Bettina Berch, author of the recent biography, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska, teaches part-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Ben-Gurion: A Political Life
Over the course of many Friday mornings in 2009 and 2010, Shimon Peres sat down with journalist David Landau to talk about David Ben-Gurion, and their discussions formed the basis of this remarkable political biography from Nextbook Press’s Jewish Encounters Series. The book itself follows a rough chronological order, briefly reviewing Ben- Gurion’s early Polish shtetl life and his decision to leave for Palestine, before focusing in depth on the issues surrounding Partition, wars, and statehood. What could have been a bewildering narrative of Israeli politics and personalities is saved by strategic footnotes and an appendix reviewing Israeli history for the uninitiated. Personal anecdotes spice the narrative; feisty dialogues between Peres and Landau close most chapters, preventing the account from veering into hagiography. While attention is paid to key debates of Ben-Gurion’s career — his approach to the Holocaust, his position on a two-state solution, his pursuit of the Lavon affair — the focus remains on Ben-Gurion’s political and moral philosophy. An omnivorous reader, Ben-Gurion educated himself in world military history, Biblical studies — anything he felt would broaden his insight into the world his people would need to navigate. Both a pragmatist and an idealist, he understood that compromise is necessary when no other options remain. A deeply moral man, he tolerated mistakes, but not lies. While many readers may disagree with Peres’s assessments of Ben-Gurion’s positions, few can argue with the political courage and leadership this man offered the Jewish people. Appendix summarizing Israeli history, chronology, source notes.
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