Like Dream­ers: The Sto­ry of the Israeli Para­troop­ers Who Reunit­ed Jerusalem and Divid­ed a Nation

  • Review
May 13, 2013

For years, Yos­si Klein Hale­vi has distin­guished him­self as one of the most elo­quent and insight­ful jour­nal­ists writ­ing from Israel; his new book, Like Dream­ers, is, in many respects, the bril­liant cul­mi­na­tion of his life’s work thus far.

On the sur­face, Like Dream­ers tells the sto­ry of sev­en para­troop­ers who fought for the lib­er­a­tion of Jerusalem in 1967, but who then took oppos­ing paths, some of them becom­ing lead­ers of the peace camp argu­ing for return­ing the lands cap­tured in the Six Day War, while oth­ers assumed lead­er­ship roles in Israel’s then nascent set­tler move­ment that advo­cat­ed keep­ing the ter­ri­to­ry for­ev­er. But with artis­tic sub­tle­ty, Like Dream­ers moves through an account of those sev­en lives to an account of the life of Israel — its dreams and dis­ap­point­ments, its accom­plish­ment and fail­ures, and of the painful and dra­mat­ic choic­es it still must make.

Like Dream­ers charts the ori­gins, suc­cess­es, and mis­steps of both the set­tlers and their neme­ses in the peace camp. But the real hall­mark of Klein Halevi’s por­trait is its abil­i­ty to illus­trate the deeply Jew­ish and Zion­ist as­pirations of both. He loves and admires both, and gets us, his read­ers, to do the same.

That is not to say that Klein Hale­vi embraces all the char­ac­ters in the book. The descrip­tion of the Baruch Gold­stein attack ends with the mur­der­er, beat­en to death, lay[ing] in his own blood.” And though Klein Hale­vi har­bors a deep love for the Zion­ist spir­it of the settle­ment move­ment, he remarks, through one of his char­ac­ters, that — at least in Hebron — A for­eign spir­it, anti­thet­i­cal to Zion­ism, was stirring.”

His clear-head­ed dis­trust of Pales­tin­ian lead­ership is, like­wise, refresh­ing­ly hon­est. In a speech in a Johan­nes­burg mosque intend­ed to be off-lim­its to the press,” Klein Hale­vi tells us, Arafat argued that his peace over­tures were mere­ly tac­ti­cal. He recalled that the prophet Muham­mad declared a cease-fire with an Ara­bi­an Jew­ish tribe, and then when he be­came strong enough, broke the cease-fire and destroyed the tribe.”

In show­ing us the best (and some of the worst) of each of these move­ments, leav­ing us in admi­ra­tion of their most noble aspi­ra­tions, Like Dream­ers is thus a pro­found cor­rec­tive to a long­stand­ing and self-destruc­tive Israeli ten­den­cy. What went wrong?” a young man asks Yoel bin Nun, one of the archi­tects of the set­tler move­ment towards the end of the book. Replies the rab­bi, We didn’t lis­ten to the moral argu­ments of the left.”

Like Dream­ers, which mod­els that lis­ten­ing and that self-cri­tique, is thus a balm for the Zion­ist soul, a stir­ring mod­el of how those still com­mit­ted to Israel’s future might forge a new path forward.


Read Philip K. Jason’s inter­view with Yos­si Klein Hale­vi here.

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