Autobiographical essays are often an excellent way to find out about a society. My New Middle East is a wonderful example. It is a compilation of essays that were written over a nineteen year period by an American who moves to Israel.
The author, essayist, and photojournalist Mati Milstein, moves to Israel as a young man. His job is to cover the news events of the day. As the book begins, the author is a young man; as the book develops, he matures. He falls in love with Israel and joins the army.
Not at all surprisingly Milstein tells of the ambivalent, even negative feelings he nurtured toward Hebrew and toward Israel before his move. He was thrown out of Hebrew school. He was connected to nothing except mother earth because immediately after college, he went to work on a farm and became a laborer.
By joining the army, Milstein becomes part of Israel. He becomes part of the remarkable and the miraculous. But he also sees the crazy, the ridiculous, and the inane. And of course, he sees the politics.
Israel, he writes, is all about politics. He becomes embroiled in issues surrounding internal politics and Palestinian statehood, Palestinian acquaintances, foreign affairs, war and peace. In Israel, he says, there is always a crisis to sound off about.
The essays read like journal entries. They are accessible and at times, funny. They are personal. Mati Milstein speaks from the heart.
- Only in Israel by David Ehrlich
- Remembering How to Be a Jew by Lavie Tidhar
- Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel by Liel Leibovitz