Daniel Cil Brecher translated from the German by Barbara Harshav

A Stranger in the Land

Jewish Identity Beyond Nationalism

Publication Date: Jul 17, 2007

400 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.95
ISBN: 9781590512111

A critical appraisal of the politics of Jewish identity after the Holocaust and a passionate memoir by an Israeli dissenter.

in 1984, Daniel Cil Brecher, then a reservist in the Education Corps of the Israeli army, refuses to cross into occupied Lebanon to deliver a morale-boosting lecture to Israeli troops fighting there. This small act of rebellion against an unjustified war marks the critical turning point in a lifelong search for identity.

Brecher grew up in postwar Germany as the son of Austrian Holocaust survivors. Caught between an unwelcoming German society and a weary and isolated Jewish community, Brecher witnessed the rise of Jewish nationalist thinking — the weakening of Jewish intercultural identity and the hardening of attitudes toward the non-Jewish world — attitudes that helped to justify the violent creation of a Jewish homeland, and to trivialize its consequences. After moving to Israel in search of personal fulfillment, Brecher served as a historian in the reserves, where he lectured troops about the official history of the country. Gradually, Brecher came to recognize this official history as myth and to feel that his homeland was not the liberal democracy it purported to be.

Weaving lucid political and historical argument into a passionate account of his life in Europe and Israel, Brecher explores both the private and public dimensions of the modern Jewish narrative — integration and displacement, the Holocaust, the Jewish colonization of Palestine, and attitudes towards Arabs and other non-Jews. He concludes: Equating the experience of Anti-Semitism in the Diaspora with the suffering of Jews in Israel radicalizes the Middle East conflict, fuels distrust of the non-Jewish world and deepens the injustices committed against the Palestinians.

Excerpt from A Stranger in the Land

“A readable, provocative rejoinder to Tom Segev’s 1967, Gershom Gorenberg’s The Accidental Empire and other recent works on modern Israel.” —Kirkus Reviews

“His critique…that most Israelis do not empathize with nor even think about Palestinian suffering, is worth considering…a thoughtful autobiography.” —Publishers Weekly