Choosing Life in Israel, by P. David Hornik (REVIEW)

April 25, 2013 6:50 pm 5 comments

David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

Choosing Life in Israel, by P. David Hornik (Ontario: Freedom Press, 2013).

The first two words of the title Choosing Life in Israel, by P. David Hornik,  are fraught with double meaning for any literate Jew.  In  Deuteronomy 30: 19, Moses calls heaven and earth “to witness against you this day,  that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life.” In 1 Kings 18:21 the prophet Elijah tells all the children of Israel that they cannot vacillate, but must choose sides: “’How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” For  Hornik the choice was between the American corner of Diaspora, where he grew up (near Albany, New York) and Israel, to which he made aliyah (i.e., “went up”) at the age of 30 in 1984. He had  come to the conclusion  that, whatever the attractions of life in America might be, however tangible the possibility of  still living a Jewish life here–the Jewish future  lay elsewhere, in the Land of Israel.  Although Hornik’s columns deal with a dizzying variety of topics, they are unified by this theme of choice, and in several different ways.

The book comprises sixty short newspaper columns previously published in  American Spectator,  Frontpage Magazine, and PJ Media. (He has also written for the Jerusalem Post,  Moment, and Israel National News.) The first,  shorter section of the book, called Living in Israel,  is intensely personal, and centers on the author’s decision to depart for Israel. Despite its omnipresent difficulties and dangers (unlikely to diminish greatly in the foreseeable future), Israel has afforded Hornik  what Hillel Halkin recommended in Letters to an American-Jewish Friend: A Zionist’s Polemic (1977), the most powerful plea for aliyah from America ever written: “a land and a language! They are the ground beneath a people’s feet and the air it breathes in and out. …you cannot even buy cigarettes in Hebrew without stirring up the Bible; you cannot walk the streets of Tel Aviv without treading on promised land.”  The immediate causes, or  antecedents, of Hornik’s choice of  aliyah were outrage at the way in which the great powers treat Israel, and—who knows  why any of us do what we do?—Theodore Bikel’s Folk Songs of Israel.

Within America itself, to be sure, Hornik, a burgeoning journalist, had recognized the need to choose “between two opinions” in another sense. Ruth Wisse once divided American Jewry into two parties—the one that judged Judaism by the standards of the New York Times, and the one that judged the New York Times by the standards of Judaism. Finding himself in the latter camp, Hornik has become one of Israel’s best informed and most astute journalists, in the process setting himself in opposition to the ethos of the Times. One of that paper’s self-fascinated stalwarts is the subject of a sharp critique by Hornik   called “Thomas Friedman: At Home in a Middle Eastern Mob.”   Friedman has, throughout his career, made it clear that he would not have been among those benighted Jews who in 1948 danced in the streets when Ben-Gurion made his famous pronouncement that the Jews, like other peoples, now had a state of their own.  But he was so elated by the “Arab spring” revolution of 2011 that he joined the revolutionary revelers in Cairo’s Tahrir  Square.  He subsequently assured readers of the Times that the anti-Mubarak “democracy protesters” displayed not a bit of Jew-hatred or anti-Americanism. Friedman’s bubbly Pollyannaism was confuted by other reports , especially those concerning the sexual assault on  his fellow-journalist Lara Logan,  set upon by anti-Mubarak idealists shouting “Jew! Jew!”  Friedman, Hornik suggested in his column, is not only one of those Jews who dance at everybody’s wedding except their own; he also felt compelled to scold Israelis for their mean-spirited failure  to dance in celebration of the overthrow of Mubarak, with whom Israel had achieved a cold peace, a fragile modus vivendi.  It goes without saying that, having built a highly successful career on the paradox that, for Times  bureau chiefs, reporters, and aspiring State Department kibitzers in Israel, nothing succeeds like failure, Friedman felt no need to apologize to Israel or his readers when the Arab spring turned to autumn and Mubarak was replaced by the Jew-hating Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Jews like Friedman—professing “friendship” and even “love” for Israel while invariably taking the side of her enemies—are a favorite topic of Hornik’s.    His article of March 2011   called “The J Street Conference: Where’s the Outrage?” mercilessly unmasks an organization that might better be called “Zionists against Israel.” J  Street  misses no opportunity to blacken Israel’s reputation, and very few opportunities to encourage campaigns to delegitimize it, yet insists on calling itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace.”  Werner Cohn, the eminent sociologist, has observed that “Not since the days of the Communist Party has there been a comparable spectacle of methodical disingenuousness in American political life.” Funded by the Israel-hating billionaire George Soros (whose celebration of Hamas as “a force for peace” is dealt with in another Hornik essay), J Street boasts–justifiably–strong ties to the Obama administration. Fancying itself a (Jewish) government in exile, it has a “Rabbinic Cabinet” whose members include supporters of  Hamas’ relentless bombing of Sderot and also Michael Lerner, pioneering promoter of the Palestinian cause within the Jewish community. Hornik points out how J Street exploits the (typically Jewish) failure to understand that exclusion—or (once again) choice– is as much a function of intellect as inclusion. Its capacious “big tent” provides a platform at its conferences for groups (like Jewish Voice for Peace) even more ferociously anti-Israel than J Street itself.

J  Street is exceeded in palpable misrepresentation and the pursuit of moral rectitude in disregard not just of reality but of mortal danger (to Israelis, that is)  by that phenomenal worldwide industry called Peter Beinart.  Hornik mockingly labels him a “Zionist Pioneer” for his invention of a new stream of Zionism labelled “Zionist B.D.S” (Boycott,  Divestment, Sanctions—against Israel). Beinart’s adopted label is a politicized version of “Jews for Jesus,” that is, an apostate’s fraud.  Hornik sardonically suggests that a still more appropriate label for “Beinart Zionism” would be  “Boycott Zionism,” in which the ambiguity of the slogan’s first word—adjective or imperative?—would have a powerful appeal for  Israelophobe proselytes. Beinart, although second to none in tooth-baring hatred for Israel as it actually exists, insists on calling himself a Zionist.  More explicitly than J Street, he supports the 65-year old Arab boycott of Israel, but with a difference: he would boycott only the Jews in disputed territories, which he thinks should be judenrein—Judea, for example. Hornik wonders whether Beinart can be  blissfully innocent of  how “that exquisite distinction might be lost on others.” Beinart  published his book The Crisis of Zionism at a mid-point in President Obama’s trajectory from “first black president” to “first Jewish president’ to “first gay president” and so provided his hero with the second person of his triune divinity. He was duly rewarded with an invitation to the White House in May of 2012 to “share” his views on how to renew the “peace process.”

As these samples illustrate, Hornik’s writing about “Israel’s Struggle to Survive” (the title of Part 2 of his book)  adheres to the French precept: one must laugh in order not to cry.

Edward Alexander’s most recent book is The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal (Transaction Publishers).

Reprinted, with permission, from the Chicago Jewish Star.

5 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.