In the course of researching one of my blog posts, I came to the NextBook site which is devoted to promoting Jewish arts and letters through lectures and readings. At the site I saw a reference to Tony Kushner’s Wrestling with Zion. I love the title as it’s a perfect metaphor for what a progressive Jew must do in coming to terms with that major (and problematic) element in Jewish existence, the State of Israel. You have to wrestle with it just as Jacob wrestled with the angel in order to clarify his own identity and legacy.
What shocked me after researching the book was that it’s been out since December, 2003! I like to think I have a decent idea of what’s going on in the world of Jewish letters. But missing this one really proves to me how out of touch I can be sometimes.
I just ordered the book and have not read it yet myself. But given that as thoughtful a literary figure as Tony Kushner is its co-editor, I’d venture to say this book is almost a must read if you’re as interested in Mideast peace as I am.
I read in Jewschool that Wrestling with Zion contains a set of historical documents which lays the early history of the Zionist enterprise and Palestinian nationalism in some context.
I first studied this issue when I was a camper at Camp Ramah in Nyack in the summer of 1969 and my advisor suggested since I was so bored by the Judaica classes at camp that I do an independent study course with him. He asked me what issues concerned me. I couldn’t come up with any. After some probing, I must’ve mentioned the Israeli-Arab conflict. That ended up being the subject of my course. And it was an experience that affected me for the rest of my life.
At the time, the best reference work on the conflict was the The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict edited by Walter Laquerr. It taught me everything I knew about the conflict and is a great place to start learning about its historical and documentary background.