Coming Together of a family divided

I have been struggling over the last few days about how to write a book review for what I consider a tremendous book.

In normal times, I believe his book “Coming Together, Coming Apart: A Memoir of Heartbreak and Promise in Israel” would vault Daniel Gordis into the top ranks of writers and thinkers about Israeli politics and culture. However, these are not normal times for Israel, the United States, the Jewish people and the West.

“Coming Together” is an intimate tale about the state of Israel and the Jewish people during a tumultuous time, the period of the second intifada leading up to and including Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza. Gordis illuminates many aspects of how these difficult circumstances impacted Israeli society by focusing on individuals and extrapolating from their experiences and thoughts.

He often concentrates on the changes that have occurred within his own family, a group of recent American olim who moved to Jerusalem from Los Angeles.

The book works on many different levels due to Gordis’ thoughtful and moderate tone. He weaves the personal, the familial, the national and the international into his book, sometimes in the same paragraph.

“Coming Together” often concentrates on Gordis’ role as a father and the situations his children confront because of the lives that he and his wife have chosen. It is almost a universal truth that parental choices will have unknown effects on children, but most parents do not by choice move their children into a virtual war zone. Parents that do make such choices must directly confront the cost and potential costs of their choices on a daily, and often on a minute-by-minute, basis.

Reading about Gordis’ internal conflicts on these matters and how his family resolved them was both inspirational and heart-wrenching. He looks at how the family unit functions in a place as fractious as Israel and how political issues can both divide and unite a family.

For example, to highlight their diverse opinions, the Gordis family chose to fly the colors of both pro- and anti-disengagement forces on their car.

Gordis’ analysis always recognizes the humanity, in all its complexity, of opposing arguments.

If someone is interested in Israeli culture, politics, relations with the Muslim world or the diaspora, this book will have insights that will challenge most readers to reevaluate their own opinions, prejudices and predispositions.

“Coming Together, Coming Apart: A Memoir of Heartbreak and Promise in Israel” by Daniel Gordis (258 pages, Wiley, $25.95).