Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation
We just passed the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War in June 1967, and this book is vitally important to understanding the war's legacy. A brief synopsis: the Six-Day War was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, and Jordan); Israel swiftly attacked the Arab coalition out of the conviction that an Arab invasion was imminent after Egypt took over crucial commercial access lanes (the Straights of Tiran) in the Red Sea. On the morning of June 7, 1967, the third day of the Six-Day War, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) entered the Old City of Jerusalem. And that's where this story begins: the tale of the battalion-- Reserve Brigade 55--that captured Jerusalem from Jordanian forces.
The book begins with three epigraphs, the first of which is Psalm 126, which begins
When the Lord returned the exiles of Zion,
we were like dreamers.
Then our mouths filled with laughter,
And our tongues with songs of joy.
Yossi Klein Halevi's title derives from the second line of that psalm -- "like dreamers" -- and his book tells the story of the men at the heart of the return to Jerusalem. He divides the paratroopers into the Kibbutznik Paratroopers, the Religious Zionist Paratroopers, Other Paratroopers. And by dividing them up into these segments, he outlines the cracks in Israeli society. The back blurb explains "as he follows the lives of this Israeli band of brothers, and charts the ideological divides among them, he weaves an epic chronicle of modern Israel that humanizes the country's political and cultural dilemmas, and offers an unprecedented glimpse into its soul."
There was so much I adored about this book: the way he focused on the lives of the individual men and their families, the accurate reporting, the pace of the book... Overall, it was superbly well written and an important look into a war that has defined Israel for the last 50 years (and most likely, the next 50). The Six-Day War is often written about(go read my piece in Mouth Magazine, "Hannah's Legacy," or if you want a copy of my 267 pg. thesis, hmu), but Halevi manages to shine a new light on the world-changing six days by focusing at the individuals at the heart of the entire thing.
And not only does he spend time with them during the war - but before and afterwards. Halevi traces their lives and how their different experiences and beliefs reflect the divides in Israeli society.