“Starstruck in the Promised Land: How the Arts Shaped American Passions about Israel” by Shalom Goldman— Stars in Israel

Goldman, Shalom. “Starstruck in the Promised Land: How the Arts Shaped American Passions about Israel”, University of North Carolina Press, 2019.

Stars in Israel

Amos Lassen

The relationship between the United States and the Holy Land has become one of the world’s most consequential international alliances. While the political side of U.S.-Israeli relations has long played out on the world stage, the relationship and as Shalom Goldman shows us here, it has also played out on actual stages. He shares the stories of the American superstars of pop and high culture who have traveled to Israel to perform, lecture, and see fans. We see how the creative class has both expressed and influenced the American relationship with Israel.

Many stars who have made headlines for their trips including Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Leonard Bernstein, James Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Scarlett Johansson. Even though they are diverse socially and politically, they have all served as ways to see the evolution of U.S.-Israeli relations, as Israel, “the darling of the political and cultural Left in the 1950s and early 1960s” and how it turned into “the darling of the political Right from the late 1970s.” Today, as relations between the two nations have only intensified, stars now must consider highly controversial issues, such as cultural boycotts when they plan their itineraries.

We get a different look at the special relationship that the United States has developed with Israel. This volume is a terrific accomplishment and new insights into cultural diplomacy and “soft power” between the United States and Israel in this perspective on the role that celebrity pop culture has played in U.S.-Israeli relations. We can now begin to understand how and why the two nations have developed a special, close, almost codependent relationship. Godman looks at the American obsession with Israel through the lens of celebrity artists and intellectuals.

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