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July 12, 2002 - Image 85

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-07-12

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. "Events unfold at an incredible pace, and there's no such thing as
just standing by. All of us who claim the privilege of dwelling in the
capital of the Jewish people in the 21st century find ourselves playing
a role in the maelstrom of Israeli life."

Since 1985


"'rime Filet Mignon

Chicken or Salmon

By David J. Forman
(Gefen Books; 256 pp.; $19.95)

Utopian Community

Oasis of Dreams: Teaching and Learning Peace in a Jewish-
Palestinian Village in Israel by Grace Feuerverger (Routledge; $80)
expresses a note of hopefulness.
The book is an interesting ethnographic study of Neve
Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (the Hebrew and Arabic words for "Oasis of
Peace"), a community founded in 1972 by Jews and Palestinians who
wanted to live together, respecting and preserving both cultures.
The author, a daughter of Holocaust survivors who is a professor at
the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of
Toronto, spent nine years studying the community and its distinctive
educational institutions.
Feuerverger explains that the village's philosophy, which envisions
Jews and Arabs living in peace and equality, is rooted in the demo-
cratic ideals of dialogue, negotia-
tion and cooperative problem solv-
"But things in everyday life are
never as simple and utopian as
that," she writes. "The village is 'a
`flesh and blood' place within a dif-
ficult arena of intergroup conflict,
and the ensuing moral problems
and dilemmas are constantly being
played out and negotiated."


"In this land, whoever tells the best
story wins," says one of the charac-
ters in Jonathan Tel's impressive .
debut collection of stories, Arafat's
Elephant (Counterpoint; $14).
Tel writes about Jews and Arabs
living in complicated times in and around Jerusalem. In the first multi-
layered story, "A Story About a Bomb," a would-be suicide bomber is
stopped by American tourists who ask him to take their photograph.
Other stories involve a young religious woman on her way to her
arranged marriage, an elderly couple who rediscover their love in a
coffee factory and a Jewish man trying to pass as an Arab.
The author, who has worked as a particle physicist, studied cosmol-
ogy with Stephen Hawking. He now divides his time between New
York, London and Jerusalem.
His stories take readers to places they might not go otherwise, and
the journey — sometimes funny, often powerful — is well worth it.
In "The Chair at the Edge of the Desert," Tel describes the kind of
marginal character who could exist in any nation.
'As best as anybody can tell, Yigal had never officially been a mem-
ber of the kibbutz," he writes. "He had been there before the birth of
the kibbutz; he was still there after its death.
"He lived in a shack he had built himself out of shipping crates and
drainage pipes and agricultural polyethylene; his stove was made from
the turret of a Russian-built T-1 tank, wrecked further south, that had
somehow been salvaged and dragged up here. Strictly speaking he was
squatting, but since he had long worked for the kibbutz, picking avo-
cados and carnations in their appropriate seasons, and tending the
date palms, nobody minded.
"It is believed that at one point, in July 1967, during the flood of
fellow-feeling that spread across the nation after the war, he was actu-
ally invited to become a kibbutznik.
"He refused: He was not the collective sort." El

We all know the joke about "two Jews, three
opinions." In his book Jewish Schizophrenia in
the Land of Israel, Israeli Rabbi David Forman
both celebrates and bemoans this feature of
Jewish life, and makes it clear that it is alive
and well in Israel.
But we already knew that. With immigrants
from almost 200 countries, sharp political
divisions, divergent religious interpretations
and serious external pressures, discord in Israel
is not news. Nor for that matter is most of
what Forman writes.
Unlike the mas-
terful In the Land of
Israel by Amos Oz,
who praises this
joviet s5ctizoFtiretia
book on the dust
cover — and whose
title Forman refer-
ences in his own --
this book is all
about Forman's
views and less about
those of Israelis.
Da,id J. Forman
Oz let diverse
Israelis speak for
,be car4 of lareztel
themselves and pro-
vided bridging corn=
mentary to provide
perspective. Forman uses Israelis as a bridge
for his own opinions. A better title would
have been David Forman in the Land of Israel.
For example, it is often hard to know if
Forman is speaking as an American Jew (he is
an American-born Reform rabbi) or as an
Israeli (he has lived in Jerusalem for decades
and founded Israeli Rabbis for Human
The brief chapter on Israel and Diaspora
Jewry critiques how American Jews view
Israel, rather than providing the much more
interesting perspective of how Israelis view
American and other Jews.
In the same chapter, he strongly criticizes
Project Birthright that provides free trips to
Israel for college students, but we have no idea
how Israelis view the program, nor what it has
to do with the subject of the book.
As a polemic, Forman has authored an
interesting and readable book that provides
plenty to get exercised about. His biblical
interpretations, liberal views and scathing cri-
tique of Israel's Orthodox community and
establishment will have some cheering and
others fuming.
And there is nothing wrong with that. But
if you seek a fair-minded overview rather than
one man's view, look elsewhere.

— Don Cohen

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