The Land of Hope and Fear: Israel's Battle for Its Inner Soul (Hardcover)
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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • An urgent, wide-ranging portrait of the divisions among Israelis today, and the external threats to their country, at a critical juncture in its history. • Through moving narratives and on-the-ground reporting, a veteran New York Times correspondent who has spent decades working in Israel reveals what holds the country together.
“A wondrous tale told through the agonizing and uplifting stories of Israel’s many tribes — Jewish and Arab, religious and secular, new immigrants and veterans, soldiers and settlers.”—Martin Indyk, author of Master of the Game, and former U.S. ambassador to Israel
"For anyone trying to understand the reality of Israel today.”—Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East and the author of Doomed to Succeed
Despite Israel's determined staying power in a hostile environment, its military might, and the innovation it fosters in businesses globally, the country is more divided than ever. The old guard—socialist secular elites and idealists—are a dying breed, and the state’s democratic foundations are being challenged. A dynamic and exuberant country of nine million, Israel is now largely comprised of native-born Hebrew speakers, and yet any permanent sense of security and normalcy is elusive.
In The Land of Hope and Fear, we meet Israelis: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Eastern and Western, liberals and zealots—plagued by perennial conflict and existential threats, citizens who remain deeply polarized politically, socially, and ideologically, even as they undergo generational change and redefine what it is to be an Israeli. Who are these people and to what do they aspire?
In moving narratives and with on-the-ground reporting, Isabel Kershner reveals the core of what holds Israel together and the forces that threaten its future through the lens of real people: a son of Zionist pioneers, cynical about what is to come and his people’s status in it; a woman in her nineties whose life in a kibbutz has disintegrated; a brilliant poet caught up in the political maelstrom; an Arab gallery owner archiving a lost Palestinian landscape; and a descendant of the Russian aliyah; representing millions of culturally and religiously different Jews, laying bare the question Who is an Israeli? The Land of Hope and Fear decodes Israel today at its seventy-fifth anniversary, examining the ways in which the country has both exceeded and failed the ideals and expectations of its founders.
About the Author
ISABEL KERSHNER is a correspondent for The New York Times in Jerusalem, covering both Israeli and Palestinian politics and society. Previously, she was a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report. Born in Manchester, England, she graduated from Oxford University. She has been living with her family in Jerusalem since 1990.
*Listed as one of The New York Times Book Review's 100 Notable Books of 2023*
“An absorbing account of a country at war with itself . . . Painstakingly researched, the book is the product of scores of interviews coupled with living on the ground for more than three decades. Kershner knows of what she writes. . . . The Land of Hope and Fear is reminiscence, scorecard and guidebook all in one.”—Lloyd Green, The Guardian
“Through outstanding writing, [Kershner] introduces us to a diverse cast of characters. . . . The book provides tantalizing historical nuggets. . . . Her narrative makes clear that the splits in Israeli society and politics aren’t new, but go back to its earliest days.”—Alan D. Abbey, Hadassah Magazine
“With the sharp eye of an experienced reporter, a profound understanding of Israel, its internal conflicts, weaknesses and strengths, and with a great love for the country and its people, Isabel Kershner went on a fascinating journey into the minds and souls of current Israelis, Jews and Arabs. Seventy-five years after its birth, the Jewish state is still struggling over its identity. The Land of Hope and Fear is a must book for people who wish to understand why and how.”—Nahum Barnea, columnist, Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel)
“For all those looking for a book that provides an understanding of what Israel has become in its 75th year, this is it! The Land of Hope and Fear is a rich and wondrous tale told through the agonizing and uplifting stories of Israel’s many tribes -- Jewish and Arab, religious and secular, new immigrants and veterans, soldiers and settlers. Isabel Kershner brings a keen eye and a vivid style to her unique portrait of the Sabra nation, struggling with its many conflicts and contradictions and yet able to survive and thrive.”—Martin Indyk, author, Master of the Game, and former U.S. ambassador to Israel
“Once I started reading The Land of Hope and Fear I couldn’t put it down until I finished. For someone living in this country it felt nonetheless as if I was learning about it for the first time. With masterful style, Isabel Kershner peels off all the outer layers of society’s multifaceted aspects as these are seen by an onlooker, revealing them through the personal stories and eyes of the individuals themselves hidden behind their typologies. Whether one sympathizes or not, one understands more. Israel in its tumultuous eighth decade is laid bare, its inner strengths and weaknesses enmeshed in a vibrant dynamic that both promises and forewarns.”—Sari Nusseibeh, author of Once Upon a Country
“One might not think that another book about Israel needed to be written. And yet Isabel Kershner has written one that needs to be read. For anyone trying to understand the reality of Israel today, its remarkable dynamism and its political, social, religious, and 'tribal' differences, The Land of Hope and Fear provides extraordinary insight.”—Dennis Ross, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East and the author of Doomed to Succeed
“Isabel Kershner's comprehensive mapping of the challenges facing the Zionist Dream creates a bold and compelling portrait of modern-day Israel — its complexities and polarizing passions and commitments — and does it with great empathy and deep concern.”—Dorit Rabinyan, author of All the Rivers
“Masterful . . . Kershner enriches her analysis of the forces roiling modern Israel through incisive conversations with individual Israelis. . . . Nuanced and persuasive, this is a valuable dispatch from a country in turmoil.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Compelling . . . [The Land of Hope and Fear] offers an insightful overview of Israel’s complex struggles. . . . A well-reported study of Israel’s rapidly shifting cultural and religious environment.”—Kirkus Reviews