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December 28, 2006 3:57 AM   Subscribe

My sister and her boyfriend(Jewish) are talking seriously about moving to Israel. What books, articles, ect. do I need to read to form a rounded opinion about this state.

I read quite a bit as it is and would very much like to be able to discuss their plans intelligently, my basic knowledge doesn't extend much past what I have hear on NPR.
posted by nintendo to Travel & Transportation around Israel (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There is a very popular collection of folk history about Israel and surrounding regions and culture called the Torah, you may be interested in that. It is a bit dated and many doubt its impartiality, so you might want to check out other more recent collections such as the New Testament or Koran.

Haha. I'm so funny. Seriously though, when you say you need a more 'rounded opinion', what is missing from the roundness? By saying you've mostly only heard NPR stuff, are you looking for a more al-Jazeera-friendly viewpoint? Or you thinking more Fox news.

There is so much out there about contemporary Israel/Mid-East, and it's so incredibly complex. I think most intelligent people feel like they're inadequately informed about some or most aspects. Which parts do you need the most help with?
posted by bluejayk at 4:19 AM on December 28, 2006

One book that I particularly enjoyed is A Little Too Close To God by David Horovitz.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:31 AM on December 28, 2006

Haaretz, which is sort of like the NYTimes in that it's both more prestigious and a little more center/left-wing than the other main newspapers. It has a lot of political and cultural content.

The Lover, which won't help you discuss the place and which is kind of dated, but is still an incredibly good book that does reflect something very Israeli.

It would help to know more about their situation and what you mean by a rounded opinion. For what reasons are they planning to move there? Are they religious? Where in the country would they want to live, and will they be moving there for the long term or just for a few years? Have they been there before and do they already know about all of the beaurocratic processes and cultural differences they'll have to go through?

It's just hard to know where to start, since on the one hand there are both all the usual things to know about moving to a new country, and on the other hand the political and historical context. It's also a place that a lot of people aren't very rational about, which makes forming a rounded opinion hard and expressing it even harder.

There are some blogs in English by people who've moved there recently. These two might be interesting. There are probably also online forums on aliyah, most of which will probably be oriented towards people who move there for religious or ideological reasons, but which should also have some practical information.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 4:34 AM on December 28, 2006

Thanks everyone.

I think what I need is something like a liberal beginner's guide. The very problem is I have no idea where to begin, (already read Wikipedia of course) and most importantly,

are you looking for a more al-Jazeera-friendly viewpoint? Or you thinking more Fox news

who to believe...
posted by nintendo at 4:50 AM on December 28, 2006

P.S. My sister's boyfirend is somewhat religious, my sister is just in love.
posted by nintendo at 4:51 AM on December 28, 2006

This is also a good and interesting movie, though it might not be easy to get a hold of. It's more slices-of-life than "Israel is ____".
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 4:55 AM on December 28, 2006

You mean, like lonely planet or something? It's just a glossing-over, but usually helpful.
posted by AV at 5:52 AM on December 28, 2006

I get the impression from what you write that your sister is not Jewish. One difficulty you're going to have is that almost everything you read about immigration to Israel will assume that the immigrant is Jewish (whether or not they are moving for religious reasons.) The social experience of moving to Israel as a non-Jew might be very different.
posted by escabeche at 6:45 AM on December 28, 2006

Here's a pretty good blog by an Israeli woman who lives in Tel Aviv: On the Face.
posted by callmejay at 6:47 AM on December 28, 2006

I think the important thing to keep in mind is that it's always the crazies who get all the press.

So while it's true that there are parts of Israel that are dangerous (depending on your religious stance and appearance), and there are nutso fanatics (on both sides), for the most part living in Israel is actually quite a bit like living in the US.

At least, that was my impression from the time I spent there, and my friends living there continue to confirm the same. Walking around Tel Aviv feels like being in LA, and Haifa's in the middle of the same tech boom that San Jose/Santa Clara is having...

The anecdote I always share to illustrate my feelings about Israel is this one: my friends and I decided to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Havdalah (the ceremony that concludes Shabbat -- I'm Jewish, if you haven't already guessed it). As our small group started to light the candles, a large group suddenly began yelling at us, and moments later started throwing stones at us.

Arabs? No, these were Orthodox Jews, angry that we came to this holiest of places and allowed women to pray alongside men. Bigotry, it seems, is stronger than a shared faith.

That was the only time I ever felt threatened in Israel, and it was nothing that the stereotypes of the nation could possibly have prepared me for. Things are always far more complex than you'd like.

So, I guess what I'm trying to get across in this rambling semi-on-topic post is that you need to take the news from Israel with a really large grain of salt. It's far more complex than a few column inches will ever be able to portray.
posted by jacobian at 6:53 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd check out "Peace to End All Peace", and "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977" is a very interesting read on the key issue of the settlements. Oren's story of the Six Days war is good, too (except the USS Liberty chapter, which is quiet problematic), and an interesting book from an American perspective on the US coverage of the Middle East by the "liberal media" is "Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East".
posted by matteo at 8:31 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Why is the Liberty chapter problematic (I ask, not having read the book) ?
posted by canine epigram at 8:37 AM on December 28, 2006

A friend of mine has been living in Tel Aviv with her boyfriend (Israeli) for almost a year. She blogs at Sustainable Apple Pie
posted by sharkweek at 9:34 AM on December 28, 2006

Thanks for the Sustainable Apple Pie link, she's great! I think this would be perfect for my sister to read.
posted by nintendo at 4:56 PM on December 28, 2006

Well, I can't recommend any reading material, but there are some things she's got to face:

1) Going to Israel for religious reasons (on her boyfriend's part, anyways) sounds ominous. You've got to want to go for what Israel is today, not what it was 4,000 years ago.

2) That includes culture shock. I'd recomend reading The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, and any other Israeli newspapers in English. She's got to be aware of what life is like in Israel.
Particularly if she's North-American, she'll quickly see the vast cultural differences between Israel and the rest of the western world.
The positive things are nice and dandy, but the negative things she's got to be aware of:
Israelis can be (and often are) extremely rude and poke themselves into your business.
-Israelis drive like maniacs. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in Israel, if not THE leading cause.
-Israeli auto mechanics, contractors, plumbers, etc are never to be trusted. Always get second opinions about everything and bargain about prices with these people.
-Israeli vegetables taste wieeeerd. I mean not bad, just a bit different. I dunno, that's what I find, at least, and I may be unique in this feeling but I don't like wierd veggies.
There are more, but this is my condesned list.

3) If she plans on eventually raising children in Israel, she should be prepared for the fact that she'll be an immigrant mother, and from experience (being the child of immigrant parents) it does create difficulty. Her children's slang will be different from her own. They'll grow up in a culture unlike the one in which she grew up. This is actually the main point, because Israeli children tend to "mature" (in the negative aspect of the word) a lot faster than North American children. They become rude and swear in the very very early grades of elementary school, they start hating arabs around grade 3 or 4, they start smoking as early as grades 7/8 and they are very very violent.
And, of course, her children will have to serve in the army.

Anyways, best of luck to her!
posted by alon at 5:52 PM on December 28, 2006

Well, I _really_ don't think this might be what you had in mind, but you still might want to take a look at The Other Side of Israel by Susan Nathan, which talks about life in Israel from the point of view of the arabs living inside the country. It gave me a different perspective on some of the issues there.
posted by elisynn at 11:38 PM on December 28, 2006

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