Choosing Life in Israel Reviewed by Ruth King
David Hornik moved to Israel in 1984. In the preface to Choosing Life In Israel he states: “This book is both about my own choice to live in Israel and Israel’s choice to live and thrive in the face of challenges.”
Hornik’s book is a compendium of personal and political essays he has written since he became one of Israel’s most incisive journalists. Arranged in chronological order, they revisit in eloquent prose a besieged nation’s triumphs and tragedies, its ancient stones and its modern cities, its beauty, its warts, the incalculable harm of mindless appeasement, and its holiness.
Hornik’s heart is in Israel’s history and the vision of Zionists restored to an ancient land, but his mind is also focused on politics and the hypocrisy of those whose aim is to tarnish and delegitimize the Jewish state.
In the internet age many excellent columns rapidly fade from memory, so this print anthology is a welcome reminder of events that shaped Israel’s destiny and the contemporaneous reaction of a clear eyed observer.
The euphoria that accompanied President Obama’s visit to Israel is reminiscent of the great optimism engendered by the Oslo Accords.
In “Intifada” written in 2003 and again in “Washington-Bibi is In. Peace is Dead” written in 2009, Hornik speaks sarcastically of the extent to which commentators and journalists disregarded the spree of terrorism that followed Oslo: “Many Israelis –if their charred bodies weren’t long ago interred–have such pleasant memories of those years (following the infamous handshake between Rabin and Arafat) in which 200 Israelis died in terror attacks, a total far beyond any previous comparable period in Israeli history.” He chides those architects and point men of Oslo who ignored the butchery and “…never stood up and said that perhaps this process should be stopped and the Israeli army should retake the areas from which Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Arafat’s PLO terrorists were now staging repeat attacks.”
In 2005 in “The Wages of Appeasement” Hornik wrote: ”…treating the likes of Hitler or Arafat or Stalin or Kim Il Sung, as benign, rational individuals….who just want to improve situations, is a very basic lapse of adult functioning.“ And, he presciently noted, well before Israelis focused on the threat of radical Islam: “The test is whether today’s democracies can stand up to the jihadist assault with its unprecedented dangers.”
In “The West’s Denial of Evil” (2006) He reminds us that the West continues to fail the test: “Almost five years after 9/11, after Madrid, London, the terror war against Israel, and so on, the cowardice–the lunging to pin blame on one’s own side, the eager abandonment of logic and fairness while rushing to embrace moral inversion and idiocy–all this is so strong as to suggest that the West’s survival is anything but certain.”
I recently asked one of Israel’s top journalists, an American who, like Hornik, moved there many years ago, why the foreign press, including Jews, echo the complaints and outright libels of Arabs in writing of Israel. The answer: “All the foreign journalists — and diplomats, for that matter, whose sport is bashing Israel — love being stationed here even while they are trashing us in their columns. They stay in nice places in trendy neighborhoods because they get a lot of bang for their buck. They have fun, because there’s always lots to cover and lots to do in their free time. There are great bars and restaurants and lots of beautiful women and men who fawn all over them. Israelis speak English, which makes it easy for foreign correspondents to talk to them. The Government Press Office which spoon feeds them translations and arranges trips and interviews, unlike the Arab countries they cover, does not penalize or threaten or ban them for any harsh criticism of Israel. “