Letter to the Editor: Anti-Israel or Dispelling Illusions?
It was with dismay that I found within the pages of Hadassah Magazine (February issue) a favorable review by Haim Chertok ofWalled: Israeli Society at an Impasse (Other Press), Sylvain Cypel’s revisionist anti-Israel screed.
Even in these often outrageous times, it cannot be acceptable for a Jewish magazine to favorably review a book that defiles the courage and idealism of the Palmach and the heroes of the 1948 War of Independence. Contrary to the author and, alas, the reviewer, Israel did not seek a war in order to kill or govern Palestinians—it was the Arabs who refused to accept the United Nations partition agreement. Our embattled fighters, facing overwhelming and historic odds, had one goal: to redeem a Jewish nation, our beloved Israel.
Morton Grove, IL
We, the officers, group presidents and chairpersons of the North Shore Chapter of Hadassah in Highland Park, Illinois, protest the publication of the positive review of the viciously anti-Israel bookWalled: Israeli Society at an Impasse.
and 24 signatories
Haim Chertok responds:
Many Hadassah readers did not find my review of Sylvain Cypel’sWalled pleasant reading. Neither was reading the book nor writing about it pleasant for me, a Zionist who made aliya from California in 1976.
Nine times a grandfather, I served with the Israel Defense Forces in Lebanon in 1982, just as my oldest grandson currently serves in the IDF protecting Israel’s borders.
As an Israeli patriot, I bow to no one: There’s no place on earth I’d rather be living than here, and if my 32 years here have not disabused me of Zionism, neither will Sylvain Cypel.
On the other hand, Israel has paid and continues to pay a huge price in suppressing inconvenient truths about its founding and subsequent history. Arguably once necessary, overindulgence in mythmaking by Israelis and Palestinians is no longer useful; indeed, it is counterproductive to mutual accommodation and to truth. To pigeonhole Walled or to characterize its author as “anti-Israeli” or “pro-Palestinian” is, I believe, unhelpful.
It is important that North American Jews appreciate that the debate within Israel about how to proceed vis-a-vis the Palestinians has been more multifaceted and spirited than they know.
Historians like Benny Morris and journalists like Cypel, who aim less to provoke than to inform, are too valuable to be stigmatized or ignored.
Like most Israelis, for the good of both peoples they seek an amelioration of an achingly untenable situation. By dispelling illusions, they make a vital contribution. In a much smaller way, such too was my aim as a reviewer.
I would like to add an important piece to “Letter from Jerusalem: Lone Soldiers” by Melanie Lidman (December issue).Among the organizations assisting lone soldiers is Hadassah’s Solidarity, run by The Merkaz YJ Impact Hadassah (formerly known as Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah; www.themerkaz.org).
With the help of many volunteers, The Merkaz runs a support program for almost 300 English-speaking lone soldiers. The Merkaz is there for the soldiers at the moments when their family can’t be: organizing workshops to prepare them before induction; sending care packages three times a year; visiting them at ceremonies when they graduate different stages of the Army; phoning every few weeks to check in; offering them free membership at The Merkaz that grants them free laundry, wireless Internet and major discounts on events such as theater, music and comedy night. The Merkaz also always has three to four lone soldiers as residents.
Adi Rom, director
The Merkaz, Jerusalem