The Land of Hope and Fear by Isabel Kershner
Israel’s Battle for Its Inner Soul
A rich, wide-ranging portrait of the divisions among Israelis today, at a critical juncture in their country’s history, by a veteran New York Times correspondent who has spent decades working in Israel
Despite Israel’s determined staying power in a hostile environment, its military might, and the innovation it fosters in businesses globally, the country is more divided than ever. The old guard—socialist secular elites and idealists—are a dying breed, and the state’s democratic foundations are being challenged. A dynamic and exuberant country of nine million, Israel is now largely comprised of native-born Hebrew speakers, and yet any permanent sense of security and normalcy is elusive.
In The Land of Hope and Fear, we meet Israelis: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Eastern and Western, liberals and zealots—plagued by perennial conflict and existential threats, citizens who remain deeply polarized politically, socially, and ideologically, even as they undergo generational change and redefine what it is to be an Israeli. Who are these people and to what do they aspire?
In moving narratives and with on-the-ground reporting, Isabel Kershner reveals the core of what holds Israel together and the forces that threaten its future through the lens of real people: a son of Zionist pioneers, cynical about what is to come and his people’s status in it; a woman in her nineties whose life in a kibbutz has disintegrated; a brilliant poet caught up in the political maelstrom; an Arab gallery owner archiving a lost Palestinian landscape; and a descendant of the Russian aliyah; representing millions of culturally and religiously different Jews, laying bare the question Who is an Israeli? The Land of Hope and Fear decodes Israel today at its seventy-fifth anniversary, examining the ways in which the country has both exceeded and failed the ideals and expectations of its founders.
Year first published: 2023