“Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted” by Daniel Sketch— A Primer

Sokatch, Daniel. “Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted”, illustrated by Christopher Noxon, Bloomsbury, 2021.

A Primer

Amos Lassen

As a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, not a day goes by that I do not stop to think about the situation in Israel. After all, Israel was my home for almost half of my life. I willingly admit that I do not fully understand the situation. With the publication of Daniel Sokatch’s “Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted”, things are much clearer yet I still am able to formulate my own conclusions… or am I?

Sokatch understands both sides the topic and brings us a primer on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He understands much more than we do but then he is
the head of the New Israel Fund, an organization dedicated to equality and democracy for all Israelis, not just Jews. He gives us thestory of that conflict, and of why so many people feel so strongly about it without actually understanding it very well at all. It has been a century-long struggle between two peoples that both perceive themselves as victims and, indeed, they are victims. He tries to explain why Israel (and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) brings about extreme feelings and “why it seems like Israel is the answer to ‘what is wrong with the world’ for half the people in it, and ‘what is right with the world’ for the other half. It is a topic about which so many intelligent, educated and sophisticated people hold passionate convictions yet know so little about it.

We look at the history and ideas of one of the most complicated conflicts in the world. No matter what we know, there is always what we do not now. I have studied the history of Israel during most of my life and devoted time to building the country in the early days and served in the Israel Defense Forces during both peace and war. I watched the currency change before my eyes and spent hours and days in bomb shelters. I have wept during victories and failures, I have voted in Israel’s elections and watched the government turn around and I have seen once persecuted minority groups achieve equality. I remember the jubilation after the Six Day War in 1967 and have cried learning the truth about what really went on behind the scenes yet I remain proud in saying that I am an Israeli citizen.

The country has taken a major turn to the right and that turn is brilliantly explained here.  I so needed this book to explain to me what was missing in my own mind. Sokatch not only knows what he is writing about, he knows how to share that knowledge. Dealing with politics is no easy task. We have no final or correct answers about the situation but we DO have a lot to think about.

Sokatch tries to give us answers and does so from his personal point of view along with the ideas of others. Unfortunately it all remains open-ended. We have two nations both convinced of their right to belong and they are not willing or unable to find a suitable compromise.  This is a fascinating look at Israel’s history, politics, and its relation with the land and the Palestinian people. It is s respectful look at everything involved.

Sokatch presents everything clearly even for those who have no previous knowledge on the conflict. We gain a better understanding and Sokatch is impartial and does not support one way or the other. Instead, he gives us facts and details, the good and the bad about the situation.  Divided into two parts, we first get a history, from Biblical accounts all the way to  the year 2020 in the first part and in the second we have a  discussion of why people get so excited when speaking about what is going on.