For a country smaller than Vermont, with roughly the same population as Honduras, modern Israel receives a remarkable amount of attention. For supporters, it is a unique bastion of democracy in the Middle East, while detractors view it as a racist outpost of Western colonialism. The romanticization of Israel became particularly prominent in 1967, when its military prowess shocked a Jewish world still reeling from the sense of powerlessness dramatized by the Holocaust. That imagery has grown ever more visible, with Israel’s supporters idealizing its technological achievements and its opponents attributing almost every problem in the region, if not beyond, to its imperialistic aspirations.
The contradictions and competing views of modern Israel are the subject of this book. There is much to consider about modern Israel besides the Middle East conflict. Over the past generation, a substantial body of scholarship has explored numerous aspects of the country, including its approaches to citizenship and immigration, the arts, the women’s movement, religious fundamentalism, and language; but much of that work has to date been confined within the walls of the academy. This book does not seek not to resolve either the country’s internal debates or its struggle with the Arab world, but to present a sample of contemporary scholars’ discoveries and discussions about modern Israel in an accessible way. In each of the areas discussed, competing narratives grapple for prominence, and it is these which are highlighted in this volume.
"Like any complicated country, Israel is a land of myths and realities. In this volume, Frederick Greenspahn has assembled an outstanding collection of essays that will help readers to distinguish between the two. Israel has changed enormously over its sixty-some years of statehood. As the chapters demonstrate, many images inherited from the past, frozen into the memories of people who pay attention to the country, no longer conform to everyday reality. This volume is a good place to start in making sense of Israel as it is, not as an idealized or mythical entity but as a country coping with an astonishing array of social challenges."-Kenneth D. Wald,Samuel R. "Bud" Shorstein Professor of American Jewish Culture & Society, University of Florida
"One of the best new anthologies in the burgeoning field of Israel Studies. For both those unfamiliar with the interdisciplinary study of modern Israel, and those more versed in this scholarship, the book’s authors—all leading researchers in the field—offer a wealth of information and insight on Israel’s diverse population, its contested national and sub-national identities, and its transforming public and private spaces. . . . A refreshing volume that steers clear of the stale partisan polemics that characterizes much of the current discourse on Israel, this work offers a rich, complex, and deep grasp of Israel’s multifaceted society and its relationship with both state institutions and the Jewish diaspora."-Miriam Elman,Syracuse University