cover image Starstruck in the Promised Land: How the Arts Shaped American Passions about Israel

Starstruck in the Promised Land: How the Arts Shaped American Passions about Israel

Shalom Goldman. Univ. of North Carolina, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4696-5241-2

In this persuasive work, Goldman (Zeal for Zion), professor of religion at Middlebury College, argues that the “intertwined cultural histories” of the United States and Israel have run in parallel and shaped one another. Beginning his chronological analysis in 1817 and following the contours of first Palestine, then Israel’s changing geopolitical status through to the present, Goldman examines how American Jews and non-Jews used books, movies, television programs, music, and their own celebrity to initially support and later criticize both the idea and reality of Israel. Depictions, Goldman notes, were often rooted in support for such other causes as socialism, imperialism, racial justice, or Christian missionary efforts—rather than support for Jewish faith or statehood. Each chapter thoroughly explains the shifting political landscape in both territories and the relationship between the two, basing the chapters around key American figures such as Mark Twain, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, and Madonna, who all took a stance on the status of Israel. Despite the title, Goldman casts a wide net in defining the arts, but his explorations of American tourism to the Holy Land and American philanthropy—in particular, the creation of the Jerusalem YMCA—are particularly illuminating. This detailed history will provide any reader interested in U.S.-Israel relations an accessible overview of a complex social and political relationship. (Oct.)