The Bonus Book of the Week is “To Jerusalem and Back, A Personal Account” by Saul Bellow, published in 1976. This slim volume contains a series of essays on the content of discussions Bellow had with individuals of various walks of life during his and his wife’s visit to Israel in late 1975.
In late 1975, Israel’s right to exist was still being contested by the Palestinians. The PLO was the major terrorist group endangering Israelis then. The United States was providing ample support to Israel– financially, militarily and ideologically.
In October 1973, President Richard Nixon sent weaponry to Israel when it was having trouble fending off Egypt, and the Soviets supplied other nations with arms.
As is well known, less than two years later, Nixon resigned in disgrace for his various illegal domestic activities. The author characterized America as a nation of rationalizers. Nixon contended that he had led a virtuous life– “…He worked his way through school, served his country, uncovered Communist plots. It is impossible that he should be impure… Anyway, nothing makes us happier than to talk about ourselves.”
Bellow lamented that experiencing beauty reminded one of the constant psychological burdens suffered by people associated with Israel: “…nothing but aggression and defense, superpowers, diplomacy, terrorism, war.”
The author and his wife had lunch at the home of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “If it weren’t for the men with machine guns at the door, you would think yourself in a comfortable house in Washington or Philadelphia.”
In May 1976, a Chicago newspaper reported that Israel’s peace proposals were getting scant attention. Too bad, but a more important story was displacing them– an Ohio Congressman confessed to giving his sexy girlfriend a patronage job.
It is cringeworthy how, in America, in recent decades, not just this year or last year, one attention whore, undeserving of the world’s attention– being used as a political pawn for the purpose of retaliation– can dominate the headlines and crowd out the reporting of really important events and issues, like disasters, deaths and proposals to improve the world.
But — contrary to what a few ignorant people in the media have said, these political shenanigans have NOT sunk to the level of Joe McCarthy’s extremely evil political machinations. Neither accused nor accuser committed the crime of the century. Hundreds of lives were NOT ruined. NO ONE died in the daily tabloid garbage spewed by the media.
Anyway, instead of wasting time, read this book to learn many more of the author’s observations, insights and the opinions he heard as a result of his social activities in Jerusalem.