I really enjoyed David Brooks’ column in Friday’s New York Times. He gave a spot-on (and affectionate) description of Israel-in-the-street.
Some memorable lines: “Israel is a country held together by argument.” (No one who has visited Israel even once would argue with that. Brooks was on his 12th trip when he wrote it.)
“The politicians go at each other with a fury we can’t even fathom in the U.S.” (Well, actually, I would challenge that observation; there was plenty of fury in the last presidential election.)
And then there was an anecdote about a friend who called information for the phone number of a restaurant, only to be told by the operator, “You don’t want to eat there.” (That’s not just Israeli, of course; I recognize it as a certain kind of old-fashioned “Jewish” behavior. Anyone who used to go to Steinberg’s, the midtown dairy restaurant – now defunct – remembers being “advised” by the know-it-all waiters as to what to order, and you were treated with scorn if you did not do as you were told.)
Brooks writes, “As an American Jew, I was taught to go all gooey-eyed at the thought of Israel, but I have to confess, I find the place by turns exhausting, admirable, annoying, impressive, and foreign.”
He shares insights as well as sights, noting that “Israel is stuck in a period of frustrating stasis. Iran poses an existential threat that is too big for Israel to deal with alone. Hamas and Hezbollah will frustrate peace plans, even if the Israelis do everything right.”
Spot-on, as I said. Sad but true.