“My name is Tuvia. I was born and raised in Israel to an ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist family, and grew up in the most elitist neighborhood of ultra-Orthodoxy at the time”
Thus begins the tale of Tuvia, now a secular individual living in New York, who makes part of his living as an author and a journalist. Having succeeded in getting the public’s attention with I Sleep in Hitler’s Room – the story of a 6 month journalistic look at modern Germany – his publisher suggested he do the same treatment for Israel. But in Israel, Tuvia the Israeli becomes Toby the German, and it is that persona, that those he meets open up to. And it is those encounters that fill this addictive book.
For example, on the flight from Istanbul, fellow traveller Hamudi tells him:
“Israel doesn’t treat Muslims and Jews equally at the airport. Muslims are stopped and interrogated when they land in Israel.”
Sure enough, on landing in Tel Aviv, Israeli security stop just one passenger for interrogation. No, not Hamudi. Instead, a young blond lady. Hamudi is disappointed…
And that’s one recurring theme through the book: defamers of Israel who are disconnected from the reality. For example, he highlights the world of the NGOs who preach peace, but are using their funding to work for the destruction of Israel. Mad, but true.
He skewers Gideon Levy, the self-hating intellectuals, the bombastic PLO executives, and the orthodox extremists, all alike. But if you read the book in its entirety, it’s Israel’s enemies who come off by far the worst. And it’s important to stress that Tenenbom is no tub-thumping right wing Zionist. He seems to describe himself as a liberal, but – it’s very fair to say – a thinking liberal who is different from those encountered in the book.
What makes the book a particular joy is that it is a roller coaster emotional read; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s irreverent, sometimes sad, and sometimes overflowing with pathos. It makes you think while making you laugh. It makes you think while making you cry.
And, yes, it is also a serious book, because it peeks into the dark soul of the liberals, the so called human rights organizations, and the whole gang of Israel haters, and it shows only hate. What else can you think of the Israeli guide who takes his NGO tour to Yad Vashem and says “This is what Israel is doing to the Palestinians!” And when Tenenbom, politely but firmly, puts him on the spot and questions the equivalence, the encounter discloses another staple of Israel’s enemies. Read it and see for yourself.
This is one of the most important books about modern Israel. It should be mandatory reading, especially for the western media.
In short, if you haven’t already read it, get it now and put right that wrong.