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Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation Paperback – November 4, 2014
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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“Powerful…. a textured, beautifully written narrative…. There is much to admire in this book, especially Mr. Halevi’s skill at getting inside the hearts and minds of these seven men.” (Ethan Bronner, New York Times)
“Mr. Halevi’s masterly book brings us into [the]…debate and the lives of those who live it, not through fiction but through a factual account illuminated by his own intelligence and empathy.” (Elliott Abrams, Wall Street Journal)
“Brilliant.” (David Laskin, USA Today)
“Like Dreamers is a big book, perhaps the big book on Israel we have been waiting for…. [It] is a remarkable feat of reporting, thrilling, painful, and brilliantly recounted, and an unparalleled portrait of Israel’s last five decades.” (Don Futterman, Daily Beast)
“A magnificent book, one of the two or three finest books about Israel I have ever read…. Nothing explains more eloquently why Israel, more than most any other country, lives or dies based on the power and justice of its animating ideas.” (Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg News)
“Yossi Klein Halevi has written the Israeli epic.” (Michael Oren, best-selling author of Six Days of War and Israeli Ambassador to Washington)
“Like Dreamers is quite simply the best book about modern Israel I have ever read.” (Jonathan Rosen, author of Joy Comes in the Morning.)
“Yossi Klein Halevi has long been the most incisive and eloquent journalist writing from Israel for an American audience. This is his masterpiece. ” (Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew)
“Like Dreamers is at once magisterial and enthralling, observed with the sharp eye of a master journalist, the patience of a serious historian and the style of an exceptional storyteller.” (Zev Chafets, author of Roger Ailes: Off Camera)
“A fascinating study of modern Israel.” (New York Post)
From the Back Cover
Winner, Jewish Book Council's Everett FAmily foundation award, Jewish Book of the Year
Winner, American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal for Best Jewish Book of the Year
Editors' Choice, New York Times Book Review
In restoring Jewish sovereignty to the Holy City during 1967's Six-Day War, the paratroopers of Reserve Brigade 55 fulfilled a dream of two millennia, forever changing the history of Israel and of the Middle East. And, as veteran journalist Yossi Klein Halevi compellingly reveals in Like Dreamers, they served pivotal roles in shaping Israel's destiny long after their resounding military success. As he follows the lives of this Israeli band of brothers, and charts the ideological divides among them, he weaves an epic chronicle of modern Israel that humanizes the country's political and cultural dilemmas, and offers an unprecedented glimpse into its soul.
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This is one of the several things I liked about how Halevi tells this story. While the major, famous names: Ben-Gurion, Rabin, Sharon, Begin, etc., are part of it, they are never the focus, never the movers of the story. The focus is always on the lives of the paratroopers. This gives it the feel of bottom-up history, rather than a history of ‘great men.’ And that provides a more authentic and personal connection to the events and lives of those affected by the events.
The narrative is at once exhilarating, aspirational, sad, poignant, funny, and thought-provoking. The first half tracks the lives of several of the individuals of the paratrooper brigade that helped to capture Jerusalem during the Six Day War. From their childhood to the 67 war, the narrative builds towards the capture and reunification of Jerusalem. This is presented as the apex of Israeli unity. The jubilation, the exhilaration, the joy of the moment: the overnight shift from facing annihilation to redeeming the 2,000-year-old dream of Jewish history.
The second half of the book, though, walks through how this vision of unity quickly fades—both between these individuals and within the nation. In this way, the author captures the diverse and divergent visions of the Israeli left and right, the Peace Now-ers and Greater Israel-ers, the kibbtuzniks and the settlers, the secular and the religious. And by focusing on particular individuals, Halevi shows how these divisions and categories break down and intertwine. Individuals—and their nations—are far more complex and complicated then a set of abstract ideological views. By showing us, through the lives of individuals, how their ideas and views developed, changed, and morphed in the face of a changing world, it gives a depth and humanity to the competing narratives of Israel (within Israel). It shows an abounding respect for these different ways to be Israeli, to be Zionist, to be Jewish.
The author chooses a small group of paratroopers, who have political views from all 360 degrees (including one IDF soldier who all but joins the Arabs against Israel and is imprisoned when caught) to capture the various political positions of the Israeli people as a whole.
If the book had 5 volumes, then various other ethnic, political and religious Jews would be represented. For Instance, kibbutz members are prominent but the word Moshav never appears. Both these forms of living arrangements are still extant in Israel with roughly an equal number of members. Moshe Dayan was from a Moshav. Ashkenazi Jews are the center of attention and other volumes could deal with Sephardic and Mizrahi elements.
Instead of writing 550 pages of the differences of opinion among Israelis toward Jerusalem, war, settlements etc. that would read like a typical top down history, the author lets you get to know a few individuals so that you see the conflicts Israelis have amongst themselves - from the bottom up so to speak.
Whatever your views on the current situation in Israel, you are presented with a wide array of viewpoints that are strongly held by these courageous soldiers. These viewpoints are often diametrically opposite, but the reader gains perspectives they may not have considered.