“Like Dreamers” Yossi Klein Halevi’s latest book, (Harper Collins, 2013 ) gives itself the “humble” task of distilling Israeli history from the 67 and 73 wars and beyond based on the lives of the heroic 55th battalion which took the Old City of Jerusalem and won the Yom Kippur War in the crossing of the Suez Canal.
Klein Halevi was recently at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles before a huge, rapped crowd talking about his book, Israel, Iran and other assorted topics.
He was introduced by “the two Davids” David Wolpe, the Conservative Shule’s Rabbi, and David Suissa, columnist.
By weaving the stories of the mainly Ashkenazi paratroopers, Halevi traces the lives of 4 kibbutznik and 3 religious Zionist leaders and their formative paratroop experiences.
The Kibbutzniks were Arik Achmon, Udi Adiv, Meir Ariel and Avital Geva; the religious Zionists; Hanan Porat, Yael Bin Nun, and Yisrael Harel.
There are many “aha” and Ur Zionist moments in the book and its associated stories.
For Klein Halevi, it is his trip to Israel a couple of weeks after the 67 war with his Holocaust survivor father. At the Kotel, he says, his father “forgave God for the Holocaust” and reclaimed his Judaism, and Yossi became the Zionist who moved to Israel in 1982.
For Hanan Porat, he notes his being hit in the shoulder by an Egyptian mortar which “bounced off” and exploded far enough away for him to be only severely wounded. As he recovered from his shrapnel wounds he helped develop Gush Emunim after the Yom Kippur War.
For Avital Geva it was the actual moment of ceasefire in the city of Suez, when spontaneous shouts of joy and handshaking and embraces happened between the combatants in the middle of the street, before saner officers prevailed and the UN moved in. He helped started the Peace Now movement and represented Israel at he 1993 Venice Biennale as a conceptual artist.
Most interestingly, Klein Halevi’s response – as a center left leaning former follower of Rabbi Kahane, was his comment that President Obama’s clear signs of vacillation and weakness over Syria, perhaps a a result of the American wish for isolationism from the complex world of the Middle East – has clearly been seen throughout the region as weakness. He now believes that there is much wider support in Israel for a direct attack on Iran as it now is certain that it has lost critical US support.
Here is a youtube video of the interview/ evening in LA .. it is a superb interview showing deep thinking about Israel from the author and his subjects – well worth looking at.
Another review of the book here