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

April 3 2018

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

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad