Seven Israeli paratroopers -- blood brothers, best friends and soldiers-in-arms -- celebrate their country's 1967 victory in the Six Day War. But then, in the years afterward, those close bonds are strained as their country struggles with that war's consequences.
Their story, which is also Israel's story, is documented in a new book, "Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation," by noted author and journalist Yossi Klein Halevi. He will be speaking Sunday night at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
Born in America, the son of a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Halevi first visited Israel with his family shortly after the 1967 war when he was 14. "We thought it was all over and that the Arabs would simply sue for peace."
That didn't happen, and years later, Mr. Halevi found himself wondering "how we got from the euphoria of those days to the abyss of the second Intifada," that prolonged stretch in the early 2000s when suicide bombers terrorized Israeli cities.
To get the answer, he found seven soldiers whose own life stories reflected larger issues confronting Israel, and decided to write history through their eyes. The book took 11 years to write -- mainly because it took that much time for them to feel comfortable with him, he said. Raised in an earlier, collectivist generation, "they were used to saying 'we' instead of 'I.' People with a strong sense of belonging to history also tend to be less self-reflective."
All members of the Israeli Defense Force, four came from the socialist world of the Israeli kibbutz, while the other three were deeply religious Zionists.
In the book, one of them, a kibbutznick, moves so far to the left that he doubts the integrity and legitimacy of the State of Israel itself. Two others, religious Zionists, embrace the settler movement, claiming that the expansion of Israel's boundaries reflect God's promise to redeem the Jewish people if they redeemed the land of Israel.
Today, more than half a million Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and as settlements on the West Bank have proliferated, a deep divide has opened up in Israel about whether a two-state solution will ever be possible -- or should be.
"Like Dreamers" is about unintended consequences of idealism and ideology in the wake of the 1967 war, but there are lessons for Americans as well, says Rabbi James Gibson, leader of Temple Sinai's congregation. "To Democrats who see the welfare state as leading to a utopia of equality throughout America ... and Republicans who see killing off as much government as possible as a Messianic quest," he said.
Mr. Halevi's message is powerful and sobering, he added.
"The lessons of '67, especially what NOT to do in the name of ideology, may be crucial for us to learn if we are going to make it through the present difficulties faced here, in America, Europe, the Middle East, Iraq and especially Iran."
Mackenzie Carpenter, firstname.lastname@example.org. 412-263-1949. On Twitter @MackenziePG.