Does the Latest Israeli Science Fiction Tell Us Anything about the Israeli Psyche?

Reviewing several recent works of Israeli science fiction and fantasy—from tales of body-switching to zombies to teen fantasy romance—Michael Weingrad focuses on a biblically informed novel as one of the better specimens:

Dror Bernstein’s novel Teet (“Mud”) retells in detail the story of the prophet Jeremiah. He does so, however, in an unsettling way. The setting is contemporary in that the events take place in a world much like that of today, with smartphones and airplanes, yet different in that prophets are as common as public-relations specialists, and Israel’s neighbors are Babylonians, Assyrians, and pharaonic Egyptians. . . . [It] may be fairly asked whether this absurdist novel, despite a few fantastic elements such as a talking dog, is what we conventionally recognize as science fiction. In that the story and actors are biblical yet the technology and mentality modern, we might call Teet a science-fiction novel for Iron Age readers. . . .

What is ultimately most striking about Teet’s take on Jeremiah, and where it falls entirely on the side of the modern, is the near-total absence of any experience of the divine. Prophets in this novel are poets, inspired less by the word of God than by the possibility of a good review.

Weingrad concludes with some general comments on the genre:

As an American reader, one is tempted to mine these novels for insight into the Israeli national psyche. Common themes exist among some if not all of these books: the fluidity of identity in our social-media worlds, the nature of Israeli identity more specifically and whether it is something to be sought in the ancient past or the far future, escape from the body whether by technology or death, the power of imagination, and, of course, private detectives. Yet what we see here is mostly a varied and steady stream of speculation and play, and this is not a bad thing. Not every work of Israeli fantasy has to deal with specifically Israeli issues.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Arts & Culture, Israeli literature, Jeremiah, Science fiction


Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security