Every year there is an Israeli book or two that tries to shed new light on the complicated situation in Israel. I found two recent books very interesting and in a way even complementary. “The Industry of Lies” by Ben-Dror Yemini explores the mechanism that causes the international media to portray Israel as the bad guy, most of time, with Israeli reporters providing much of the material for the anti-Israel bias. Yemini says, “We should welcome the variety of opinions in the Israeli media. The problem is that Israeli newspapers in recent years have become a major propaganda mouthpiece for three of the industry’s leading claims: First, Israel is committing war crimes, secondly, that Israel is an apartheid state, and third, that Israel is refusing peace, and not the Palestinians.”
“My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” by Ari Shavit gives us a unique opportunity to learn about Israel through his family’s stories, woven into 17 chronologically arranged chapters that cover the first Jewish settlement; the growth of the kibbutzim and moshavim; the promotion of agriculture, housing and scientific research; the early absorption of Holocaust survivors and those expelled from Arab countries; and so on. The book provides a critical analysis of Israel’s history, up to the present day. “My Promised Land” won the Natan Book Award, but it has also been criticized by both the right and the left.
Both authors are journalists.
Yemini was born in Tel Aviv in 1954. He studied humanities and history at Tel Aviv University and later studied law. He was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the ministry’s spokesman. In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist. In 2003 he became the opinion editor of the daily newspaper Ma’ariv and in the spring of 2014 began writing for the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot. He also contributes to many other publications.
Shavit was born in Rehovot in 1957 and studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His father was a scientist and his mother was an artist. Some of his ancestors were early leading Zionists. He has written a column for Haaretz since 1995 and his work has appeared in other publications, including The New Yorker.
On the day before Thanksgiving when most of us were getting ready for the holiday, appreciating the opportunity to get together with family and close friends, one dear family of Tucson, the Sarid family, were, sadly, getting ready to say a last goodbye to Lea — wife, mother, grandmother and a wonderful friend.
Lea was very active in the Jewish community. Born in Jerusalem, she was one of the founders of Medabrim Sifrut — the Weintraub Israel Center’s Hebrew speakers’ book club, and was a member of the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival committee for many years.
The funeral was very quiet and very sad. Lea’s son, Uri, read these beautiful words at her grave:
“My mom does not belong here. My mom was beautifully alive for 79 years; she was beautifully alive until yesterday morning. She filled our lives with warmth and love and compassion you rarely see. She struggled so hard for so many years through so many ailments, but you’d never know it — she was so strong, so courageous, so beautiful in the way she handled adversity. It was others’ adversities that she focused on. How many people did she help, deeply, from her heart, in her 79 years? How many families did she adopt, how many patients did she help as a nurse, how many people learned the meaning of friendship and love from her?”
Uri spoke about the many ways, large and small, that she left her mark, from the strength of her family relationships to the artwork she chose for the walls of her home, to the Thanksgiving meal she left in the refrigerator.
“And she is in the ways we look at the world and ourselves: love, compassion, forgiveness; strength, amazing, steely strength that’s almost incomprehensible; looking towards the future, not dwelling on the past, even in times like this when the past is so near and so raw and so utterly compelling,” he concluded, asserting that despite grief, “we will look forward again.
Oshrat Barel is Tucson’s community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.