In 1978, the British Jewish playwright Harold Pinter and the English Catholic novelist and biographer Antonia Fraser visited Israel. Recently, Fraser discovered and published the diary she kept during their trip. Robert Nason writes in his review:
[For most of his career], the work of Pinter—arguably the 20th century’s most important Jewish dramatist—had not been concerned with politics, much less Israel or Jewish issues. But he grew up in East London during the 1930s and 1940s, when anti-Semites and self-styled British fascists were a constant threat to bookish Jewish youths like Pinter. The experience left an indelible mark on him. He emerged in the late 1950s as part of the great wave of new British playwrights from working-class or Jewish backgrounds. . . . [T]wo years after his bar mitzvah Pinter had shocked his parents by renouncing Judaism. After his success, Pinter dutifully paid to send his deeply Zionist father and mother on trips to Israel twice before visiting the country himself. . . .
Both [Fraser and Pinter] were enchanted by Israel’s people and landscape, though, unsurprisingly, they saw the Holy Land through quintessentially British lenses. The owner of the American Colony Hotel is “a real Graham Greene character,” and a church in the Old City reminds Fraser of Blackfriars at Oxford. While driving to the northern Galilee, she is simultaneously in awe of the country and reminded of her native England. . . . [She] is clearly in a long line of English Christian Zionists and philo-Semites, going back at least to George Eliot. . . .
Before coming to Israel, Fraser reports, Pinter was “obsessed with Menachem Begin” and “read out his speeches from time to time in tones of angry horror.” . . . Yet Fraser remains more sympathetic to the security concerns of Israelis. She has doubts about a Palestine set up so close to “the busy burgeoning Jerusalem” and wonders, “How can anyone expect the Israelis to welcome a state set up by Arafat and his murderous boys here?,” [even] noting that “The world has decided that really unique among states, Israel must be a moral state . . . something no other state is expected to be!”