You will see if you read Noa Tishby’s book ISRAEL: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, that she has all the qualifications needed to do an effective job of confronting antisemitism even though (since this was written), she was dismissed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel.
First of all, she knows the State of Israel inside and out. Inside, because her grandparents were in at the beginning of Zionism, focusing on reclaiming the land. They were in on the ground floor of rebuilding an ancient and neglected country and developing a functioning modern state. From birth, Tishby absorbed the enthusiastic spirit of Ben-Gurion’s courage through her grandparents’ and parents’ own outstanding courage. She took in the history and the inner workings of Israel like mother’s milk, as they say. Once grown up, she learned about outside perceptions of the country because, as an ambitious actress cum entrepreneur, she confronted Hollywoodville, probably the best vantage point for perceiving myriad shades of unexamined Jew-hatred. She was shocked, coming from a family whose generations are intensely involved in everything Israeli, and arriving where the population, with few exceptions, receives their views on Israel from The New York Times spin-off and such.
I had read the book several months ago, shortly after it first came out, so I was very pleased to see that Tishby was the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s choice of speaker on April 24 at the Centennial Concert Hall.
A well-researched book on Jewish, Israeli history
This is not your usual history book. It’s a very breezy read. If you haven’t picked up a history book since college days, rest assured you won’t be bored. But don’t take that to mean it doesn’t seriously get down to business. Tishby gives a quick and easy but fascinating overview of her country, well researched, with many factoids that will surprise even Jewish history aficionados. Intermingled with Israel’s story are biographical underpinnings, enough so that the reader understands what impacts Noa Tishby and why, and how she handles the disturbing bits. As she proceeds in her personal growth to a mature career woman, her analytical skills kick in, and she conscientiously follows Socrates’s admonition to examine one’s self. She applies this same philosophy to analyzing her country. Each chapter provides an episode of illumination as to how and why they both got to what they are. She is passionate in her love for and loyalty to Israel and is a passionate pursuer of peace. Yet she does not shy away from Israel’s flaws and faults.
It was her experiences of the ignorance of people she met in film and television circles that prompted her to write this book. She learned firsthand how unthinking and misled the general population was about her homeland. Patiently she would explain to, reason with, and cajole, people she cared about, who were way out in left field about the country she embodied. Her method was to patiently describe what was really going on, even as news in print and online, then social media, was bandying about fiction. She often made good friends of people who had initially taunted her. Being very visible in her chosen career(s), she gets lots of opportunities, seldom is discouraged, and is brave or brash enough to take on even the most loud-mouthed antisemites head on. A case in point is Roger Waters, the aging rock star who criticizes Israel on stage and tries to discourage celebrities from appearing in Israel. She’s out to turn him around.
When Tishby became aware of, on social media, how absolutely clueless Israel was in terms of the new public relations methods, she contacted military intelligence people and gave them lessons in using the Internet to counter the lies that were going viral, as they say. During her IDF service, she acted in and directed shows every week-end at all the military camps in the country...all of them, so yes, she knows military go-to people in various fields. This is another aspect of the perfect training her life has given her, to fill the position of envoy.
When writers, or artists in any field, put their work out there for us to analyze, admire, or trample all over, it is a painful process, a revelation of inner self verging on the masochistic. Realizing that, I try not to look for faults in works that I’m reviewing. Sometimes, though, something is so glaring that in fairness to my readers, I must make a remark. Here it comes: I have to say that Tishby would do well to skip the use so often of four-letter words. She’s really a class act, so it isn’t necessary; it kind of demeans her, and it makes me squirm. Otherwise, good job, girl, at a very high level!
The strength of this book is that its apologetics on Israel’s behalf are fair, complete, balanced (as people like to say), and fun to read. Getting to know the woman who wrote it is a pleasure, someone all Jews can be proud to show off. Her ability to boost Israel, using reason, logic, and well-researched information, flows out of her like a natural gift. So the beauty of the book is that we don’t have to memorize anything to try to emulate her. We just need to give out copies to all our “doubting Thomas” friends. ■