Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Unmaking of Israel, of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and of The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He blogs at South Jerusalem. Follow @GershomG.

Recent Articles

An Israeli Looks at Obama

I was getting so many questions from friends and neighbors about how Obama stacked up on foreign policy, particularly as it concerned Israel, that it seemed time to sit down and review the facts.

A neighbor in Jerusalem asked me to write to his American father-in-law, who has been showering him with emails attacking Barack Obama. At a local bakery, the owner suggested in a whisper that I might talk sense to the tourist proclaiming in a New York accent, between sips of strong Israeli latte, that she was voting for John McCain. Old friends in California worry to me that elderly Jews in Miami think that McCain is better for Israel. "Remember 2000," they tell me darkly. Every vote counts. I suspect that something even more emotionally powerful than electoral math is at stake. My friends are frightened of the shame of a mother or uncle staining the family, or the tribe, with the wrong vote -- a vote purportedly cast out of concern for Israel. From where I sit, this would be a shame, because the reasons Obama is better for Israel's security are the same reasons he is better for American security. Start with McCain's claim to greater foreign-policy experience. Despite that experience...

A City United Against Itself

The Jerusalem mayoral race speaks to the sharp divisions within the city, and the lead candidate's culture-war appeal is a reminder of how ugly politics can get.

Nir Barkat wants to be mayor of Jerusalem. It would be an impressive job title. On a world scale, Jerusalem is a small city, with fewer people than Austin or Indianapolis. But it is the capital of Israel -- and of three religions' myths. Teddy Kollek, who served as mayor for 28 years, was better known internationally than many heads of state. His successor, Ehud Olmert, went on to become Israel's prime minister. Barkat, however, is a singularly unimpressive candidate for the job. For his supporters in the Nov. 11 election, the former high-tech entrepreneur's appeal is purely in his identity as a secular Jew. For them, he represents an opportunity to end the ultra-Orthodox political hegemony of recent years in the Holy City. But the culture war is a distraction. The nicest appellation for Barkat that I've heard among political activists is "shallow." His views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hard-line right-wing. In fact, Barkat is the embodiment of the real cause of Jerusalem'...

The Progressive Imam

A liberal mosque in Cape Town is a reminder of Islam's complexity and a promise that change can come from the Islamic periphery.

Claremont Main Road Mosque is tucked between auto dealerships, bargain electronics emporiums, and fast-food joints in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. The street is gritty, four lanes wide, awash with engine noise from the minivans that provide public transportation between Cape Town and the townships around it. The mosque, 150 years old, predates all this. My cab driver drove past it twice. I found it by the Islamic green of its high, peaked roof. Being out of place is the mosque's pride. During apartheid, the government designated the Claremont area as whites-only. Cape Muslims, mostly descendants of slaves brought by the Dutch from Southeast Asia, were officially "colored" and were expelled to townships. In quiet protest, they continued coming to their mosque. By the 1980s, it was a center for young anti-apartheid activists and for a bubbling mix of Islam and questioning, progressive politics. That blend still sets it apart from most of local Islam, and much more so from the...

Israeli Politics, Bankrupt

The impending indictment of Ehud Olmert for bribery and corruption points to a larger leadership vacuum in Israel.

Yossi Sarid entered Israel's parliament 34 years ago as one of two young, rising stars. The other was Ehud Olmert. Today, Olmert is prime minister, but the operative word here is "today." Last week, the police recommended to prosecutors that Olmert be indicted for bribery, money laundering, and other forms of corruption too numerous for anyone outside the fraud squad to keep track of. This Wednesday, Olmert's centrist Kadima party will vote for a new leader, potentially the country's next prime minister. Sarid, on the other hand, resigned from the Knesset two years ago after a long, principled, and impassioned career. His last term was really only an epilogue, after he accepted responsibility for the poor showing of the small, social democratic Meretz party in the 2003 election and stepped down as party leader. But beyond the electoral failure, "I felt more than a small measure of apathy, if not to say despair, with the political system," he told me last week, in the deep melodious...

The Troubled Tourist

Travel is so broadening. It shows you other nations' narrow-mindedness, so that when you get home you can see your own more clearly.

All year long I write about tribal conflicts. In August, when Israeli tribal customs dictate vacation, I want to get away not just from e-mail but also from news, politics, and insistent national claims. But I'm not terribly good at it. A few years ago, we decided to splurge on taking the kids to Crete. Until then our usual getaway was a farming village in the green hills of the Galilee. But Palestinian suicide bombers were blowing up all over Israel. My wife and I decided that vacation should include time off from bombings. My wife found a bargain, a cottage in an up-country Cretan village surrounded by olive groves. The best part was that when I spotted a newspaper in the village grocery, it was written in letters I'd last seen in college math. If the headline said that the earth had swallowed Jerusalem, I wouldn't have known it. One day we drove down to see the ruins at Knossos, the capital of the Minoan civilization nearly 4,000 years ago. At the entrance, we hired a Greek guide...

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