomprehensible planet where we are all strangers to one another, and to ourselves. Where we are persecuted for not belonging to the group, for refusing to belong. And how clever Daoud sometimes is in this novel, like when he substitutes the Magistrate waving a crucifix in Merusault's face with the officer in the Army of National Liberation (waving the little Algerian flag in Harun's face and asking "Do you know what this is?"). An excellent transition that speaks volumes about authority, power and societal norms.

And Harun hates Fridays (as Meursault hated Sundays) because of his aversion to Islamic rituals? Ouch!

Intentionally or unintentionally, the murdered Musa in Daoud's novel becomes just as lost in the shuffle as the nameless Arab in The Stranger, as Daoud's investigation into the meaning of life broadens its scope. Also, what seems most interesting is Harun's relationship with his mother---so crippling and debilitating.

I did not like Daoud's lengthy, verbatim borrowing of the text of the Stranger towards the end. It didn't quite work for me. I don't think that was necessary or effective. Still, the novel overall is well worth reading---much better also if you have already read The Stranger.

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World Paperback – August 1, 2017 by Baz Dreisinger (Other Press #OtherPress)

An inspiring read by one who has traveled the dark places in our world that are our prisons. Throughout the book, Ms. Dreisinger does illustrate that even in these dark places, the light of human ingenuity is alive and well and faith plays a major part of that. I volunteer with Our Children's Place at Coastal Horizons ([...]) as an Advisory Board member whose purpose is to educate the public on the invisible victims of crime, the children of those incarcerated. This book is a breath of fresh air and a clarion call for all of society to re-examine the wholesale warehousing of men and women. While some are indeed a threat to themselves and others, so many others languish within prison walls who are no real threat and other options must be sought.

Beginning in Africa and ending in Europe, Incarceration Nations is a first-person odyssey through the prison systems of the world. Professor, journalist, and founder of the Prison-to-College-Pipeline program, Dreisinger looks into the human stories of incarcerated men and women and those who imprison them, creating a jarring, poignant view of a world to which most are denied access, and a rethinking of one of America's most far-reaching global exports: the modern prison complex.

From serving as a restorative justice facilitator in a notorious South African prison and working with genocide survivors in Rwanda, to launching a creative writing class in an overcrowded Ugandan prison and coordinating a drama workshop for women prisoners in Thailand, Dreisinger examines the world behind bars with equal parts empathy and intellect. She journeys to Jamaica to visit a prison music program, to Singapore to learn about approaches to prisoner reentry, to Australia to grapple with the bottom line of private prisons, to a federal supermax in Brazil to confront the horrors of solitary confinement, and finally to the so-called model prisons of Norway. Incarceration Nations concludes with climactic lessons about the past, present, and future of justice.

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Paperback by Sarah Bakewell (#OtherPress Other Press)

Sarah Bakewell is a genius. In this book she gives us a moving biography of Montaigne, a history of the genesis and contents of his marvelous essays, an introduction to the history of editing his great masterpiece, and a lively and fascinating narrative of informed and popular responses to his book in successive eras. Montaigne very much feels like real presence in this book, one with a distinctive personality that is vividly represented by the author. One feels that Bakewell, along with hundreds or thousands of earlier readers have developed a personal relationship with the great writer, and Bakewell helps explain why this in the case even though an overwhelming share of readers of his essays of course have had no contact with him, except through his essays. Bakewell also does a wonderful and interesting job of explaining the very different critical reception Montaigne's essays received among his contemporaries and in succeeding generations of readers, both in France and elsewhere.

The ingenuity of the biography helps explain why critical reception of Bakewell's own book was so positive. But the plain fact is that Bakewell is also a stylish writer, capable of holding our fascinated (and occasionally amused) attention, even when she is discussing the minutiae of successive editions or of obscure editorial quarrels. The book was warmly recommended to me by a friend who said flatly it was the best book he'd read in a year or, indeed, in any recent year. You'll probably find this kind of enthusiasm in many of the Amazon reviews. If you're interested in philosophy or in a charismatic writer and thinker in a long bygone, tumultuous era, and if you care about artful construction and stylish writing, this might be the book for you. It certainly was for me.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats Paperback – January 31, 2012 by Jan-Philipp Sendker (Author), Kevin Wiliarty (Translator) (Other Press #OtherPress)

Magic. Pure magic. This book—with prose that reads more like poetry—is a sheer delight. I have no idea how to classify it. It's a haunting fable. And a passionate love story. And an enchanting mystery. I wanted to hurriedly read to find out what would happen next, but I had to keep stopping to reread whole paragraphs because they were so beautifully written. Elegant writing cannot be cheated no matter how engrossing the plot.

When Julia Win's successful and wealthy father mysteriously disappears from their New York apartment soon after her law school graduation, she decides to track him down half a world away. Her only clue is a letter he has written to a mysterious lover in Burma. Is he leading a double life? Julia will find out, and in the process, she finds out more than she could ever imagine about herself and the transcendent power of love.

This short book by Jan-Philipp Sendker is a profound story about the true meaning of love, a wake-up for us all in this rather jaded world in which we live. Escape in it and simply enjoy!

The Parting Gift Evan Fallenberg Other Press 2018 256 Pages $19.95 ISBN: 978-159051-943-1 (#OtherPress)

In his first two novels (Light Fell and When We Danced on Water), American-born Israeli writer Evan Fallenberg proved to be masterful at portraying highly sympathetic characters grappling with terrible losses and inner turmoil. Now in The Parting Gift, he delivers what may be his most psychologically astute work yet, an intense tale of gripping suspense, narrated by a complex protagonist whose shrewd intelligence, scarily intuitive insight, and warm charisma lethally combine with a severe narcissistic personality disorder. Indeed, The Parting Gift is such intricate and unsparing storytelling that comparisons to the best of Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell seem in order.

The novel—which takes us from the halcyon days of a passionate love affair to its breathtakingly brutal unraveling—is framed as a letter that the unnamed narrator is writing to his friend; he and his wife have been hosting the narrator in the aftermath of his abrupt return from a sojourn in Israel.His protracted stay in his hosts’ tiny apartment has clearly become burdensome for them, yet he seems strangely ungrateful. Though these and other early warning signs of the man’s inner disorder are visible, for many pages we are swept along by his breezy and affable voice and adventurous nature.

In the letter, the narrator describes his sudden decision to move to Israel. On anouting to visit a spice farm that has become all the rage among foodies, he takes one glimpse of its owner, Uzi, a salt-of-the-earth bear of a man, and is instantly smitten with desire. After rapidly seducing Uzi, the narrator proves himself as an able worker, learning the business so well that he soon elevates Uzi to culinary guru status. He also manages to ingratiate himself deeply into the lives of Uzi’s former wife and children. He learns their intimate secrets and weaknesses, and also those of Uzi’s most trusted Palestinian employees. It isn’t long before he convinces himself that he is the true “mainstay of this family and this business.” And all seems absolutely harmonious on the prosperous coastal farm until one day it isn’t.

As if unable to believe that Uzi is as devoted to him as he deserves, the narrator sleuths obsessively for signs of betrayal, which he finds everywhere. Here the plotting gets especially tricky and yet the author pulls it off, brilliantly capturing his unreliable narrator’s growing paranoia, the enormity and consequences of which grow to the heights of Shakespearean villainy. (Imagine Iago in a rural Israeli village.) And as grotesque as this social striver grows in his self-delusions, to the author’s credit, every detail of what unfolds is somehow utterly believable.

Without plot spoilers, what ensues makes for some truly jaw-dropping reading. Yet in spite of The Parting Gift’s taut brevity, it delivers far more than an unforgettable portrait of obsession, offering deeply felt renderings of both rural and urban Israel, compassionate and wise portrayals of relations between Jews and Arabs, parents and children, and exposing the legacy of toxic masculinity. All of this is narrated in richly sensual language, whether in the heady flavors and piquant aromas of Uzi’s herbs and spices, or sizzling scenes of eroticism.

In the denouement to his harrowing confession, the narrator leaves us with a disquieting twist, an admission that on one level cunningly places in question much of what we thought we understood all along. Still, read another way, these final revelations may be something else entirely—metafictional innuendo gesturing slyly to the work of the novelist himself, and the inevitably messy, entwined nature of life and art. Regardless of how one reads it, this extra meaning arrives almost as an uneasy benediction, its own “parting gift” that ensures this heartbreak of a novel will linger uncomfortably long in the reader’s imagination.

The Angel of Losses Stephanie Feldman Ecco 2014 288 Pages $25.99 ISBN: 978-0062228918

This debut novel is filled with magic, faith, love, rejection, loyalty, family, secrecy, loss, and adventure.

Set in the present, it tells the story of two sisters, Marjorie and Holly—who were raised without religious affiliation—and their close connection to their grandfather, Eli Burke, who told them bedtime stories about the White Rebbe and the Sabbath Light. Eli never spoke of his childhood, but when he dies an old man appears to Marjorie at the funeral and visits her many times. He knows Eli from long ago and claims everything Eli told her is a lie.

Marjorie is working on her Ph.D. disserta­tion on “the Wandering Jew,” a myth about one who taunted Jesus carrying the cross and was punished with immortality. During her research at the university library Marjorie meets Simon, who is interested in her topic and begins to help Marjorie find sources. Their relationship grows romantically but Marjorie holds back from telling him everything about the dark world in which she is immersed.

Meanwhile, Holly reclaims her Judaism and becomes religiously observant, marries a man named Nathan, and moves into her parents’ home. Nathan is a disciple of the secretive Berukhim Penitents, a group that follows a rabbi who died in the seventeenth century, believes in reincarnation, perform midnight rituals, and searches for the Lost Tribes. He spends all his time immersed in mystical study. Holly’s family disapproves of her marriage and the sisters’ relationship suffers. When Nathan moves Eli’s belongings to the basement in order to make room for the new baby, Marjorie comes in to search for connection between her grandfather’s stories and Nathan’s religious group. She finds one of her grandfather’s notebooks which he had wanted to be destroyed upon his death.

Holly gives birth to a boy who is named Eli after the grandfather. The baby is the center of the family’s world and becomes even more so when he is afflicted by seizures. Marjorie and Nathan each believe they can find the key to reversing the baby’s illness.

Higher Education and the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel 1st ed. 2016 Edition by Khalid Arar (Author), Kussai Haj-Yehia (Author) (Palgrave MacMillan)

Drawing on a wide range of fascinating empirical material, this book provides a detailed account of the experiences of Palestinian Arabs in accessing higher education in Israel and beyond. [This] book makes a significant contribution to both academic and policy debates,the book raises discussions and arguments broad enough to illuminate the function of education in culturally, economically and socially diversified settings. I believe the book is one of the key references for various related discussions in educational research such as social justice, disadvantaged groups, multiculturalism, and minorities in education.The authors offer comprehensive overview and in-depth insights into the obstacles and challenges [facing] the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel and abroad in higher education. A 'must read' for anyone interested in minority studies in higher education.

Higher Education and the Palestinian Minority in Israel examines perceptions concerning the characteristics of higher education acquisition in the indigenous Palestinian Arab minority in Israel. Arar and Haj-Yehia show that Palestinian Arabs in Israel clearly understand the benefit of an academic degree as a lever for social status and integration within the state of Israel. The authors discuss difficulties met by Palestinian high school graduates when they attempt to enter Israel's higher education institutes, and the alternative phenomenon of studying abroad. The cultural difference between Palestinian traditional communities and 'Western' Israeli campuses exposes Arab students to a mix of ethnicities and nationalities, which proves to be a difficult, transformative experience. The book analyzes patterns of higher education acquisition among the indigenous Palestinian minority, describing the disciplines they choose, the challenges they encounter, particularly for Palestinian women students, and explore the implications for the Palestinian minority and Israeli society.

Khalid Arar is Senior Lecturer at the Center for Academic Studies and co-head of the Master's program in Education Administration at Sakhnin Academic College, Israel. Kussai Haj-Yehia is Senior Lecturer and head of the Master's degree program in Education and Arab Culture at Beit Berl Academic College, Israel.

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Anne Frank; Ari Folman, adapt.; David Polonsky, illus. Pantheon 2018 160 Pages

A continuing source of fascination in the Western literary canon, Anne Frank’s iconic diary has been endlessly debated and analyzed. So what is the point of yet another iteration? With the troubling rise in the American populace unaware of the significance of the Holocaust, any pedagogical tool that explains the destruction wrought by the Third Reich is a valuable commodity.

Enter Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, a project supported and authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in order to bring Frank’s story to a new audience. While it may not seem an intuitive choice, the synergy between Frank’s lucid and precocious view of the world and a keen artistic interpretation of her words lends itself to a new, and moving, experience. Adapter Ari Folman (whose film Waltz with Bashir is arguably one of the best animated films ever to have been produced in Israel) and artist David Polonsky bring a fresh perspective to the saga of Anne and her family, and their fateful time in that Amsterdam Achterhuis. While the words of Anne’s diary have been ingrained in our societal consciousness for close to seventy years, their effect on inquisitive minds is still as potent as ever. The addition of a visual component not only ensures that Anne’s teenage musings will resonate with a contemporary audience, but also makes them feel even more visceral, immediate, and tragic.

The task of translating Anne Frank’s diary into visuals would be a challenge for any artist, but Folman and Polonsky do so with verve and care; Folman is judicious with what he presents. There is so much emotion at stake that it must have been difficult to edit down and rearrange the original material, but the compromises made for this adaptation are astute and stay in accordance with the diary’s essence.

In our modern context, it is sometimes difficult to separate Anne Frank the human being from Anne Frank the metonym for the tragedy of the Shoah; Frank’s story is synonymous with the human spirit in times of utter darkness. This graphic adaptation of her diary will go a long to way make sure new generations of readers experience the heartbreak and humane triumph of one of the most inspiring teenagers in history.

Palestinian Activism in Israel: A Bedouin Woman Leader in a Changing Middle East (Middle East Today) Edition by Henriette Dahan-Kalev (Author), Emilie Le Febvre (Author), Amal El' Sana-Alh'jooj (Author) (Palgrave MacMillan)

The book provides a unique insight into the sociological and political complexities of Bedouin society in southern Israel and how individuals negotiate their identities as Arabs, Israelis, and Palestinians .Palestinian Activism in Israel provides an overdue and important intervention against gendered, cliched representations of women in general and Palestinian-Bedouin-Israeli women in particular.Palestinian Activism in Israel closely describes Amal El' Sana-Alh'jooj's experiences as a Palestinian Bedouin female activist living in Israel's southern al-Naqab desert. While the "empowering" and organizational aspects of women's activisms in the Middle East have been well canvassed, few works detail the professional and personal practices of charismatic activists leading rights-based initiatives. In response to this gap, this book explores Amal's activisms and how she navigates her identities in sociopolitical relationships with Palestinian, Israeli Jewish, al-Naqab Bedouin, and international representatives. The authors argue that by focusing on activists' biographies we can further understand the pluralisms, strategies of identification, and dialectics of recognition typifying contemporary third sector politics in the Middle East.

Henriette Dahan-Kalev is a reader in Political Science from Hebrew University. Her fields of research are democracy, theory and praxis, and gender theories and politics. She is the founder and first chair of the Gender Studies program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 

Emilie Le Febvre is currently reading for a DPhil in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Middle East Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a diploma in Policy Studies from Murdoch University.

A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation Hardcover by Jeremy Ben-Ami (PAlrave MacMillan)

Jeremy Ben-Ami is a gifted leader with great attention to detail, who has surrounded himself with exceptional people at J Street. His excellent book, "A New Voice For Israel," reflects the man, the organization, the values of both, very touching personal remembrances, and lots of ideas. Hopefully these ideas will take root and help shape the debate concerning the direction of peace in the Middle East--between Israel, the Palestinians, and other states that are changing their directions as a result of the "Arab Spring" and the "Scent of Jasmine," which have been sweeping the region.

Ben-Ami attacks the "sacred cows" of American Jewry and its "traditional pro-Israel lobbying groups," as well as "the acceptable parameters of the Israel conversation," the "guardians of the pro-Israel brand," the "us-versus-them worldview" and the right-of-center "official American Jewish establishment"--such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). His views are considered by many as heresy and treasonous; however, as he points out, the establishment might have saved more Jews from their horrendous fate in World War II, instead of being impediments. The same thing was true of the crushing of Irgun, the patriotic Jewish underground militia with which Ben-Ami's father served.

A fundamental issue raised by the book is why Ben-Ami seeks to shape the views of a likely one-term president, Barack Obama, American Jews and members of Congress, when it is the reactionary elements in Israel--led and epitomized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, possibly the most dangerous and irresponsible leader that Israel has ever had--which must be changed. Why work the American side of the Atlantic when it is Israelis who must want a lasting peace in the Middle East, or perish. As Ben-Ami points out, more and more Jewish-American students are looking for ways to express concern and anger over the plight of the Palestinian people; and responses grounded in denial or worse simply deepen this anger.

Netanyahu was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin--and especially by Rabin's wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband's assassination. She saw "only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process" with Netanyahu at Israel's helm; and her views were prescient. Nothing has changed since Leah Rabin's death, except Netanyahu is once again Israel's Prime Minister. He is fully capable of igniting a conflagration in the Middle East that might end Israel's existence, and become the first "Holocaust" of the 21st Century.

In a sense, Ben-Ami's book is similar to Obama's "Dreams from My Father," except Obama concluded that his father--whom he only knew for one month of his life, at the age of 10--was a "bitter drunk," an "abusive husband," and a "defeated, lonely bureaucrat," and that "[w]hatever I do, it seems, I won't do much worse than he did." Ben-Ami is continuing his father's dreams; and there is reason to believe that his father would be very proud of him, albeit they might not agree completely.

In some ways, Ben-Ami and I are polar opposites. I am not Jewish; he is. His "unwritten family rule" and his own leanings were against voting for Republicans. I grew up in a devoutly Republican family, which revered Dwight Eisenhower--a German-American hero who destroyed the Third Reich--Richard Nixon and Douglas MacArthur, and thought Harry Truman was a traitor. However, when given the chance to vote, I registered as a Democrat, and never voted for Nixon. I left the party because of Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam War; and I left the Republican Party after that, because it was too conservative and dogmatic. I voted for Reagan and the Bushes, and would do so again today, although I have been an Independent for 20 years.

Like Ben-Ami and his views of the "mainstream Jewish leadership," I too have rebelled against the leadership of both American political parties, and look forward to the day when an Independent occupies the White House, and other major officeholders are Independents as well. My parents were not anti-Semitic; and in fact, I do not recall them mentioning Israel at all. Yet, I grew up believing it was David against Goliath; and that Israel could do no wrong. My Israeli hero was Yitzhak Rabin; and I even came to admire Sharon before his stroke, inter alia, because he recognized that Israeli settlements had become impediments to peace, and must be removed by force if necessary. I admire Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak as well.

Today, Israel is no longer viewed as "a shining city upon a hill" or the "light unto the nations"--which it once was--but as an oppressor. This perception will only grow as long as Netanyahu remains in power. He is hated, and he personifies a country that is hated; and his critics, Jews and non-Jews alike, are falsely labeled as "Israel haters," "self-hating Jews" or anti-Semites. His removal will provide a breath of fresh air for Israel, which is long overdue, and a chance for peace between Israelis and their neighbors. In a very real sense, despite what he says publicly, there is reason to believe that Obama views Israel as the oppressor too, just as he hated Apartheid in South Africa and British colonial rule.

What is fascinating--and represents a challenge to Jewish orthodoxy--is that the Republicans, with George W. Bush being an outstanding example, have been much stronger supporters and champions of Israel than the Democrats. Yet, a failure or refusal to recognize this fact has led American Jews including Ben-Ami to embrace Democrats. What Ben-Ami has spelled out in his thoughtful and well-written book is his mission and that of J Street to complete Yitzhak Rabin's work of achieving lasting peace, and to dedicate their efforts to ending the violence, and to "rewrite the rules" of political discourse with respect to Israel, so that moderate voices are heard--worthy goals that I support completely.

To achieve this, Ben-Ami and J Street will have to reach out to Jews and non-Jews, Republicans and Independents, members of the Tea Party movement and "disenchanted" Democrats, because far-Left and Leftist Democrats are not the solution to anything. Indeed, it is a grave mistake to tie one's star to them, or to be exclusionary. Bush family confidant, former Reagan chief of staff and Secretary of State James Baker was correct when he observed that Jews do not vote for Republicans--and they "constitute only 2 percent of the entire American population" anyway, according to Ben-Ami--so why should Republicans help Israel or support Jewish causes at all?

Yes, right-wing evangelical Christians are rabid supporters of Israel and a force within the GOP, but their views do not reflect those of mainstream Christians. Like David Ben-Gurion and other Israelis who crushed the Jews of Irgun, the Democrats must not be permitted to dominate and skew J Street or Israel's future; and the GOP must not be viewed as monolithic or in lock step with evangelical Christian fringe groups, such as "Christian Zionists."

My paternal grandfather believed it was a mistake for the United States to be in the Middle East; and there is wisdom in his views. According to his logic, we would not have fought the Gulf War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and we would remain neutral with respect to Israel and the Palestinians, and the other countries of the Middle East as well. Any notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a fundamental national interest of America is nonsense. Like the views of many in the United States prior to World War II, Americans might remain neutral and let the chips fall where they may, rather than engage in any more unpopular military incursions.

Israel and the United States are not "joined at the hip," and they have vastly different and divergent national self-interests. Presumably Ben-Ami does not agree, although he does say: "We should not ask people, organizations, or even countries to pick sides--either with us or against us." One wonders at times, however, whether he is not attempting to push at one end of a string, regardless of how well intentioned, moralistic and idealistic he is. One wonders too whether he and the Jews with whom I grew up in Los Angeles are polar opposites. They were integrated and assimilated; and neither their parents nor they were victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

Another example comes to mind of a Jewish lawyer from the Midwest with whom I was working on a lawsuit. He came to Washington, D.C. and had never seen the Holocaust Museum, so I took him there. His family came to the United States in the 1800s, and he told me that none of his relatives were victims of the Holocaust, nor did he know anyone who was affected by it. In many ways, he did not relate to it, although he was moved emotionally after we toured the museum. He and the Jews with whom I grew up may not relate to Ben-Ami, inter alia, because neither they nor their parents are immigrant Jews. To them, Israel may be as distant and foreign as the Germany, Ireland, Scotland and England of my ancestors are to me.

I had visited Dachau during a summer in Europe when I was in law school at Berkeley, so I had seen the Nazi horrors firsthand, but my lawyer-friend had not. I had tried to understand how Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany--the country of my father's ancestors, who came to America in 1849. What I learned was that anti-Semitism is alive in Germany; and that "the campaign to silence dissent"--as Ben-Ami describes intimidation, fear, invective, division and discrimination in the Jewish community--is what allowed Nazism to flourish. Dissenters were viewed as traitors, hated and killed.

Contrariwise, dissent and healthy debate must be welcomed and encouraged; and they are the very essence of America's democracy and our freedoms. Far too often, criticism--for example, of our institutions such as law enforcement or the judiciary--is equated with disloyalty toward either the United States or Israel, which it is not. "Witch hunts" and "thought police" (Ben-Ami's terms) have no place in democratic societies.

Next, will any of Ben-Ami's fine analysis, nuanced discussions, and logical and sober reasoning make a tinker's dam worth of difference if Israel does not survive? I am forever reminded of what a prominent American--who is a Jew, and a strong supporter of Israel, with impeccable credentials--told me a number of years ago:

"I have long thought that Israel will not make it, if only because of what are cavalierly called WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and its very tight geographical compression. All else is immaterial, including the Palestinians, or us, or the nature of Israel's [government]."

I was stunned by this person's words, and I have reflected on them many times since.

This and the uprisings sweeping the region, which may be co-opted by Islamic fascists and engulf Israel ultimately, undergird a sense of urgency concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; not peace at any price, but something different than the approach being taken by Netanyahu. Indeed, action by the UN General Assembly on the issue of Palestinian statehood may be the only means of moving the peace process forward, because neither Obama--in the waning days of his failed presidency--nor Netanyahu, are likely to make a positive difference.

Does Ben-Ami have the answers? His heart is in the right place; and his is a legitimate, persuasive voice. He certainly rings the alarm bells, inter alia, by soberly raising the issue of whether Israel and his great-grandparents' Tel Aviv will be there for his offspring in 2109 at the city's bicentennial--and implicitly, well before then. He is frank, forthright and courageous in his assessments, concerns and the stark choices ahead for Israel. While I do not agree with all of his views, one cannot discount his honesty, sincerity and integrity, which shine through in his essentially-flawless writings and hard-hitting, thought-provoking book.

Lastly, Simon Wiesenthal was a hero of mine, ever since I read his book many years ago, "The Murderers Among Us." Later I read an article about him, in which the famous Nazi hunter spoke about the duty owed by survivors of the Nazi Holocaust to Jews and non-Jews alike to insure that other holocausts do not occur again, and of course he was correct. In many ways, Ben-Ami evokes the wisdom of Wiesenthal and the heritage of their forefathers, in asking about the treatment of Palestinians: "Is this how I wanted to be treated when I was a minority in another people's country?"

Media and Peace in the Middle East: The Role of Journalism in Israel-Palestine (Palgrave Studies in Compromise after Conflict) 1st Edition, Kindle Edition by G. Tiripelli (Palgrave MacMillan)

Giuliana Tiripelli's book is particularly valuable because she moves beyond the identification of media bias to point to a possible ideal journalism that can also contribute to peace and social change. Her detailed analysis of journalism in the field reviews important dilemmas of the profession, and includes practical insights and suggestions for developing a strategy that can help practitioners to move in a new direction. This inspiring new book reveals the unheralded importance of "peace journalism" to creating a groundwork for political and social breakthroughs within Israeli and Palestinian societies without which no peace involving fundamental reconciliation by both sides will be possible. Tiripelli offers a powerful defense of the role of progressive journalism in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, demonstrating clearly how  a self-understood peace journalism is inherently progressive, creating and sustaining links between various social actors in the two societies whose interactions are crucial actualizing grass roots visions of peace that can then help to shape the media landscape in a positive manner, promoting a vision of peace and justice that motivates  citizens on both sides to take the risks for peace that increasingly cynical, and elite/establishment dominated traditional journalism has long frustrated. After reading this book, you will have a much better appreciation of how the political weltanschauung of the reporters covering--and making--the news shapes the possibilities for rapprochement the news attempts to clarify. It is a usually vicious circle from which we would do well to break free.Actively setting out to bring academics, peace activists and reporters into a dialogue, this is a very important contribution to the ongoing search for better reporting from the Middle East.It is indisputable that the mass media play a very determinative role in the shaping the view of society members involved in intractable conflict such as an Israeli-Palestinian one. The book Media and Peace in the Middle East sheds light on how media acts, is perceived by peace activists, and by journalists. This is a very interesting and important illumination that adds to the various explanations about the events of 1990s and the beginning of 2000s that determined the present state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of special value is the discussion of the peace journalism that suggests to the journalists to fulfil their role in a constructive and useful way that influences also the conflict process in advancing peace. Thus Tiripelli's research and analysis is not only a contribution to the understanding of the past, but also a lesson of how to change the future.In this thought-provoking book, Tiripelli explicitly sets out to underscore the role of grassroots peace voices in transforming dominant media narratives that justify and perpetuate the Israel–Palestine conflict. Media and Peace in the Middle East does offer a transformative model linking media with social change, and might definitely be of interest to scholars from various interdisciplinary fields dealing with the constitutive role of discourse in effecting social change, conflict resolution studies, educational discourse and social change.

This important book by Giuliana Tiripelli takes the scholarship of Peace Journalism to a new level. Tackling a complex set of interlocking research questions with an ambitious interdisciplinary approach, she ably interweaves a rich stream of idiographic detail with passages of theoretical exposition that are admirable in depth and clarity. The result is an account that is as satisfying in its granularity as it is impressive in its conceptual scope.“For academics, students, and journalists, Media and Peace in the Middle East is a sorely needed, in-depth study of how Peace Journalism applies in the Israeli-Palestinian setting. The theoretical foundation Tiripelli lays out is spot on, particularly the notions that news coverage lacks context, is unbalanced, and can be seen as a series of tendencies (standard narratives) and distortions, including the use of inflammatory language. The book provides an excellent overview about the grassroots peace movements and its often-strained relationship with the media.  In fact, Tiripelli breaks new ground in the analysis of this “tug of war” relationship, especially in the discussion of what media portrayals would be most effective in laying the groundwork for transformative change. Media and Peace in the Middle East is an outstanding addition to the study of media in general and Peace Journalism specifically.

Too often scholarship in the field of media communications remains steadfastly fixed on the deficiencies of contemporary journalism, especially when reporting conflicts. Critical sights become focused on what is problematic and not what is possible and, sometimes, already progressively performed by journalists. Giuliana Tiripelli’s detailed study provides a welcome and detailed analysis of the complexities and contingencies as well as constraints and controls enacted in and through journalism and the reporting of Israel-Palestine. This is an important, empirically rich and theoretically nuanced study and it will prove of interest to all those interested in peace journalism and the news media’s roles and responsibilities in the furtherance of peace in the Middle East.

A Philosophy of Israel Education: A Relational Approach 1st Edition, Kindle Edition by Barry Chazan (Palgrave MacMillan)

This short book is a written analysis of the relational approach that  the Israeli people take to education in their country. This was a nice history of what Israel education was and what it can be.This book develops a new philosophy of Israel education. “Person-centered” Israel education is concerned with developing in individual learners the ability to understand and make rational, emotional, and ethical decisions about Israel, and about the challenges Israel regularly faces, whether they be existential, spiritual, democratic, humanitarian, national, etc. Chazan begins by laying out the terms of the conversation then examines the six-pronged theory of “person-centered” Israel education to outline the aims, content, pedagogy, and educators needed to implement this program. Finally, the author meditates on what a transformation from ethnic to ethical education might look like in this context and others.

This book develops a new philosophy of Israel education. “Person-centered” Israel education is concerned with developing in individual learners the ability to understand and make rational, emotional, and ethical decisions about Israel, and about the challenges Israel regularly faces, whether they be existential, spiritual, democratic, humanitarian, national, etc. Chazan begins by laying out the terms of the conversation then examines the six-pronged theory of “person-centered” Israel education to outline the aims, content, pedagogy, and educators needed to implement this program. Finally, the author meditates on what a transformation from ethnic to ethical education might look like in this context and others.

Barry Chazan is Professor of Education and Founding Director of the Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies Program at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership. He is Emeritus Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Israel's Technology Economy: Origins and Impact (Middle East in Focus) Hardcover – April 8, 2018 by David Rosenberg ( Palgrave MacMillan)

In the past decade, the term Startup Nation has become so entrenched as part of Israel’s identity that it’s almost a second name. Israel generates more startup companies per capita than any other country and its entrepreneurs are famed for their abruptness, chutzpah, and irreverence, all of which make them good at what they do. The sector has created well-paid jobs and has become a diplomatic asset, opening doors to countries that are hungry for Israeli technology.

Now, a new book called “Israel’s Technology Economy, Origins and Impact” written by veteran economic journalist David Rosenberg (full disclosure: he is a former colleague) takes a deep look at Israel’s startup phenomenon and its impact on the local economy. The book, published by Palgrave Macmillan and available on Amazon, goes behind the hype to take a deep look at the data, and in a very readable and easy to understand way comes up with a chilling though perhaps not surprising conclusion: the sector offers “few knock-on effects for the wider economy.”

“Israel is punching way above its weight in the world economy because of its high-tech sector,” Rosenberg said in an interview with The Times of Israel. “But you have an industry whose impact on the wider economy is limited. So, there is only a limit as to where this can go.”

Rosenberg, the business editor for the English-language edition of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, believes that as important as understanding the rise of high-tech in Israel — as detailed in the book “Start-up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, and the sector’s impact on the world, as set out in “Thou Shalt Innovate” by Avi Jorish — assessing its impact on the local economy and society is also a must.

David Rosenberg, author of Israel’s Technology Economy, Origins and Impact (Courtesy)
“The conventional view is that high-tech is the way to go for developed economies like Europe and the US” as manufacturing processes are shifting to Asian economies. “The belief is that the future lies in high-tech, in which people use their creativity, and where they have well-paying jobs, and processes are environmentally clean. This is all true, but especially in the case of Israel, the high-tech sector does not create a lot of jobs and it contributes to greater income inequality.”

Israel has an elite group of people who earn top salaries, but they, with their very specific set of skills, are only a small part of the population. Indeed, the high-tech workforce accounts for just some 8 percent of the total workforce in Israel, “and this number is not growing. The high-tech industry in Israel and the world has reached a ceiling,” Rosenberg said.

New economy giants like Apple and Google employ vast numbers of workers worldwide, yet those numbers pale into insignificance when compared to those once employed by the huge manufacturing industries, for example. In 2012 Apple employed 43,000 people in the US and 20,000 overseas. In the 1950s, General Motors, the Detroit-based car manufacturer, employed some 400,000 US workers, the book says.

“Knowledge-based sectors by their nature bestow higher incomes and employment opportunities chiefly on those with the relevant education skills,” Rosenberg wrote in the book. “Those without them have fewer alternatives. The combination of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, and the emigration of less-skilled work to less-developed economies, threatens to narrow their possibilities even more.”

The high-tech industry, Rosenberg said in the interview, “is not a solution.” Nations need “a broader-based economy.”

And the situation in Israel is worse than in other countries, Rosenberg warns, because Israelis are good at innovation but not at building big businesses that could employ more people, such as accountants, lawyers and HR personnel. Israel doesn’t have a Google or a Facebook, but it also doesn’t even have companies a notch lower than these giants, like Salesforce, for example, he said., Inc is a US cloud-computing company.

“Our high-tech is only about innovation,” Rosenberg said.

Startups typically employ some 10-30 people, most of them engineers, and the companies’ trajectory is pretty clear. If they succeed, they get sold to a giant multinational and become their R&D center locally. Those entrepreneurs who opt to remain independent and expand “face a daunting challenge, because the same qualities that enable Israelis to so successfully start up companies and innovate are antithetical to the culture of big organizations.”

In the US and Europe, the transition from startup to big company often necessitates the founders handing over the reins to managers who have the skills to lead a large organization. But in Israel, there are relatively few managers who can do this. Because the industry has failed to develop bigger, sustainable enterprises, the sector offers opportunities only to those who have the narrow set of skills needed for a small company focused on R&D.

At the same time, the rest of Israel’s economy, though it has an excellent record of growth, is based on a protected, noncompetitive environment with relatively low-cost, under-trained labor. The result of this is that despite the high levels of growth, Israeli per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is “at the lower end of the developed world, labor productivity is poor,” and the nation struggles “to reduce its high rate of poverty.” Israel had the second highest income poverty rate among OECD countries in 2013, and the nation is one of the most unequal societies in the OECD, with only Mexico and the US showing larger gaps.

Added to that is the fact that Israeli students score poorly in the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam, and that there is a troubling decline in the number of students pursuing scientific studies from high school through university. Arab Israelis get an inferior education to that of the general population as their schools get less funding, and the fact that they teach in Arabic puts their students at a disadvantage when they venture into university or the workforce, the book says.

“These are serious problems, which are compounded by discrimination and other factors,” Rosenberg wrote. “But they pale in comparison with the challenges posed by the ultra-Orthodox.”

While the ultra-Orthodox community emphasizes study and education, the focus is “geared almost exclusively to traditional religious studies,” and they “get no significant exposure” to the core curriculum studies of math and English that would help them get well-paying jobs.

These two populations participate in the labor force at much lower levels than other Israelis and suffer higher rates of poverty. But they also have the fastest growth rates, posing a huge threat to the rest of the economy. The ultra-Orthodox population is forecast to increase its share of the total population to 26 percent from 10% in the period between 2009 and 2059. And the Arab Israelib share of the population will grow to 23.1% from 20.4%, according to data provided in the book.

“Israel enjoyed a favorable confluence of economic and political factors that came together after 1985, but those achievements have come hand to hand with failures,” wrote Rosenberg. “Some of them, such as high rates of poverty, poor schools and the low rates of productivity, are already evident; others, like the challenging demographic outlook that will leave it with an older and less-educated population if the current trends remain, will only manifest themselves in the years ahead.”

“These failures, both the ones Israel faces now, and the ones looming ahead, jeopardize the country’s achievements of the last three decades. Analyzing them is as important, if not more important, than examining the factors that contributed to its success.”

Reaching out to the populations that have been left on the sidelines and expanding the base of its knowledge economy is the “single biggest challenge facing Israel in the years ahead,” Rosenberg wrote.

To do this, Israel must increase funding of its universities and improve its school system.

The country must also integrate Arab Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox into the workforce. To some degree their inclusion is already happening but progress is too slow, given the demographic changes happening in Israel “that could see the two groups combined increase their share of the population to close to half.”

But because these populations live today in “virtually separate societies,” better education isn’t enough, and Israel must strive to more “fully integrate them into mainstream Israeli society.” This would mean getting the ultra-Orthodox to give up the values that lie at the heart of their tradition of insularity and full-time Torah study — which will happen if economic pressures become too great to resist — and for Jewish Israelis to abandon “the racist attitudes too many of them now hold” vis a vis Israeli Arabs, he said. A peaceful conclusion of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians would certainly “aid this process, but the economic imperative is too important for it to wait.”

The government must also cut back on regulation but enforce rules where they count, and work on providing services effectively, something that is lacking today.

Shrill voices in society
A fourth challenge relates to the nation’s religious and political culture. “The startup ethos requires people to think, speak and act freely,” Rosenberg wrote. These qualities cannot flourish isolated in the workplace, but need to also exist in society, where they should be cultivated.

And even if Israel is showing signs of greater freedom and inclusiveness than ever before, there are deep tears in society between various groups, resulting in a “culture war”: between the older, left-wing and liberal Ashkenazi establishment and “a right wing of socially mobile Mizrahim,” plus Israel’s settler movement and its Orthodox Jews, each holding on to their beliefs and truths. Disputes are often held in shrill voices, as each side seeks to constrain the freedom of the other, Rosenberg wrote.

Besides these huge domestic challenges, the book also refers to the significant external threats facing the country. These are, for now, “relatively muted” by Israeli standards, but could grow, “indeed arise quite suddenly — in the years ahead.”

These include the threat of Syria and Iran and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah at Israel’s borders and the challenge of global public opinion that could deter companies from doing business with Israel or lead governments to impose sanctions.

Assuming Israel successfully handles or forestalls all of these challenges, Rosenberg suggests five strategies the nation could employ going forward, “to create business opportunities and employment in sectors where Israel has potential that has been only partially exploited or not exploited at all. In doing so, it would address the problems of poverty and inequality Israel now struggles with.”

Five strategies forward
The first strategy is to create small or medium-sized companies modeled on the style of Germany’s Mittelstand companies — family or privately held businesses with annual revenues of up to 50 million euros and employing up to 500 people. Their formation would offer Israel both microeconomic and macroeconomic benefits, Rosenberg said. They would play to the country’s strength in innovation and technology by developing high value-added products in niche markets.

The second strategy is to set up advanced manufacturing plants in Israel — a new emerging manufacturing environment in which machine-driven mass production is replaced with a microprocessor-based factory floor, and including a variety of emerging technologies, including cloud computing, 3D printers, low-cost electronic sensors and new materials, that enable small and nimble manufacturing processes. The advantages of this are many, Rosenberg said. Israel has the technology infrastructure in place to develop products and processes; there are low costs in acquiring software and hardware necessary for production; the labor force required is small though workers need to be well educated.

The third strategy is to create a local industry based on natural gas. Israel, traditionally lacking in natural resources, has found a bonanza of natural gas off its shores. The country is seeking to use this gas locally and export it to neighbors, enhancing its geopolitical standing in the process. “But Israel should also be using gas as a catalyst to expand and create new industries,” Rosenberg said. Industries based on natural gas would provide well-paid employment for those who are less educated, he said.

The fourth strategy is to leverage Israel’s reputation of having top-ranked universities to become a teaching center, with higher education becoming a source of employment and income as by attracting foreign students to come and study in Israel. This would enable many Israeli academics working abroad to return home to teach this increased number of students, and these returning teachers would also help boost Israel’s research capabilities.

The fifth strategy is to leverage Israel’s creativity — which has served it so well in the high-tech sector — for media and creative arts. This creative energy could be “put to use in creating employment and generating income,” for example, by providing TV content for shows, as Israelis have already successfully done over the last decade, with hit series like “Homeland” and “Fauda.”

“The creative industry may even under the most optimistic scenarios create only a small number of jobs, but they would be rewarding and well paid and offer opportunities to Israelis without the skills and training required by the tech sector,” he wrote. “In particular, Israeli Arabs could be a critical bridge to creating content for the Arab speaking world.”

It is evident by the flow of the book that Rosenberg, a former Israel bureau chief for Bloomberg News in Jerusalem and a former economic correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters, knows his stuff. His writing is clean and concise, and the book will likely earn a place on the bookshelves of those who are interested in the phenomenon of Israel and its economy. Rosenberg has also previously written the book “Cloning Silicon Valley: Inside the World’s High Tech Hot Spots.”

“Despite Israel’s evident successes, the overall tone of this book [Israel’s Technology Economy] has been critical of Israel’s economic performance,” Rosenberg wrote in the conclusion of the book. “That is because in a dynamic and globally interconnected economy, there is no time to rest on one’s laurels.”

If nothing is done, or not enough is done, to fix what needs to be fixed, Rosenberg said in the interview, then “we are in trouble. If things don’t change then we are going to be treading water. We have to go further.”

Pope Francis and Interreligious Dialogue: Religious Thinkers Engage with Recent Papal Initiatives (Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue) 1st ed. 2018 Edition by Harold Kasimow (Editor), Alan Race (Editor) (Palgrave MacMillan)

This richly stimulating volume is a worthy response to Pope Francis’s invitation, extended to all of us, to join him on the path of interfaith solidarity. The authors, representing different religious traditions, demonstrate their deep appreciation for the pope’s expansive heart and his prophetic stance toward the most vulnerable among us, by showing how their own traditions parallel and reinforce his living example of Imitatio Christi. For anyone seeking resources for fostering interreligious engagement in a world plagued by estrangement and hostility, this anthology provides both inspiration and practical wisdom.Like the eponymous Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis transcends the boundaries of his tradition, stirring the imagination of people of all faiths and of no faith. These engaging essays, showcasing the most rigorous reflections on the joy and challenge of dialogue today, point to the promise of the first south American pope’s unprecedented commitment to global justice, creation care, and ecclesiastical transparency. They also forcefully remind us that true dialogue demands respectful acknowledgement of difference. No mere rehearsal of shopworn platitudes or wishful thinking, this book takes the daring next step in the unscripted journey of interreligious collaboration

This is a remarkable collection of essays by authors from a diverse range of traditions – theologically nuanced and scholarly yet also deeply personal, at times candidly ambivalent or critical but with insight and profound appreciation for the Pope’s vision of interreligious dialogue. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in Pope Francis and relations between the world’s faiths.This book engages thinkers from different religious and humanist traditions in response to Pope Francis’s pronouncements on interreligious dialogue. The contributors write from the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Humanism. Each author elaborates on how the pope’s openness to dialogue and invitation to practical collaboration on global concerns represents a significant achievement as the world faces an uncertain future. The theological tension within the Catholic double commitment to evangelization on the one hand, and dialogue on the other, remains unresolved for most writers, but this does not prevent them from praising the strong invitation to dialogue–especially with the focus on justice, peace, and ecological sustainability. 

Christian Zionism and English National Identity, 1600–1850 (Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World) 1st ed. 2018 Edition by Andrew Crome (Palgrave MacMillan)

This book makes an important contribution to the study of Protestant “philosemitism” and the religious sources of English national identity. Crome begins with a hermeneutical revolution: the new “Judeo-centric” reading of the Bible that flourished in seventeenth-century Britain and put the restoration of the Jews at the centre of end-times speculation. Here he finds the origins of Christian Zionism, but also a new conception of the nation. England (or Britain) was conceived not as the new Israel (displacing old Israel), but rather as a nation that found its raison d’etre in supporting the Jews and their restoration to Palestine. Crome shows how this idea informed the debates around Jewish readmission in 1655, the “Jew Bill” of 1753, and the Jerusalem bishopric controversy of 1840-41. His study is essential reading for students of millenarianism, Judaism, and religious nationalism.his book explores why English Christians, from the early modern period onwards, believed that their nation had a special mission to restore the Jews to Palestine. It examines English support for Jewish restoration from the Whitehall Conference in 1655 through to public debates on the Jerusalem Bishopric in 1841. Rather than claiming to replace Israel as God’s “elect nation”, England was “chosen” to have a special, but inferior, relationship with the Jews. Believing that God “blessed those who bless” the Jewish people, this national role allowed England to atone for ill-treatment of Jews, read the confusing pathways of providence, and guarantee the nation’s survival until Christ’s return. This book analyses this mode of national identity construction and its implications for understanding Christian views of Jews, the self, and “the other”. It offers a new understanding of national election, and of the relationship between apocalyptic prophecy and political action.   

Christian Zionism and English National Identity is an important addition to the literature on Christian-Jewish relations, political theology, and the influence of the Bible on Western history. Moving fluently between primary sources and recent scholarship, Crome shows how concepts of chosenness and election were deployed to give a divine mission to English Protestants without claiming an eschatology reserved for the Jews. Working in a sensitive field, Crome is notably respectful of both historical actors and contemporary interlocutors. This book will interest and provoke readers in a range of disciplines and makes an important, provocative, powerful contribution to the extensive work on English national identity, Christian (particularly Protestant) attitudes toward Jews, the idea of chosen nations, and prophecy and biblical interpretation from the early seventeenth century into the mid nineteenth-century.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Celebrating Brit Shalom by Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald (Notim Press)

Reading Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald’s new book, Celebrating Brit Shalom, feels a little like stepping into the future. Depending on how you feel about ritual Jewish circumcision, this future will either come across as utopian or dystopian. I certainly fall into the former category and in the interests of full disclosure, I both contributed to the Kickstarter campaign that made this publication possible and consulted on an early draft of the book. Nevertheless, I had a number of lingering questions when the finished product arrived at my doorstep. What is this book? Who is it meant for? And most importantly, did they pull it off?

Celebrating Brit Shalom is a work that glides effortlessly from how-to guide to new liturgy, to political statement and back again. It is written with a light touch that hides a profound and deliberate engagement with the Jewish tradition. Braver Moss and Wald offer three possible ceremonies for parents who oppose infant circumcision, but still wish to conduct a Jewish welcoming ritual for their newborn.

The first is called the “Peace and Wholeness Ceremony.” This is the closest of the three to the traditional Brit Milah liturgy, but the language of wholeness comes directly from the world of intactivism. Both of the authors are leaders in the intactivist (or anti-circumcision) movement which frequently urges parents to bring their babies home “whole,” i.e. uncircumcised, from the hospital. But even as Braver Moss and Wald borrow language from the contemporary anti-circumcision movement, they justify their appropriation with what is easily the most daring and beautiful interpretation contained within this slender volume.

The presence of Phineas in the traditional Brit Milah liturgy has long been a source of bewilderment for traditional commentators. Recall that Phineas was the priest who, in an act of religious zealotry, drove a spear through an Israelite prince and a Midianite princess while they were in flagrante delicto. Why is this Biblical character mentioned in the lead up to a circumcision? Some commentators say that Phineas and Elijah the prophet shared the same soul. (According to the tradition, Elijah appears at every circumcision.) Others argue that it is an object lesson for how a man ought to use his sexuality (beware illicit sexual relations with Midianite princesses). Braver Moss and Wald draw our attention to the fact that there is a covenant mentioned in the Phineas story. Shortly after his double homicide, God makes a covenant of peace, or a brit shalom, with Phineas to protect him from vigilantes.

“God gives the covenant of peace to the prince Phineas after he commits a violent act in God’s name. In this section, the scribes intentionally break the letter vav within the word shalom, making it readable as either shalomor shaleim…. The broken vav in the story of brit shalom is there to remind us of the profound relationship between peace, shalom, and wholeness, shaleim [sic]. In the absence of one, the other cannot fully exist.”

What I love about this passage is how bold and Midrashic it is. At a single stroke, Braver Moss and Wald subvert the original meaning of the Biblical text, explain what Phineas is doing at a Bris in the first place, and justify the contemporary theme and language of their first ritual.

The second ritual is called the “Faith and Trust Ceremony.” The subtext of the title and indeed the general thrust of this liturgy is a not-so-subtle critique of traditional circumcision, by way of contrast.

“May this child develop and grow like a flourishing garden. May his trust in his parents and community remain unbroken. As he is protected in childhood by those who cherish him, may he be known in adulthood as one who protects others−a defender of the weak and a champion of righteousness. May he live to old age as a model of wisdom and trustworthiness.”

The Biblical figure discussed in this ceremony is Abraham, the very individual who, according to the Jewish tradition, received the commandment of Brit Milah in the first place. The impulse to reexamine the complex character of Abraham with circumcision in mind is excellent. Unfortunately, Braver Moss and Wald stumble here a bit by emphasizing the wrong part of his story.

“Abraham puts his faith in God, and God follows through on the promise to secure the continuation of the Jewish people…. The newborn infant with nothing but trust in his heart is as Abraham was in the presence of God.”

Surely the episode of the Abraham story that ought to be referenced at a Brit Shalom ceremony is that of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham questions God’s judgment. When Abraham says, “Will the judge of all the earth not perform justice?” he is establishing the possibility that human beings can question the divine will based on independent ethical considerations. Is this not the very exercise that Jewish parents who eschew traditional circumcision are engaging in?

The third and final ritual presented here is called the “Celebrating Equality Ceremony.” Unlike the first two, this one is written in gender-neutral language and so can be used to welcome both boys and girls. The implicit critique here is one that liberal Jews have struggled with for many years. Namely, that traditional Jewish circumcision is inherently sexist. And you don’t need Lawrence Hoffman’s theory of male and female blood in the Rabbinic imagination to see this. The more one emphasizes the importance of circumcision to Jewish observance and identity, the more problematic it becomes that the mitzvah is only applicable to male Jews. One of the decisive advantages of Brit Shalom over Brit Milah is that this sexism and the inevitable accompanying social bias toward male birth is eliminated. By not cutting boys, the playing field is leveled and all are welcomed equally. Another Brit Shalom advantage explicitly referenced in the Celebrating Equality Ceremony is the ability to say the shehecheyanu blessing.

“During ritual circumcision, the shehecheyanu is not recited because of the pain experienced by the newborn. Today, in observing brit shalom, we can say this blessing because we delight in having arrived at this wonderful day…. Blessed are You Adonai Eloheinu, creator of time and space, who has supported us, protected us, and brought us to this moment.”

All three of the ceremonies in Celebrating Brit Shalom end in a ritual cutting of a pomegranate. The authors point out that this fruit has a rich significance in the Jewish tradition and particular relevance to the covenant God made with Abraham.

“Since the covenant reenacted during the bris speaks directly to the ongoing fertility of the Jewish people and their land, there is perhaps no better symbol.”

In addition to the three ceremonies, Braver Moss and Wald teamed up with Reuben Moss and Jason page to record some original music to accompany the rituals. The music is available for purchase from the iTunes store, but it also appears as musical notation and lyrics at the back of the book. The tracks are well-produced and have a bit of a classic rock feeling to them. Musical taste is very subjective, but I enjoyed the tracks and appreciate that instrumental versions of all the songs were provided as well.

So who is this book for? The cynic in me wonders whether Celebrating Brit Shalom even has an audience. After all, if you are religious enough to care about having a welcoming ceremony with Jewish content, chances are that you’re going to want to have a traditional Brit Milah. And if you’re not so religious, chances are that the Jewish content here won’t appeal to you. But the Jew in me believes that this book is for everyone. Without asking anyone’s permission, Braver Moss and Wald have crafted a beautiful series of alternative welcoming ceremonies that are in deep conversation with the Jewish tradition. The fact that Celebrating Brit Shalom exists is a testament to both the ingenuity of its creators and the vitality of the Jewish tradition. Even if its audience is limited today, Celebrating Brit Shalom will inspire many to reimagine what being Jewish in the 21st century can mean. And in this way, its influence will extend well beyond the circumcision debate. Welcome to Kickstarter Judaism, where committed, textually savvy Jews make an end-run around the institutions that have failed them and take back their tradition. We live in an exciting time and if Celebrating Brit Shalom is any indication, the future looks bright.