Beliefnet
After her grandparents and parents died, Wendy Orange, an American psychologist, felt disconnected to the cultural Judaism of her Long Island childhood. During the Gulf War, however, she experienced the profound impression while watching CNN that her people were being bombed and gassed, just like in World War II. When an opportunity came a few months later to attend a Jerusalem peace conference, Orange jumped at the chance, and "found herself" while visiting among Israel's forthright, hospitable people. She decided to move to Israel with her five-year-old daughter.

Happy ending? Not quite. The idealism of Orange's starry-eyed first weeks gave way to despair as she grasped the politicized polarization of Israel's many factions; every mundane decision, she realized, carried political implications. Orange became interested in "the Arabs" she heard her Jewish friends making generalizations about, and began crossing the Green Line into occupied Palestinian territory. There she discovered a common humanity; on one of her first visits, while listening to men tell of their imprisonment and months-long torture during the intifada, four Israeli soldiers stormed the household, intimidating Orange far more than her war-seasoned companions. Ultimately, Orange became frustrated by the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, particularly on the Israeli side.

Readers seeking a simplistic, feel-good tale about contemporary Israel should stop reading after chapter 2. Those who are willing to probe their own consciences, and who appreciate a well-balanced, provocative, wonderfully written personal memoir, should persevere. Self-aware but never self-absorbed, Orange strikes just the right balance between personal odyssey and cultural scrutiny.

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