When I started working on my history of the Soviet Jewry movement almost seven years ago, the task seemed overwhelming. I was a young writer, just 27, attempting to tell an epic story that took place over three decades (mostly before I was born), involved a cast of thousands and demanded I describe how the Cold War was lived in America, the Soviet Union and Israel. But most daunting of all was the fact that this history was still so fresh. I never heard just one version of a Soviet Jewry story. I heard always at least five, with each narrator claiming a monopoly on the truth.6
In American Jewish memory, the Jewish National Fund’s historic blue pushkes, or charity boxes, evoke warm images of hard-earned pennies given to the group’s mission of redeeming the Land of Israel through planting trees. But to the Bedouin of Al-Arakib, a village in the Negev, the group’s current forestation plans mean the destruction of their homes and what they say is the theft of land they have owned since the beginning of the 20th century.11
As developments in Egypt move many Israelis to become more wary of a peace process that will require them to give up occupied land and Jewish settlements on the West Bank, Palestinian advocates for a two-state solution in Washington are struggling to persuade Israel’s supporters that the opposite is true.5
Although proponents of democracy can only be excited by the prospect of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak leaving office after a 30-year dictatorship, they also fear that a possible successor in leadership of the country of 80 million could be worse — not only for Egypt, but for Israel.7
I met Tullia Zevi, who died in Rome on January 22, at 91, when she came to New York for the October 7, 1996, Appeal of Conscience Foundation dinner honoring then prime minister of Italy Romano Prodi. She invited me for tea at Hotel Elysée, the East Side boutique hotel where she was staying. Since I had visited Rome two months earlier, our conversation focused on the current status of the Italian-Jewish community.
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