Since 1967, more than 60,000 Jewish-Americans have settled in the territories captured by the State of Israel during the Six Day War. Comprising 15 percent of the settler population today, these immigrants have established major communities, transformed domestic politics and international relations, and committed shocking acts of terrorism. They demand attention in both Israel and the United States, but little is known about who they are and why they chose to leave America to live at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In this deeply researched, engaging work, Sara Yael Hirschhorn unsettles stereotypes, showing that the 1960s generation who moved to the occupied territories were not messianic zealots or right-wing extremists but idealists engaged in liberal causes. They did not abandon their progressive heritage when they crossed the Green Line. Rather, they saw a historic opportunity to create new communities to serve as a beacon—a “city on a hilltop”—to Jews across the globe. This pioneering vision was realized in their ventures at Yamit in the Sinai and Efrat and Tekoa in the West Bank. Later, the movement mobilized the rhetoric of civil rights to rebrand itself, especially in the wake of the 1994 Hebron massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein, one of their own.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, Hirschhorn illuminates the changing face of the settlements and the clash between liberal values and political realities at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Fifty years after the first American Jew crossed over the Green Line, Sara Yael Hirschhorn provides a fascinating and well-written history of American Jews and the Israeli settler movement. Hundreds of thousands of American Jews have close family and friendship ties with Jews who live in West Bank cities and settlements. Hirschhorn's illuminating and timely study punctures many myths concerning these settlers, and places them not only within an Israeli context, but within an American one as well.
Provocative, challenging, and revealing, City on a Hilltop takes us into the lives of American-Israeli settlers fighting for the most hotly disputed real estate on Earth. Hirschhorn chisels away at stereotypes and monoliths with a disciplined, scholarly touch, graced with humanity, revealing nuanced perspectives of a community that ultimately reveals the deeply fractured soul of a contested land.
For anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is worth listening to these people too—not least because they will be a key consideration if a peace deal is indeed reached.
In vivid, approachable, yet deeply informative prose, City on a Hilltop zeroes in on the diverse personalities behind the phenomenon of the ‘American settler.’…But what is perhaps most fascinating in the work is Hirschhorn’s examination of the settlers’ motivations in leaving the comforts of the United States for the undeveloped and often hostile territory of post-1967 Greater Israel.
Each year, thousands of North American Jews make aliya and relocate to Israel, casting their lot with the state…Hirschorn tackles the topic in a comprehensive, sophisticated and nuanced manner…This excellent book offers a fascinating though troubling look at American Jewish settlers who have come to live across the Green Line since 1967. It raises serious questions about how people with liberal values could engage in such an illiberal project and analyzes the complexities of the movement.
City on a Hilltop is a welcome addition to the body of literature on Zionism, the American Jewish and American-Israeli Jewish experience, the future of the State of Israel, and more. Hirschhorn’s work unpacks settlement and settler stereotypes, personalizing the realities of these communities and their inhabitants in critical ways. Hirschhorn provides a highly nuanced understanding of how settlers view themselves and their life work as contributors to the greater Zionist dream, helping her readers to become better prepared to respond to conflicting ideas about them with grace and dignity.
Hirschhorn has written an important book on Jewish American settlers in Israel.
Indispensable…City on a Hilltop [is] required reading not only for those interested in how American Jews could end up there and why they would do those things, but for anyone seeking to understand the existential and political character of twentieth-century Jewish life…The limits of liberalism, as they emerge through the testimony of American settlers, are demarcated by the irrelevance of rule of law, equality, democratic representation, and moral universalism to a life lived in the Israeli settlements.
- 368 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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