cover image The Land of Hope and Fear: Israel’s Battle for Its Inner Soul

The Land of Hope and Fear: Israel’s Battle for Its Inner Soul

Isabel Kershner. Knopf, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-94676-3

In this masterful study, New York Times correspondent Kershner (Barrier) enriches her analysis of the forces roiling modern Israel through incisive conversations with individual Israelis. Shifting the focus from Israel’s territorial conflicts with its Arab neighbors to domestic issues, Kershner reveals how the unequal treatment of Jewish immigrants from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia, and other parts of the world, coupled with the failure of the Oslo Peace Accords, fostered deep-seated resentments against the political establishment and contributed to the rise of the right wing in Israel. Elsewhere, she documents grievances against the ultra-Orthodox community, who sometimes receive privileged treatment from politicians despite their opposition to obligatory military service and other polices; talks with members of Israel’s Arab minority about “the self-contradiction of being an Arab citizen of the Jewish state”; and contends that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has willfully inflamed ethnic tensions for political gains. Striking an ominous note, Kershner warns that Israel’s “demographic trajectory,” which has it on track to become “one of the most crowded countries on earth,” will strain the country’s already faltering infrastructure and exacerbate “the rise of the political fringes and the threats to liberal democracy.” Nuanced and persuasive, this is a valuable dispatch from a country in turmoil. (May)