Israel’s dreams and nightmares: Author Yossi Klein Halevi

An Israeli journalist, born in Brook­lyn, Yossi Klein Halevi is senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a research and educational center in Jerusalem. He is co-director, with Abdullah Antepli of Duke University, of the institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative. He is the author of At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew’s Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land (2001). His book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation was named the 2013 Jewish Book of the Year by the Jewish Book Council.

In Like Dreamers you display the sharp divide that emerged in Israel after 1967 between messianic religious believers and secularists, and between the religiously motivated settlement movement and the peace movement, as well as various religious and political positions in between. In tracking individual histories over 50 years, did you find anything that surprised you or made you think differently about Israel?

I worked on Like Dreamers for 11 years, and one of the reasons it took so long was that I only gradually understood what it was about. It began as an account of the left-right divide that opened as a result of the Six-Day War, and I used the paratroopers who had fought in the battle for Jerusalem as the device to tell that story. But then I realized that there was a deeper story: the shift from the Israel that was represented by the socialist communal kibbutz movement to the Israel that was represented by the West Bank settlement movement.