Intellectual historian and policy analyst Pinto insists the best reading for Israel today is a postmodern one, as the country finds a “contradictory” continuity between its leading-edge technological economy and its deepened identity with an ancient past. Indeed, Israel—which the author insists has “moved” in the symbolic and psychological sense that it (and its transnational population) lives in “its own space/time”—now leans more toward the rising Asian powers it resembles economically, and away from its erstwhile Western allies, including the U.S. It has also increasingly abandoned the notion of the two-state solution to its occupation of Palestinian lands. Israeli culture, meanwhile, especially the quintessential unifier of modern Hebrew, is strengthening intra-Israeli ties despite subcultures remaining firmly uninterested in each other. Contradictions abound in this analytical, glowingly supportive if worried dissection of Israeli culture, which draws on the author’s Israeli interlocutors’ own popular psychiatric metaphors to flesh out an “autistic” existence as brilliant as it is socially isolated. Other contradictions must be read between the lines or against the text, which for all its critical consciousness of narrative constructs still trades in unexamined assumptions about Israel’s solely defensive position with respect to its Arab neighbors, citizens, and colonized subjects. While some may agree with this angle, it may not suit readers looking for a real paradigm shift in grasping Israel’s position on the world stage. (Feb.)
In every chapter vivid colors depict in exquisite detail some delimited aspect of life. Diana Pinto has an eye for the telling detail that helps us feel the complexity, the nuance, the texture, and the flow of social, economic, cultural, and political life in Israel today.
Diana Pinto's book is brilliant. She draws a portrait of Israel as a living entity, warts and all, caught between the euphoric power of its creativity, and the weaknesses of its historical contradictions and political impasses. Studded with multi-layered illuminating anecdotes and metaphors, the book could easily pass as a fascinating travel journal. But rigorous intellectual categories lurk behind the highly readable style.
A terrific book, so well written that it is hard to put down while offering deep and analytical insights that must be taken seriously by anyone concerned with contemporary Israel.
Brilliant and beautifully written. Even those who disagree with Pinto's analysis cannot deny its force and her deep love and concern for Israel. An equally anguished and powerful rebuttal can be expected from Jerusalem.
The Independent - Linda Grant
Pinto's strength as a writer is her penetrating understanding of what lies beneath the surface of the clichés...Pinto describes a recognizable Israeli mindset which owes nothing to the discourse of post-colonial narratives but rather a unique viewpoint, developed out of centuries of statelessness...Pinto has written about the country rather than being drawn, as so many intellectuals are, to the seamline, the conflict. Knowing that the occupation is wrong, that Zionism was a category error, absolves them of the duty of giving Israel and Israelis any real thought. In China and India the opposite is the case; they're fascinated by how the place works, what exactly is the secret of its ability to live outside geography. Pinto is the writer to turn to, though her own head is as bashed against the wall of futility as everybody else's.
Financial Times - John Reed
This book takes Israel's built environment as a departure point to offer broader reflections on shifts in the nation's psyche, sometimes to brilliant and startling effect. Diana Pinto delineates the physical landscape of present-day Israel--its highways, restaurants and shopping malls--using it to describe the country as it is, not as the rest of the world would like it to be...Pinto's acute--and, in my view, apt--diagnosis of Israel's defining ailment is that it is 'autistic': trapped inside its own increasingly comfortable, security-defended bubble, unable to connect with--much less identify with--its neighbors, starting with the Palestinians...Overall, the effect is of enjoying an engaging and trenchant dinner party conversation with an intelligent traveller brimming with impressions from a trip.
Times Literary Supplement - Gabriel Josipovici
It’s rare for any book nowadays to cast totally new light on the Israel-Palestine conflict, but Diana Pinto’s Israel Has Moved does just that. She argues that the political, military and financial elite of Israel are turning away from Europe and even from America, which they regard as mired in economic difficulties and riven by ideological contradictions, and are looking to align themselves with those regimes in the Far East, China in particular, which have, like them, scant regard for human rights and a fierce determination to succeed economically and politically. Written out of a profound reverence for Enlightenment values, this desperately sad yet elegant and witty book asks us to contemplate the possibility that the Enlightenment, far from gradually conquering the globe, may, after 250 years, be slowly dying before our eyes.
A close look at Israeli society yields a sense of disorientating psychosis rather than clarity. Describing herself as a Jew of the vibrant diaspora living in Paris, Pinto visits Israel periodically on business, presumably in her capacity as an intellectual historian and policy analyst. Here, she presents impressions and interviews that reveal both Israeli truculence to go its own road as well as deep schisms within Israeli society. The author's vivid characterizations of Israeli society expose its deeply problematic nature: as "autistic," in that its brilliant young people and leaders operate within a self-contained obliviousness of others; as a "realm of collective psychosis" in thinking, as ultranationalist religious Zionists do, that the Temple in Jerusalem could ever be rebuilt, since it would obliterate the Dome of the Rock, a holy site for Muslims; as a postmodern Utopia in its scientific and genetic advances; as a "very large and ultrasophisticated aquarium" containing exotic fishes, all "turning rapidly away to avoid the others, and all of this in utter silence." From the choosing of which road to take into Jerusalem (through heroic landmarks or the less-traveled Route 443 leading to various Arab exits) to the country's spectacular embrace of high technology and Asian investment, which offer a glaring juxtaposition to the pre-modern lifestyles of the ultraorthodox, everywhere Israel is awash in contradictions. But does Israel really care who thinks so? Fewer and fewer sophisticated Israelis bother to envision a two-state solution, and Pinto fears that this solipsism is engendering a dangerous "self-satisfaction bordering on hubris"--and it can't last. A solid work of intellectual criticism.
Read an Excerpt
From chapter 6: The Aquarium
The summer evening has that special freshness so unique to Jerusalem: perfect temperature, a light wind wafting the cool air as newly planted olive and cypress trees swayed gently in chorus in front of the ramparts of the Old City. I am sitting at a table in a restaurant at the heart of the new Mamila Shopping Mall: a vast pedestrian street which begins a few steps away from Jaffa Gate and ends by the French Saint Vincent Hospice at the beginning of Jaffa Road, the road that led to Jaffa by the sea, well before Tel-Aviv had even been conceived.
A crowd is strolling peacefully in the mall as though without a worry on earth. Entire families even with young children in strollers, young couples, groups of adolescents, mature couples are all out in the mild night, window shopping in front of stores that display the latest clothing fashions, summer shoes, and trendy household objects...before stopping for an ice cream or an American cookie. The scene could be taking place anywhere in the up and coming areas of the world, but paradoxically not in the United States where the very first shopping malls have aged, and not so gracefully. I think instead of Bangalore’s newest shopping mall, inaugurated more or less at the same time as Mamila: the same appetite for novelty, the same youthful crowds, the same boutiques carrying global trademarks surrounded in the less fancy sites by smaller ones carrying local labels, including a state of the art huge pharmacy which sells generic made in Israel drugs, not unlike those made in India, at very competitive prices. Israel of course is not India. But as the summer tent movement showed, the income gap between rich and poor in Israel has reached previously unimaginable levels, destroying in the process the relative egalitarianism that used to prevail in the country. And as in India, the commercial center in Jerusalem is very close to another reality: the Arab quarter of East Jerusalem with its eternal bazaars, its shop sellers sitting on plastic chairs, in front of piles of clothing, rugs, silver jewels, ceramic objects, dried fruits, spices and mountains of watermelons.
There are young Arabs from East Jerusalem among the strollers in this open-air shopping mall. A group of young women wearing blue jeans and the hijab, thanks to which they can be distinguished from their Israeli Jewish peers, walk by, and one can spot a few families, but there are no elderly. It is just the opposite among the Jewish ultra-orthodox. They too are strolling but one sees only very young couples with their children or mature even elderly adults, but no young singles. These are still under parental control and no one wants them to compromise the group’s strict principles. Were they to be spotted in a shopping mall their ultra-orthodoxy would be questioned and their marriage prospects would wilt. One can see these young singles strolling in the streets of Jerusalem West, their mothers walking in front, the young man with his large black hat and the young girl with a dark hued ankle length dress a few steps behind. These outings, I am told, are timed. The times such a young couple can be out together can be counted on the fingers of one hand before they must decide whether they are made for each other. Their body language during these determining encounters is fascinating: they walk with a clearly visible distance between them and both keep their arms crossed over their chests. In our Western world such a gesture denotes mistrust and unwillingness to cooperate. In their universe, it must instead convey purity and seriousness.