234 pages. Soft cover. 2010.

Reviewed by Rolly King Kohansky

In the preface to his book, the author states that his goal is to give the reader a personal feeling for contemporary Israel, while not neglecting its tumultuous past.  He succeeds on both counts.

This is not your usual tourist guide but an unusually interesting one that takes the armchair traveller on an historical, archaeological, biblical and  cultural tour of Israel in a very individual way. While  Kramer  hikes through the country  covering a lot of territory and thousands  of years, he tells us fascinating vignettes about all the threads that were woven together to create  the unique tapestry that is Israel.

The Zionist motivation and spirit is pervasive throughout the book, totally integrated  with all  the information that captures the essence  of the country.  Kramer, who hails from the USA, is the Israel correspondent for the Jewish Times of New Jersey, made aliyah with his wife and children in 1991. 

Reading “Encountering Israel,” is akin to flying through the country on a magic country, pausing along the way to admire, appreciate and marvel as we discover yet again its biblical roots and history while finding its contemporary heartbeat.

From the majesty of the Golan Heights, home to Israel’s famous vineyards, from where we can almost see our Syrian neighbours  to the Hula Valley  where the pioneers drained the swamps, Kramer takes us through the amazing landscapes as we wend our way to Jerusalem and its myriad treaures, the spiritual heart of the Jewish people.

The sites and sights of Jerusalem boggle the mind no matter how many times we may visit the City. Although  we are always aware of its  deeply religious significance there is always more to see and learn.  Along the  ancient narrow, cobblestone alleyways, Kramer exrplores  the Western  Wall, the City of David, and the Jewish Quarter, through to contemporary Jerusalem. We follow along as he takes  us  through the  markets, the Museums, and introduces the now famous annual  Jerusalem Film Festival and  the theatrical, jazz and classical music performances.

Heading south of Jerusalem is the lowest point on earth, Dead Sea, where the author stirs our imagination with some interesting Biblical highlights and onto Eilat, Israel’s year-round resort on the Red Sea, to enjoy  some time out for rest and relaxation before taking on Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea.

Tel Aviv, Israel’s  business and cultural center , has a   beautiful green space, a park  that stretches over a very large area.  Hiking through the Hayarkon Park , Kramer  manages to cover several centuries. While children scamper  about  the grass and families picnic nearby, he explores Antipatris and its remnants of an Ottoman Fortress built in 1571, continues on to the remains of an Egyptian Governor’s  palace, circa 1200-1500 BC, and takes in the ruins of the ancient Roman Cardo (street) built by Herod the Great.

Throughout this book, the author always strives to convey the pulse of this intriguing country in all its aspects.  Whether you  travel here in your armchair, in your imagination or in person, “Encountering Israel,” would make an ideal companion.

 


Price and information: 90 Shekels including post

Email: mskramer@jhu.edu

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