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

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...

Waltz With Unbearable Memory

In his new documentary Waltz With Bashir, filmmaker Ari Folman explores his own inability to recall the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon as a means of considering how nations go to war, and how we judge what leaders do.

The tank rumbles north into Lebanon. The Israeli commander and another crew member are standing, their heads out of the hatches, singing boisterously. They're young men out on a road trip. Then the commander goes silent, hit by a bullet, and he dies inside the tank, as his stunned soldiers forget their training and what they are supposed to do next. A missile strikes the tank; flames blossom from it; the young men, naked of weapons, are running, zigzagging through bullets. Only one survives, finds shelter, and watches as the rest of his unit retreats. And this is only the outset of the journey from childhood toward the inferno. Young soldiers lie on a beach, terrified, firing madly, perforating an approaching car with bullets. At last it stops. When they approach it, they find the corpses of a Lebanese family inside. And this, too, is but the beginning of the journey toward Beirut, toward events too awful to remember or to leave forgotten. These scenes -- rendered in dark, realistic...

36 Hours In Israel (With Barack Obama)

When John McCain visited Israel last March hardly anyone noticed. When Barack Obama did the same this week he caused a sensation.

It was the most choreographed of visits: Two nights and one day in Israel, seemingly designed by the kind of tour guide interested only in providing his charges with the ultimate number of snapshot opportunities at clichéd places -- from Obama wearing a white skullcap at Yad Vashem,to Obama at the Western Wall, in a white skullcap. There were no leaks while Barack Obama was in Israel, no drama, no gaffes -- to the disappointment of a vast media contingent intent only on bringing home gaffes as souvenirs -- and precious little sleep. At his press conference in the rocket-scarred southern Israeli town of Sderot, Obama's syntax meandered; in a conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said , "I could fall asleep standing up." Nonetheless, he did not refer to the Iran-Israel border. At first glance, the Israel stop in the Obama world tour was also carefully devoid of content. Yet besides the stash of photos for Florida campaign ads and the carefully banal comments about Israeli security...

Five Questions Israel Should Ask Before Bombing Iran

After Iran's missile tests last week, the question of whether Israel will strike Iran preemptively is on everyone's mind. Here are five questions Israel should ponder before striking.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, talks with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz during the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Mofaz has said that an Israeli attack was "unavoidable." (AP Photo/David Silverman)
Friends in Washington send me e-mails: They want to know if Israel is getting ready to bomb Iran's nuclear installations. This is the Bush Era: If you will it, no Middle East war is impossible. And in the last few weeks, there has been a gale of hints, threats, and leaks. U.S. officials, none named, told The New York Times that an Israeli military exercise last month was "a rehearsal" for striking Iran. Shaul Mofaz, the remarkably mediocre ex-military chief of staff campaigning to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that an Israeli attack was "unavoidable." A notoriously unreliable reporter for the Sunday Times of London wrote that President Bush has given Israel an "amber light" -- to translate, that would be the light between green and red -- for hitting Iran. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that if Israel opened a "third front" against Iran, it would hurt the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a clear U.S. no -- with the implication that there...

Barack's Pilgrimage

The trip that future president Obama needs to take to Israel is not the one that candidate Obama can risk.

Sometime in the weeks ahead, Jerusalem will receive the latest in a long line of American political pilgrims -- Barack Obama. Obama's entire overseas swing will be a tightrope act -- necessary, but unforgiving of a single stumble. Nowhere will the contradictory purposes of the trip be more constricting than in Israel. The visit he should actually make to prepare for the presidency is impossible. But it's worth imagining, if only as a yardstick to measure what politics allows him to do. By the strange rules of the current campaign, the candidate who got it right on Iraq must defend his understanding of the world against the one who got it wrong. So in Europe and the Middle East Obama will meet national leaders. He'll seek to inspire enthusiastic comments from them, demonstrating he can improve relations frazzled by George W. Bush. At press conferences, he'll need to speak professorially -- showing he arrived knowledgeable and quickly gained new insights. An Obama gaffe will echo for...

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