Like Dreamers: The Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, and the Divided Israel They Created by Yossi Klein Halevi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Like Dreamers is not a definitive history of the Six Day War, of Israel, or the Arab-Israeli conflicts, but instead is a deeply personal exploration of the lives of individuals connected by this history. It is a wonderful book, worth reading by anyone interested in Israel and connected topics.
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.
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