The Israelis : Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land

Publisher: Free Press

Israel. It looks like one country on CNN, a very different one on al-Jazeera. The BBC has its version, The New York Times theirs.

But how does Israel look . . . to Israelis?

Who are these people who order Big Macs in the language of the Ten Commandments? Are they the sabras — native-born Israelis — who believe that only sissies wait in line and obey No Parking signs? Are they the dreadlock-wearing Ethiopian immigrants who sing reggae in Hebrew? The inventors who’ve devised the world’s most popular computer chips and the latest cancer treatments? The Christians in Nazareth who publish an Arabic-style Cosmo? They live with exploding buses, but their youth are also the world’s biggest MTV fans, a generation whose heroes are not generals but former soldiers who have built the world’s second Silicon Valley.

In The Israelis, you’ll meet the third wife of a fifty-six-year-old Bedouin who watches Oprah; ultra-Orthodox Jews on “Modesty Patrols” making certain that religious women bus passengers are “properly” attired and seated apart from men (in the world’s only country that drafts women for the military). You’ll see what it’s like taking children to the mall — first to shop at Toys ‘R’ Us and then to pick up gas masks. And meet the bride whose Ethiopian-born parents dislike the guy she married, not because he’s white — but because he’s not Jewish enough.

The Israelis tells the stories of the clandestine human airlift that brought more than fourteen thousand Ethiopians out of Africa in thirty-six hours and of the avalanche of former Soviets who are delivering an enormous brain gain but a demographic dilemma as well, since many aren’t Jewish and their communities feature churches and Christmas trees.

Israel is the Middle East’s only country with a growing Christian population, and Arab Christians are the most educated and affluent Israelis. What’s the most popular name for an Israeli boy? Muhammad. In The Israelis, young Israeli Muslims — who speak better Hebrew and know more about Judaism than most Jews of the Diaspora — reveal their frustrations and hopes. You’ll also meet the “Arab Jews”; half of all Israelis are from Jewish families that left Islamic countries.

From battlefields to bedrooms to boardrooms, discover the colliding worlds in which this astounding mix of 6.7 million devoutly traditional and radically modern live — a country smaller than New Jersey that captures the lion’s share of the world’s headlines. Interweaving hundreds of personal stories with historical facts and intriguing new research, The Israelis is lively, irreverent, intimate, and always fascinating. It is one of the most original books about Israel in decades.

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