Ambiva­lence: Adven­tures in Israel and Palestine

Jonathan Garfinkel
  • Review
By – January 23, 2012

The Cana­di­an poet and play­wright Jonathan Garfinkel is of two minds about a lot of things. He enjoys the songs at ser­vices but not what the prayers say. He feels deeply con­nect­ed to Israel but is out­raged at Zion­ists when he hears the Pales­tin­ian side of their shared his­to­ry. When he learns of a house in Jerusalem owned by an Arab and rent­ed by a Jew, he sees a tan­gi­ble sym­bol for the hopes and chal­lenges of coex­is­tence. So he flies to Israel — for the first time— to learn its emblem­at­ic sto­ry. The result­ing mem­oir, writ­ten in a high­ly per­son­al and agree­able voice, describes Garfinkel’s jour­neys to Ramal­lah and Beth­le­hem, and to the Jerusalem of reli­gious friends and rel­a­tives. But he nev­er quite makes up his mind. For all his sin­cer­i­ty and good inten­tions, he can’t tran­scend the self that is his semi-com­ic point of depar­ture: the dayschool stu­dent he once was who can’t stop argu­ing with his Zion­ist teach­ers. He feels most at ease when he can crit­i­cize and ask ques­tions, and is least com­fort­able tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty and mak­ing choic­es. Where­as Jonathan Garfinkel’s con­flict­ing sym­pa­thies tell us a lot about him, his trav­els don’t reveal much that is new about Israel.

Discussion Questions