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If a Place Can Make You Cry: Dispatches from an Anxious State
     

If a Place Can Make You Cry: Dispatches from an Anxious State

by Daniel Gordis
 

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In the summer of 1998, Daniel Gordis and his family moved to Israel from Los Angeles. They planned to be there for a year, during which time Daniel would be a Fellow at the Mandel Institute in Jerusalem. This was a euphoric time in Israel. The economy was booming, and peace seemed virtually guaranteed. A few months into their stay, Gordis and his wife decided to

Overview

In the summer of 1998, Daniel Gordis and his family moved to Israel from Los Angeles. They planned to be there for a year, during which time Daniel would be a Fellow at the Mandel Institute in Jerusalem. This was a euphoric time in Israel. The economy was booming, and peace seemed virtually guaranteed. A few months into their stay, Gordis and his wife decided to remain in Israel permanently, confident that their children would be among the first generation of Israelis to grow up in peace.

Immediately after arriving in Israel, Daniel had started sending out e-mails about his and his family’s life to friends and family abroad. These missives—passionate, thoughtful, beautifully written, and informative—began reaching a much broader readership than he’d ever envisioned, eventually being excerpted in The New York Times Magazine to much acclaim. An edited and finely crafted collection of his original e-mails, If a Place Can Make You Cry is a first-person, immediate account of Israel’s post-Oslo meltdown that
cuts through the rhetoric and stridency of most dispatches from that country or from the international media.

Above all, Gordis tells the story of a family that must cope with the sudden realization that they took their children from a serene and secure neighborhood in Los Angeles to an Israel not at peace but mired in war. This is the chronicle of a loss of innocence—the innocence of Daniel and his wife, and of their children. Ultimately, through Gordis’s eyes, Israel, with all its beauty, madness, violence, and history, comes to life in a way we’ve never quite seen before.

Daniel Gordis captures as no one has the years leading up to what every Israeli dreaded: on April 1, 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Israel was at war. After an almost endless cycle of suicide bombings and harsh retaliation, any remaining chance for peace had seemingly died.

If a Place Can Make You Cry is the story of a time in which peace gave way to war, when childhood innocence evaporated in the heat of hatred, when it became difficult even to hope. Like countless other Israeli parents, Gordis and his wife struggled to make their children’s lives manageable and meaningful, despite it all. This is a book about what their children gained, what they lost, and how, in the midst of everything, a whole family learned time and again what really matters.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1998, Gordis, his wife and three children left their home in Los Angeles, where he was vice president of the University of Judaism, to spend a one-year sabbatical in Jerusalem. While in Israel, though, Gordis began to feel that it was not only his home, but "an experiment of cosmic significance," that he wished to be a permanent part of. This volume gathers e-mails-some excerpted previously in the New York Times Magazine-and private musings that record Gordis's impressions of his new home up through the current turmoil. Gordis, along with many other liberal and leftist sympathizers with the Palestinians, grows thoroughly disillusioned. With the gnawing sense that the Palestinians are not willing to abide a Jewish presence in their region, he comes to believe that there is no end in sight to the daily violence. Yet, he never contemplates returning to the comforts of L.A., even when questioning the ethics of placing his children in danger. But he is troubled primarily by the fate and possible future of the region's children-Israeli and Palestinian. Pondering God's call to Abraham to sacrifice Jacob, he wonders, "Could it be that there is something so subtle, so magical, so intoxicating-and so dangerous-about this land that it leads parents to willingly sacrifice their children?" Gordis is a provocative and penetrating observer, and his writings perfectly capture the complex conundrum of a soul in the tense present, yearning for a state of eternity. Maps. (Oct.) Forecast: This will certainly have a strong Jewish market, but other readers trying to glimpse daily life in Israel in this turbulent time will also find much to appreciate here. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Los Angeles transplant Gordis chronicles his family's first few years of emigré life in Jerusalem through a mix of news headlines, essays, and e-mails sent to friends around the world.

In 1998, Rabbi Daniel Gordis planned a one-year sabbatical in Jerusalem as a fellow at the Mandel Institute in a professional enrichment program. Entranced by an idyllic 12 months, he decided with his wife and three children to make their stay permanent, little knowing that soon would follow Rabin's assassination and a second intifada. Suddenly, the family was challenged in ways they hadn't imagined, and Gordis related it all in a series of e-mails to friends. (Some of the correspondence was eventually reproduced in the New York Times.) The missives convey the bewilderment of a man who had expected to live in peace with his family in the land of Israel, only to wake up and find himself in a gas-mask distribution center (conveniently located in a downtown Jerusalem department store) arguing about correct sizing for the kids. Day by day, Gordis struggles with his twin commitments to Israel and justice; a visit to founding father Ben Gurion's home prompts a meditation on the agony of Israeli and Palestinian children, both dying in the most absurd of ways. Much of the story is conveyed through the particulars of his own children’s acclimatization to a new city and their reactions to the moral and political morass. Pages of very readable political analysis provide an overview of the progression of what is called in Israel "the situation." The author's conclusions are not happy ones: "This is an ugly, dirty war, and we're being ugly and dirty enough to bring the world's wrath down on us, but not nearly uglyand dirty enough to win."

A work that dazzles with its nuance as it winds up to sock you in the gut.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400049547
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
10/15/2002
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Daniel Gordis is the director of the Mandel Foundation’s Jerusalem Fellows Program. He was previously a vice president at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. He is the author of three previous books: Becoming a Jewish Parent (Harmony, 1999), Does the World Need the Jews? (Scribner, 1997), and God Was Not in the Fire (Scribner, 1995).


From the Hardcover edition.

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