Garrison Fewell on The Wandering Who
Gilad Atzmon's book, "The Wandering Who?" is a must-read for anyone who has wondered if peace in the Middle East will ever be more than a remote possibility. If, like most people, you have felt frustrated that there appears to be no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, or if you have perhaps considered that what we call the "Middle East Peace Process" is effectively little more than a political publicity campaign to sustain support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, then you need to read this book.
There are many who find Atzmon's writings to be extremely controversial. Well, his ideas are supposed to be controversial. While a serious war is being waged against indigenous Palestinians in the name of Zionism, supported by the United Sates and nations all across Europe, it would be counter productive to avoid controversy. In his attempt to come to terms with and illuminate the deeper underlying causes of this conflict, Atzmon has written a very articulate and insightful book on the nature of Jewish Nationalism, Jewish Identity Politics and what it means to be Jewish. However, it's not necessary to be Jewish to find this book most interesting. Atzmon's writing is self-reflective, intellectual, humorous and brash, while being filled with historical and multi-cultural references - just like the music that Gilad, the talented and successful jazz saxophonist, composes and performs.
I lived in Israel and worked on a Kibbutz at the foothills of the Golan Heights in1972. Since that time, I have been intrigued by the strongly opposing viewpoints surrounding the Isreali - Palestinian war. In his book, "The Wandering Who?", Atzmon encourages the reader to be courageous enough to ask difficult questions while simultaneously reflecting on our own narrow viewpoints. He writes, " If we want to fight Jerusalem, we may have to first confront Jerusalem within. We may have to stand in front of the mirror, look around us, and look for empathy within oursleves.. in case there is any left."
Gilad Atzmon succeeds in asking difficult and challenging questions, and when you finish reading this book, you may likely as well see a different face in the mirror.
Professor, Berklee College of Music, Boston, Mass.