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The Moral Lives of Israelis: Reinventing the Dream State [Hardcover]

David Berlin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 23 2011
Brave, intensely personal and politically incisive — an essential and thought-provoking look at the state of Israel today from an Israeli-Canadian's perspective.

The Moral Lives of Israelis explores the last ten years of life in Israel, a sixty-one-year-old country that has never not been in a state of war. It began in David Berlin's head as he sat vigil over his father's deathbed in a falling-down hospital in Tel Aviv. The last words given to him by his father were not words of love for his son and his grandchildren, but this command: "Look after my little country." That note set off a huge voyage of exploration and remembrance for Berlin, who has spent much of the last six years living and reporting in Israel, interviewing his own generation and the new crop of politicians and leaders, and witnessing the Second Lebanon War, the removal of the settlers from Gaza, and other defining events.

The result is a thrilling blend of memoir, reportage and original thinking on the place of Israel in the world. The fundamental question that floats over every page of this passionate book is, with so many missteps and in a region deeply fraught with antagonism, racism and misunderstanding, how can Israel move forward? After many dead ends and twists and turns, it is the nineteenth-century visionary father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who ultimately sparks Berlin's dream for Israel in the twenty-first century — it is Herzl's insistence on a secular and cosmopolitan state that Berlin sees as a way to move beyond.

Berlin's brave inquiry will be a must-read for anyone concerned with the fate of the Middle East — it engages on every level from the deeply emotional to the philosophical, and brings new perspective to a question that resonates well beyond the borders of Israel.

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“A beautifully written, truly heart-wrenching book…. You may (and you should) read thirty or forty books about the Middle East conflict. Start here.”
The Winnipeg Review

“David Berlin weaves together the personal, intergenerational, cultural, religious and political strands of a complicated story of passion and hope. This book looks at the Israel/Palestine dilemma through a unique lens of personal family history embedded in the ever-changing streams of dreams for the future. It takes you to the heart of personal trauma, then shifts to historical events, as Berlin struggles with genuine possibilities of hope. The Moral Lives of Israelis is a deeply courageous personal story. But more than that, it invites us to take another look at worn-out solutions to this seemingly intractable conflict. It is a wonderful addition to the canon of writings on the Middle East.”
—The Rev. Dr. Bill Phipps, moderator, United Church of Canada, 1997–2000

About the Author

DAVID BERLIN is an Israeli-born journalist and editor who grew up in Canada but returned for a time to live in Israel. He served his military duty in Ariel Sharon's reconnaissance unit, Sayeret Shaked, and took part in Sharon's Suez campaign. After attending medical school at Tel-Aviv University, he graduated from the University of Chicago's program on social and political thought, and taught at several universities. His work has appeared in Saturday Night, the Literary Review of Canada (where he was the editor-in-chief from 1998-2001), the Globe and Mail, the National Post and Haaretz Newspaper, among others. He is a founding editor of the Walrus. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Deborah, a violinist, and their three children.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Moral Life" Shines Through Oct. 15 2011
Format:Hardcover
Fascinating look at Israeli values through the memoire of an ex pat with continuing deep connections. The author's personal example tells all--the unflinchingly honest look at himself and his family in historical context. Really amazing to be able to bridge the personal / historical divide in one's own psyche. Unyielding self-scrutiny seems to be a key to the astonishing productivity of the "Sabra" generation-the first generation born in the state of Israel. No better book to get the real inside experience of Israel's moral struggles.
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