The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation
“Yossi Klein Halevi has written the Israeli epic.”
— MICHAEL OREN, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF SIX DAYS OF WAR AND ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON
In Like Dreamers, acclaimed journalist Yossi Klein Halevi interweaves the stories of a group of 1967 paratroopers who reunited Jerusalem, tracing the history of Israel and the divergent ideologies shaping it from the Six-Day War to the present.
Featuring an eight pages of black-and-white photos and maps, Like Dreamers is a nuanced, in-depth look at these diverse men and the conflicting beliefs that have helped to define modern Israel and the Middle East.
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In June 1967, Israel achieved the unimaginable—a decisive victory against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six-Day War. The most symbolic triumph for the young nation was the reunification of Israeli West Jerusalem and Jordanian East Jerusalem, achieved at great cost by a group of paratroopers from the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade. In restoring Jewish sovereignty to the Holy City, these men fulfilled the dream of two millennia, changing the history of Israel and of the Middle East. And as veteran journalist Yossi Klein Halevi shows in Like Dreamers, they played pivotal roles in shaping Israel's destiny long after their resounding military success.
A masterful storyteller, Halevi tracks down seven members of the 55th Brigade and traces their lives through the decades following the Six-Day War. But as his narrative reveals, despite the intensity of their shared experience protecting Israel, in their postwar paths they nurture drastically divergent visions for the country's future. Yoel Bin-Nun emerges at the forefront of the religious Zionist West Bank settlement movement, but Arik Achmon—the chief intelligence officer of the 55th—becomes a spiritual father of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Achmon becomes a driving force in the growth of Israel's capitalist economy, whereas Avital Geva, in addition to building a reputation as a leading conceptual artist, ardently defends the socialist kibbutzim. And while Geva is among the foremost activists in Peace Now, Udi Adiv helps create an anti-Zionist terror underground in Damascus, eventually serving twelve years in an Israeli prison.
Charting the ideological differences among this band of brothers, Halevi weaves a nuanced and insightful chronicle of modern Israel. His fascinating, diligently researched examination of each man's motivations and actions—supported by extensive interviews with their friends, family members, and comrades-in-arms—humanizes the country 's complex political landscape, facilitating a deeper understanding of the forces that influence its evolution as a state.
“Powerful…. a textured, beautifully written narrative.”
-ETHAN BRONNER, NEW YORK TIMES
“Mr. Halevi’s masterly book brings us into [the]…debate and the lives of those who live it, not through fiction but through a factual account illuminated by his own intelligence and empathy.”
-ELLIOTT ABRAMS, WALL STREET JOURNAL
“A magnificent book, one of the two or three finest books about Israel I have ever read…. Nothing explains more eloquently why Israel, more than most any other country, lives or dies based on the power and justice of its animating ideas.”
-JEFFREY GOLDBERG, BLOOMBERG
"Astonishing... Like Dreamers is a majestic study of love and death, war and dreams, the evolution of Israel and the meaning of Zionism.... Like Dreamers has depth and expanse but most of all it has insight. In writing one of the most sparkling histories of the Jewish state, Halevi has also written the Great Israeli Novel, made all the greater because it's true.
-STEPHEN DAISLEY, COMMENTARY
“Like Dreamers is the big book on Israel we have been waiting for…. [It] is a remarkable feat of reporting, thrilling, painful, and brilliantly recounted, and an unparalleled portrait of Israel’s last five decades.”
-DON FUTTERMAN, DAILY BEAST
“Halevi expertly employs a traditional journalistic form: he isolates seven paratroopers… and reconstructs their lives… to render a complicated history intimate, human, relatable. His meticulous, sensitive, detailed reporting — the book is the work of more than a decade — is incredibly effective at making the small big. Over and over again, anecdotes about one religious settler or one secular kibbutznik resonate as powerful metaphors for the state’s challenges… Caricatures are replaced with nuanced understanding of what was gained and lost as a communitarian farming society transformed itself into an entrepreneurial high-tech haven… Compared with so many books about Israel, Like Dreamers… is not a polemic, or even an argument. It is refreshingly free of prescriptive language and judgment about a subject too often overwhelmed by people screaming past one another.”
- JODI RUDOREN, NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW
“Remarkable… A work of non-fiction that reads like a riveting novel, Like Dreamers… contains a fascinating cast of characters that entered Israeli public life and marked the transformations and fissures within it… Brilliantly, Klein Halevi interweaves personal narratives with Israeli history, skillfully introducing the complicated interactions between his subjects and Israel’s political, intellectual and religious landscape… Klein Halevi’s writing is so gripping that one wishes he would never stop.”
-STEVEN BAYME, THE JEWISH WEEK
"Halevi does not conceal from readers the underside of Israeli military and political life… But it is a measure of Halevi’s genius as an author that he can depict these realities without losing sight of the extraordinary nature of the Israeli accomplishment… To know Israel’s real strength, and to learn something of heroic achievement, one can do no better than to read this remarkable book.”
-ELIOT A.COHEN, WEEKLY STANDARD
Arik Achmon, Brigade 55’s chief intelligence officer, went on to help establish Israel’s domestic aviation industry and shift the economy toward capitalism. He helped land the crossing of the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War and was one of the fathers of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Udi Adiv helped create an anti-Zionist terror underground in Damascus that would bring together Arabs and anti-Zionist Jews and served 12 years in an Israeli prison on charges of spying for Syria.
Meir Ariel, the great Hebrew poet-songwriter, commemorated the Six-Day War with his song, Jerusalem of Iron, an implicit attack on the romantic nationalism that took hold after the war.
Avital Geva, wounded in the battle for Jerusalem, became a leading conceptual artist, founded a greenhouse to teach ecological principles and kibbutz values, and became active in the anti-occupation movement, Peace Now.
The Religious Zionists:
Yoel Bin-Nun, a founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, led a generation of religious Zionists back to the study of the Bible as a way to understand contemporary Israel. He broke with his fellow rabbis in the settlement movement following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Yisrael Harel founded the West Bank settlements’ umbrella organization, the Yesha Council, and its magazine, Nekudah.
Hana Porat, wounded in the Yom Kippur War, helped found Gush Emunin and was the first settler elected to the Israeli parliament.