Israel’s Prime Ministers and Their Books

Perhaps fittingly for the nation-state of the people of the book, 40 percent of Israelis between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five report reading at least one book a week. The country’s leaders have also included some voracious readers, beginning with David Ben-Gurion, as Tevi Troy writes:

Ben-Gurion was the first and perhaps the most creative reader. His library had books in multiple languages, and he had a well-cultivated appetite to read books in their original languages. As far back as 1922, Ben-Gurion had a library of 775 books, in English, German, Hebrew, French, Arabic, Latin, Russian, Turkish, and Greek.

Ben-Gurion’s collection eventually reached 18,000 books. Although he was known as a frugal man, his main indulgence was in both buying books and having them shipped to Israel, an expensive proposition in the early days of the state. He particularly loved the wisdom of the Greeks and read Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War a reported sixteen times. With a Greek dictionary at hand, he also read the Septuagint version of the book of Genesis.

Menachem Begin’s reading interests were narrower than . . . Ben-Gurion’s, focusing mostly on history and biography. Philosophy, poetry, novels, and art were not part of his reading diet. He was, however, a huge consumer of news. According to [his biographer] Daniel Gordis, Begin regularly read “every major Israeli newspaper, as well as the Times of LondonLe MondeTIME, and Newsweek.” There was a practical element to his reading. In advance of the Camp David summit, he read Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s autobiography. In subsequent years, he also read the autobiography of Jehan Sadat, Sadat’s widow, in addition to books by American journalists like Bob Woodward and William Safire.

Read more at Tablet

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Menachem Begin


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