Vox Tablet

Seeing the Strengths and Pitfalls of a Whole Country in the Lives of Seven Paratroopers

In his new book, ‘Like Dreamers,’ Yossi Klein Halevi chronicles the clash of Utopian visions that followed the Six Day War

October 1, 2013
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo David Rubinger/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo David Rubinger/AFP/Getty Images)

In June of 1967, the world watched with disbelief as the young Israeli army turned a perilous threat—enemy troops gathering at its borders—into a tremendous military victory. The symbol of that victory, for many, was a photograph of soldiers standing before the Western Wall soon after the sacred site was reclaimed by Israel in the fighting.

Those soldiers were members of the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade. Most of them were in their early 20s. They included socialist kibbutzniks and religious Zionists. A surprising number of them would go on to be leaders in the movements those two groups spawned—the peace movement on the Left, and the settlement movement on the Right.

In his new book, Like Dreamers, veteran journalist Yossi Klein Halevi examines the lives of seven of these paratroopers, including a rock star, a terrorist, the founder of the Peace Now movement, and, conversely, of the Gush Emunim settler movement. In recounting their experiences, Halevi gives readers access to the complexities of Israeli society as it has evolved over the past half century.

Halevi grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and was a member of the radical Jewish Defense League as a teenager. In 1982, he made aliyah and moved away from radicalism, becoming a writer and a journalist. He speaks with Vox Tablet about how Israel has grown up, easing away from the socialist and messianic dreams that so animated the country in June of 1967, and about his own evolution alongside that of his adopted country. [Running time: 33:13.]

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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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