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To grasp modern Israeli-Palestinian melting pot, author advises: Tribe, tribe again

16 8 51

They say that if you really want to get to know a place, speak to the locals.

This is the premise of author Ethan Michaeli’s new book “Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel,” which takes readers beyond the news headlines and into the homes and workplaces of Jews and Arabs living in Israel and the West Bank.

Through interviews with Israelis and Palestinians from all walks of life, Michaeli lets people on both sides of the Green Line speak for themselves, rather than have their lives refracted and distorted through mass and social media.

In a recent video conversation with The Times of Israel from his home in Chicago, Michaeli said that he was motivated to write this book to dispel inaccurate histories used for political and propaganda purposes, in particular with regard to the historical Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. He said that he has been especially frustrated by attempts in recent years from new and more varied quarters to delegitimize the Jewish state’s existence in the Holy Land.

“Twelve Tribes” is not the first of its genre. For decades, other US writers with professional or personal ties to Israel have produced works targeted at non-Israelis in general, and their fellow Americans in specific, offering a similarly unfiltered perspective on the complexities of everyday life in the Jewish state.

Michaeli’s book follows in the tradition of former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David K. Shipler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land,” published in 1986, and Donna Rosenthal’s popular 2003 book, “The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land,” among others.

With “Twelve Tribes,” Michaeli fast-forwards to 2021, capturing an updated grassroots snapshot of Israel 73 years after its birth and 54 years into its occupation of the West Bank.

“An update was needed because things have changed in Israel, the United States and the Jewish world. The relationship between America and Israel is not what it once was,” Michaeli said.

He brings readers up to speed on developments in various sectors of Israeli society, but also leaves them disappointed to learn that after so much time, little if any progress has been made toward ending the geopolitical conflict casting a shadow over the daily existences of Israelis and Palestinians.

The author chose to use the biblical 12 tribes as the book’s framework. He illustrates through his interviews that in Israel, tribalism is neither a metaphor nor a vestige of the past; even in the globalized........

© The Times of Israel

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