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

Burden of Proof

Increasingly, the rabbis in the Israeli state bureaucracy demand proof that people registering to marry are really Jewish. The proof they seek is unavailable to most American-born Jews.

Am I a Jew? This is a remarkably strange question for me to ask. No aspect of my identity is more obvious to me. I've been aware of being Jewish since before I can remember. We missed school on Rosh Hashanah; everyone else had Christmas trees. My grandparents' native language was Yiddish. This is besides the fact that I chose 30 years ago to move to the Jewish state. Nonetheless, while writing " How to Prove You're a Jew " for The New York Times Magazine , I ran the personal experiment of seeing whether I could come up with evidence of Jewishness that might satisfy the Israeli rabbinate. My detective work yielded meager results. No official U.S. document lists me as a Jew. No Jewish marriage contract, or ketuba , for my parents lay hidden in an attic. No Orthodox rabbi alive knew my late mother as a child. With a cousin's help, I found what's probably a record of my grandmother's arrival at Ellis Island in 1910, with her ethnicity listed as "Hebrew" -- but her name is spelled "Sure"...


The NY Times has an analysis today on Israel's dilemma in negotiating peace with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas when Hamas, not Abbas, controls Gaza. As the last few days' events showed, military confrontations between Israel and Hamas make it impossible for Abbas to keep negotiating. And even if he reached a deal, how much would it mean when he doesn't speak for Gaza? An alternative is negotiating directly with Hamas. But that's a a painful choice -- it legitimizes the Islamic movement's takeover of Gaza, and mean Israel would be negotiating with two separate representatives of the Palestinians. The Times doesn't mention the logical third way, described here last week just as the fighting in and around Gaza was escalating: Israel should encourage reestablishment of a Palestinian unity government -- possibly by releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. -- Gershom Gorenberg


As Sarah Posner has noted , one reason that that Texas pastor and popularizer-of-the-apocalypse John Hagee gave for endorsing John McCain was the latter's "support of the state of Israel." Hagee also claimed that he personally backs Israel because it is a democracy, not because of its place in apocalyptic scenarios. To believe this, you have to avoid reading anything Hagee has ever written about Israel -- particularly his 1996 giga-seller, Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist. In most ways, Beginning is a standard popularization of the fundamentalist theology known as dispensational premillennialism : To prove that the final seven years of history are about to begin, Hagee presented a list of verses and a collection of headlines that supposedly fulfill scriptural predictions. Hagee's innovation was to fit the murder of Yitzhak Rabin into his scheme. But before getting to the End, Hagee expressed uncommon sympathy for Rabin's assassin,...

Breaking the Gazan Impasse

If there is a way out of the current crisis, it lies in reuniting the West Bank and Gaza under a Palestinian unity government. That might require the release of Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian political figure who has done the most to promote unity.

The most important news photo from Israel this week was the one that didn't appear. It would have shown 40,000 unarmed Palestinian marchers, children and women and men, pouring through a gap trampled in the border fence around Gaza toward Israeli troops. With tear gas failing to work its dark magic in the rain, with the crowd pushing forward past those felled by rubber bullets, Israeli commanders—half panicked, half agonized—would have ordered their men to aim live fire at the marchers' feet. Ineluctably, some of the shots would have hit higher. The footage would have shown people kneeling next to the fallen. It might have shown the crowd still marching forward. It didn't happen. Instead, newspapers in Israel the next day showed pictures of a 10-year-old Israeli boy lying wounded in the southern town of Sderot, his shoulder torn by shrapnel from a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Next to him kneeled his eight-year-old sister, her hand on his forehead to calm him as they waited for an...

Who Will Stop the Bulldozers?

The Bush administration is supposedly committed to a freeze on Israeli settlement, as part of the bid to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement this year. So what are all those hardhats doing at building sites?

A new housing development in the east Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
They are building at Har Homa. The round hill, once forested, is now a hive of muddy streets, of men in hardhats shouting over the pneumatic thumping hammers and grinding cement mixers and the big shovels growling on tank treads. Tall spindly yellow cranes rise above the dense throng of apartment towers in every stage of construction—from empty-eyed concrete shells, to stone-faced buildings with windows and mailboxes and elevators waiting for moving crews, to the buildings, higher on the hill, where real residents have already put flowerboxes on balconies. Developers' signs decorate the streets like picket signs above a demonstration. Long bundles of steel rods for reinforcing concrete lie on muddy lots. Below the lowest ring road around the hill, in the wadi, olive trees still grow on ancient terraces lushly green from winter rain, but the terraces' day will come, because all of the frenzy and concrete visible today constitute only the first third of the planned Israeli neighborhood...