Israel is transforming into more of a ‘base camp’


Israel is very much a part of religion, of Middle Eastern peace and conflict, and of U.S. politics. It's easy to get caught up in history or controversy by taking sides regarding the country. Diana Pinto's book adds to the outsider's knowledge by giving scenes of what Israel is like today in its life and thought and how it has changed.

Israel Has Moved was inspired by two academic trips to Israel that Ms. Pinto, a historian and policy analyst who lives in Paris, took in June, 2011. She wrote the book in French and updated it for this English version.

Ms. Pinto noticed that in Israel, “New lines of continuity with ancient pasts have emerged. Religious and cultural fundamentals based on a specific Jewish identity have replaced the old, essentially secular and socialist, Zionism of the past. A new community of Jewish interests and values...has overcome the old tensions of the past.”

Ms. Pinto uses three images to look at the country: “The aquarium, the bubble, and now the tent constitute a triptych of Israel's many faces.” The aquarium relates to the many different people in Israel from all over the world moving through public spaces like fish in a bowl.

The bubble is a place of protection where Israelis face little danger from outside (such as from terrorists). The bubble once surrounded only Tel Aviv, but now takes in the whole country and makes it possible for religious expression and leisure activities, and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are now big cities with nightlife much like other cities with international populations.

The tent represents “the rest of the Jewish world” that is not part of Israel, sheltering people who are important to the country but not residents or citizens.

Through her images, Ms. Pinto depicts scenes of modern Israel, especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She depicts where the country is moving, such as its emphasis on Ramallah as the “epicenter” of the Palestine territory and the unlikelihood of a two-state solution to Jews and Arabs living so closely. She gives some modern historical context, along with religious groups' use of history; for example, the ultra-orthodox started referring to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria as a way of making a biblical connection and establishing ownership rights to Arab land.

Israel has experienced a reorientation from its founding in 1948. What was once a place for Jews to come to, to build homes and re-establish religion and identity after the Holocaust, is becoming home base rather than permanent home.

Israel is now “the child of a vast Jewish and Israeli planetary movement based on constant travel and return trips,” Ms. Pinto wrote. It is becoming “a base camp, an ongoing reference point.. for the Jewish people, for barring catastrophes no Israeli or Jew in the world would ever want to definitively leave it.”