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New Book About Israel is the Much-Needed Schooling/Scolding for all Sides of the Conflict

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

Noa Tishby’s book is a practical, no-nonsense resource fit for diplomats, heads of state, and anyone riled up by misleading memes

The post New Book About Israel is the Much-Needed Schooling/Scolding for all Sides of the Conflict appeared first on Jewish Journal.

It’s the morning of Jerusalem Day in Los Angeles, and Noa Tishby is doing what was expected to be another routine interview to promote her debut book,Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.”

Immediately after this 10:00 AM interview begins, the most violent clashes in seven years between Israelis and Palestinians wreak increasing havoc throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Every minute of the interview, Tishby’s phone is inundated with texts, news alerts, and voicemails from friends, family, and media seeking her input. She answers some briefly, speaking in quick bursts of Hebrew.

A hashtag war of perspectives and pejoratives on every possible Middle East policy position would flourish on social media over the next week, a back-and-forth assault that continues even still. The sharp 46-year-old first-time author makes several Instagram videos speaking directly to her almost 220,000 followers, correcting the same “misunderstandings” that she addresses in her book. By the following Monday, Tishby would even film an Instagram video rebuttal to HBO’s John Oliver’s take on the situation on “Last Week Tonight.” Her book seems like an afterthought. Tishby’s concern is setting the record straight.

Seeing a solution in every problem is how Tishby approaches life. After almost twenty-five years in Los Angeles, Tishby is merging her ability to communicate as an actress with her desire to set the record straight on her troubled homeland.

The result is an entertaining yet informative 334-page primer on Israel, published in April by Free Press/Simon & Schuster. The book’s Amazon charts rank the book sales at #1 in categories of “Middle Eastern Politics,” “Historical Middle East Biographies,” and “Israel & Palestine History.”

This is not a book written by academics from their ivory towers of elite universities. It is written by a professional communicator who knows how to cut through the small talk and get to the important points. To speak with Tishby is to quickly understand that she has no interest in wasting anyone’s time with drivel.

Yet the book is written with in-depth geo-political history dating back centuries before the establishment of Israel. Along the way, Tishby shares moments of terror from growing up in Israel, vulnerable moments of trauma, as well as many well-timed exclamation points.

The most impactful line of the book comes from the perspective Tishby takes when reflecting on her own personal growth and struggles and relating them to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian territories:

“A human’s psyche is not dissimilar to that of their nation. I just wanted to be wanted, accepted, loved. Everyone wants the same—to be wanted, accepted and loved. And every nation wants the same as well. Israel wants to be accepted. She wants legitimization and normalization of international relations, and she will not take anything short of that.”

“Israel wants to be accepted. She wants legitimization and normalization of international relations, and she will not take anything short of that.”

While not presuming to have the solution to the conflict, the pages are loaded with empathy for the Palestinian people and dissections of Israel’s most hard-lined figures. Tishby often distinguishes between the plights of the people on both sides and the actions of their respective governments. She is not afraid to address Israel’s mistakes, and not shy about sharing her hope for a better future for the Palestinian people.

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“I am a Zionist and I am also pro-Palestinian,” she writes while condemning the BDS movement in various universities.

Following an optimistic discussion of the recent normalization agreements between Israel and select Arab League countries, Tishby explains her “hope the Palestinian people will not resist these changes…and will join the moderate voices in the Arab world so we can finally create that ‘New Middle East’ for the future and a new reality for our children.”

*           *           *

The genesis of Israel: A Simple Guide” came about as Tishby began to experience more and more success as an actress and producer. She is credited with being the first producer to bring an original Israeli television show to the United States: the multiple Emmy-nominated HBO show “In Treatment.

The more she worked, the more Tishby noticed that she was having similar conversations with coworkers across the entertainment industry. Both on set and off, Tishby became the point-person for inquiring minds about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But too often, she found herself correcting rampant misunderstandings among her peers and countering falsehoods being spread in the media. She started keeping a written record of the explanations she found herself repeating.

“I had a document on my computer, and it was for a book that was supposed to be called ‘WTF Is Israel’?” Tishby laughs, recalling the title. “I wanted to explain Israel as best as I can.”

She describes that original document as an “idea for a modern take on a new case for Israel…the pop culture version of the story of Israel.” In part, the impetus for writing the book is connected to the plethora of academic books that often fail to communicate the story of Israel to a curious lay audience.

“I know that I couldn’t send those books to my friends, they’d say ‘thank you’ and then never read them,” Tishby laments.

A friend lit a fire underneath Tishby to turn her short document of talking points into a 60-page book proposal—and she did so in less than a month. The list of chapters and the order in which they appear in “Israel: A Simple Guide” is the exact order that appeared in the proposal.

While the book’s points speak for themselves, the subtext of the book is Tishby’s focus on her own struggles growing up in Israel, and how her emotional breakthroughs as an adult may be applied to Israel and its complicated conflicts.

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By her own admission, she is not a religious person, but rather a spiritual person. The book, in turn, demonstrates the depth of Tishby’s reflective nature. At one point, she reveals and reflects on the moment that she learned a painful secret about her parents.

Throughout the book, Tishby is adept at revealing these milestone moments, many of which have been traumatic and will remain with her forever.

In our interview, she recounts her most frightening childhood memory of something that happened when she was in junior high school in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War.

Tishby was at a sleepover at a friend’s house when the air raid sirens sounded at about 1:00 AM. Her father rushed to pick her up as soon as he heard them, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter. When he arrived, adolescent Tishby was already in her friends’ shelter, duct taping the doors as the sirens were interrupted by scud missile explosions. Soon, she would realize that these frightening scenarios would be a part of a daily occurrence during the Gulf War.

Several of Tishby’s personal moments of fear are interspersed with watershed moments in Israel’s recent history.

“The peace with Jordan [in 1994] was the first time in my lifetime that as a young adult, I saw [peace] happening…it was so moving, the King of Jordan was sailing in the Bay of Eilat in Aqaba,” Tishby recalls, pausing to notice her goosebumps. “There were a lot of Israeli boats and yachts, people waving flags, it was so celebratory. When you see things like that, you cannot not believe in peace.”

She is optimistic but emphasizes, shaking her fist, that “optimism isn’t easy, being optimistic is harder than to be pessimistic, because of the news and how their cycles operate. We see it on the left, right, and center…on social media, making money by activating and pressing our amygdala.”

She is optimistic but emphasizes, shaking her fist, that “optimism isn’t easy, being optimistic is harder than to be pessimistic, because of the news and how their cycles operate.”

Stopping herself from getting worked up, Tishby remembers her mantra, a quote by the late Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres: “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”

Tishby’s optimism was tested consistently during her final years living in Israel.

When Tishby was 19 years old, she experienced another one of her most terrifying memories: a #5 public transit bus exploded a mere 200 meters from her family home near Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. In what would be known as the Dizengoff Street Bus Bombing, 22 civilians were killed in an attack by a Hamas suicide bomber.

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“From then on, I would recoil when I’d see bus. I’d see a bus, wince and think, ‘This can be bad,’” Tishby recalls. Although she did not see the bloody aftermath, her fears festered. Thirteen months later she would be enjoying herself at a concert that was interrupted with the news of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This would leave an imprint on Tishby that would haunt her long into her adulthood, even as she forged a successful career in Hollywood.

At this point in her life, Tishby has lived as many years in the United States as she did in Israel. She says she has put much work into healing the psychological wounds from her most perilous experiences of her first 23 years.

Pausing to think as she opens up about her breakthroughs, a ray of mid-day sunshine radiates onto her face from her home skylight. Tishby raises her hands to the light and remarks that perhaps she was meant to share on paper her own journey of healing, that it may be a sign of cosmic reassurance not just for her, but also for Israel.

While it may seem that “Israel: A Simple Guide” was written for this very moment of hostility, Tishby says that the book was really written for her five-year-old son Ari. For now, his interest in his mother’s book is miniscule; as most children his age would be, he is disappointed that it does not include pictures other than a few colorless maps. She hopes that in the future Ari will know his mother’s story and her efforts to make a difference in the peace process.

Tishby’s book is written not only with the hope for a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians, but also with an eye toward our responsibility to care for the environment. Upon completing the book, Tishby partnered with Aspiration, a financial services firm that has committed to plant four trees for each paper copy of the book sold. The goal is to offset the number of trees cut down to print a single copy of the book (it takes approximately four). The act of planting trees for the future is emblematic of the book itself—a seed of hope that will one day enrich the future.

The irony of “Israel: A Simple Guide” is that it’s quite detailed when it comes to complicated topics. It’s equal parts history, contemporary geo-political analysis, and introspective healing. Tishby wants us to take a hard look at the many facets of Israel’s struggles. It is refined, germane, informative and so many other things that can’t be explained in a meme.

Brian Fishbach is a music journalist in Los Angeles. 

The post New Book About Israel is the Much-Needed Schooling/Scolding for all Sides of the Conflict appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal

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