Israel at Sixty: An Oral History of a Nation Reborn surveys Israeli history as seen by thirty-two interviewees, many of whom have been personally involved in Israeli policy decisions, giving them an intimate knowledge of Israel. The interviewees represent a broad cross-section of Israeli society and include former cabinet aides, Knesset members, university professors, journalists, and Mossad officials. Some Americans were included as well, such as Anti-Defamation League and Christian Evangelical leaders.
The authors explore the everyday life as well as the political landscape of Palestinian Jewish existence in the pre-State era. Some of the interviews highlight historical truths that have sometimes become obscured. In an interview with a former Knesset member, Joseph Matza, we are reminded that, “There are people who will say to me, ‘Look Mr. Matza, if not for the Holocaust you couldn’t have established the State of Israel.’ This is a wrong idea because the underground fought the British Mandate, and the British didn’t have any other choice but to leave Eretz Israel… That is how we established the State of Israel. It had nothing to do with the Holocaust.” As Mr. Matza correctly observes, we often forget that the Palestinian Jewish revolt against the British Mandate commenced prior to World War II and not as the result of the Holocaust.
While the authors try to include most major events in Israel’s history, they could have done better in certain respects. For example, they devote only two pages to the Second Lebanon War even though that war has been the most talked about topic in Israel for the last two years. However, for those interested in learning how Israel’s pioneers lived back in the 1940’s, or for those interested in insiders’ views of the personalities of Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, and Ehud Olmert, the book is a worthwhile read.