Com­ing Togeth­er, Com­ing Apart: A Mem­oir of Heart­break and Promise in Israel

  • Review
By – October 26, 2011

In 1998, the author and his wife moved to Israel with their chil­dren, leav­ing com­fort­able sub­ur­ban Cal­i­for­nia life for a oneyear sab­bat­i­cal. Short­ly after mov­ing, they decid­ed to stay in Jerusalem, moti­vat­ed in part by the prospects for peace that seemed achiev­able, even immi­nent. Through a series of short pieces, this book describes his and his family’s expe­ri­ences liv­ing in Israel and its effects on them, as peace prospects ebb and flow. 

Gordis wres­tles with the impli­ca­tions of his and his wife’s deci­sion to remain in Israel to raise their fam­i­ly, exam­in­ing in par­tic­u­lar its impact on their chil­dren. Descrip­tions of con­ver­sa­tions with his chil­dren — whether about mun­dane moments of life, or more com­plex top­ics like their per­spec­tives on ter­ror­ism or serv­ing in Israel’s defense forces— are by turns intense, enlight­en­ing, humor­ous and wrench­ing. He ulti­mate­ly con­cludes that there is nowhere he would rather he, and they, be. His and their love for what Israel is and can be is pal­pa­ble. It is a place, Gordis writes, whose pow­er is over­whelm­ing, that is filled with moments in which life goes through you.” Many such moments are beau­ti­ful­ly cap­tured in this book. 

Gordis also thought­ful­ly dis­cuss­es the Pales­tin­ian sit­u­a­tion and Israel’s dis­en­gage­ment from Gaza. Here his abil­i­ty to describe intri­cate, nuanced mat­ters in a few sim­ple, grace­ful lines is most strik­ing. This book reminds us how, like his fam­i­ly, his State wres­tles with the choic­es before it, con­tin­u­al­ly assess­ing what it is and what it will become. And it allows us to appre­ci­ate why he feels for­tu­nate, despite the com­plex­i­ties, to be a part of it.

Bruce Shapiro lives in New Jer­sey with his wife and two chil­dren, and is a vice pres­i­dent and legal coun­sel at a multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal company.

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