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Real Jews: Secular Versus Ultra- Orthodox: The Struggle For Jewish Identity In Israel Hardcover – May 23, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0465018543 ISBN-10: 0465018548

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018543
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Efron brings equal empathy to each of the clashing narratives of contemporary Israel. -- New York Times Book Review

Efron paints the whole complicated panorama of the conflict and documents its awful details with sensitivity and fairness. -- Emmunah Magazine

Efron shows that... the clash between religious and secular culture will determine the character of Israeli democracy, and of Judaism. -- Washington Post Book World

It has been done… Prof. Efron…aptly describes the struggle for the hearts and minds of young Israelis. -- The Jewish Press

Noah Efron makes clear in his stunning new book… what Israeli Jews face on a daily basis. -- The Nation

About the Author

Noah Efron is a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. He was formerly a fellow at MIT and a staff writer at the Boston Globe. He lives in Tel Aviv.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This book begins opening the doors to understanding the differences.
Jeffrey L. Levy
I recommend this book especially to anyone with a monolithic impression of Israel, as most Westerners with an opinion seem to have.
Cashew Son
An excellent introduction to the many disputes between hareidi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews and Israel's more secular Jews.
Michael Lewyn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Leo Schwartz on December 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a thrilling cliffhanger! No, no. REAL JEWS is not a novel; it's a real picture of human nature that serves as the engine driving people to act in their own "best" interests. Efron has delved into the mind of the Chiloni, into his psyche and unearthed not only how he sees the Charedi, but also shines the light on why he sees him that way. When I finished reading I was left with the feeling that, the Chiloni, in Kafkaesque fashion, is trapped in his own historical web and is almost compelled to see the Charedi as a parasitic, greedy, self-righteous primitive buffoon. He sees him as the "Tartuffe, Shylock, Falstaff, and Ruth" of society. He does so, in Dr. Efron's view, because the Charedi now has become the "other" antagonist (replacing the traditional anti-Semite) against whom the modern Zionist Jew reacts in his attempt to find his place in the world.
The artistry of the writer develops the picture to the ultimate that it carries the reader with that argument as if it were the last word. But alas! Like a magician, he flips over the coin and uncovers the weaknesses imbedded therein. He demonstrates that what the Secular Jew accuses the Ultra-Orthodox Jew of doing is the blemish that stains the accuser himself, the Chiloni. Noah Efron demonstrates that there exists a different set of values and rationale that motivates the Charedi Jew, and that the fear the secular Jew experiences toward the ultra-Orthodox is based more on irrationality and anticipation, and his failure to accept that the ultra-Orthodox act in the same self-interest as much as the secular Jew does.
In this turn again he delves into the mind of the Charedi Jew and unearths not only how he acts and how he sees the secular Jew, but also why he sees him that way.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By adele berlin on June 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book for anyone interested in Israeli society and its future. Well researched, well written, and well balanced, the book puts the tensions between secular and Haredi Jews in historical and sociological perspective. The outlook for reducing these tensions is not optimistic, but perhaps this book will promote more understanding than currently exists.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on March 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An excellent introduction to the many disputes between hareidi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews and Israel's more secular Jews. He explains the major concerns secularists have about hareidi behavior, and the pro-haredi responses to those critiques. The major areas of contention are:

1. Work and military service. Haredim are allowed to avoid military service, and often stay out of the workforce for most of their lives thanks to government support and foreign charity. But haredim point out that the Israeli military has no great need for unskilled manpower, and that haredim are less burdensome to the state treasury in many ways: they don't commit as many crimes (thus reducing the need for police and prisons) and they do not use a variety of government services oriented towards secular Jews (e.g. modern art, television and radio, all of which haredim tend to avoid). In addition, haredim bring money into the economy by attracting foreign charity, and consume and waste less than the general population.

2. "Infiltration" of secular neighborhoods. Haredim evangelize other Israelis, and secular Jews fear that once their neighborhoods are "taken over" by haredim, they will be pressured to conform to haredi rules in public. For example, secular Jews fear that roads will be closed off on Shabbat, and that women will be pressured to dress conservatively. But Efron points out that secular Jews often wish to prevent Haredim from building their institutions in secular neighborhoods, and that the haredi population is now simply too large to be limited to existing haredi enclaves.

3. Misuse of political power. Haredim occasionally engage in corrupt behavior, generally distrust Israel's courts, and occasionally engage in thuggish behavior.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By jonathan lowenstein on October 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This books sets out to answer the question 'why do secular Israelis fear/dislike ultra-orthodox Jews so very much?'. I thought I knew a fair amount about this issue, and wasn't all that interested in learning more, but the book really surprised me -- it made me laugh and think, and I found myself citing it to many others.
The story is extremely well-told and compelling. Efron makes it easy to empathise with every side by illustrating each issue with personal anecdotes from his own life between the seams, as a yarmulke-wearing Jew living in a secular neighbourhood of Tel Aviv, teaching in a religious Jewish University but with a profoundly critical and feminist world view.
Buy this book if you know only a little about the issue, but especially if you think you already know all the answers!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cashew Son on August 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book explores the divide between the Ultra-Orthodox religious Israelis and their secular counterparts in the young nation. The author leaves no stone unturned in the delivery and the average reader is given enough detail to feel like an expert on the subject by the end of the book.

I recommend this book especially to anyone with a monolithic impression of Israel, as most Westerners with an opinion seem to have. Israeli society is far more complex than most of the world realizes and there is a lot of (some might say self-induced) tension beneath the surface.

Israel occupies a prominent place in world opinion. It is largely hated by Europeans and other Western sophisticates, despite having a very liberal society. Conversely it is loved by many American Evangelicals and others, who believe that it to be a religious (Biblical) state, despite the open hatred and fear in Israel of its most religious members.

This book explains why that fear exists and why, for example, the ultra-religious do not serve in the army. The author take pains to remain neutral in the debate, while at the same time plunging directly into the fray and asking tough question of both sides.
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