BREAKING RANKS: Turbulent Travels in the Promised Land
Ben Black, Benjamin Black, . . Lonely Planet, $12.99 (278pp) ISBN 978-1-86450-361-6
The latest in Lonely Planet's Journeys
series has one foot in the social sciences and one in the travelogue genre. First-time author Black lived and traveled in Israel for 10 years; the book follows the parallel development of Black's perspective and Israel's political trends from innocent optimism to mature realism. Black, who grew up in Scotland, spends a year on a kibbutz and makes several remarkable journeys to parts of the Middle East not usually visited by tourists. Meanwhile, "during those same formative years, between eighteen and twenty-one, my peers in Israel were conscripted to the army," fighting against the Palestinian intifada. After meeting his future wife and moving back to the U.K., in 1994 Black returns to the Holy Land, drawn by the opportunities of "a time when the word 'peace' had taken on mantra status, when the Oslo accords were but a year old." Black recounts extraordinary details about places like Petra in Jordan, an ancient "lost" city of Israel whose "intoxicating" architecture induced generations of Israeli youth to attempt illegal visits, before the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian treaty opened it up to Israelis. Soon, though, the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and other terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists refueled Israel's right wing. Black, who becomes an Israeli citizen, must decide between army service or leaving the country as "a conscientious objector." This is a fascinating read that should be required for any young person thinking of visiting or moving to Israel, as well as for older readers seeking a better firsthand account of the lives of Israeli youth.
Reviewed on: 08/27/2001