To Jerusalem and Back

ISBN: 0141180757
ISBN 13: 9780141180755
By: Saul Bellow

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About this book

In this "impassioned and thoughtful book" (The New York Times), Bellow records the opinions, passions, and dreams of Israelis of varying viewpoints -- Yitzhak Rabin, Amos Oz, the editor of the largest Arab-language newspaper in Israel, a kibbutznik escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto -- and adds his own thoughts on being Jewish in the twentieth century.

Reader's Thoughts


I dare you to read this book and not be affected by it. Every Christian in America should read this book and honest confront its challenge. It's a wake up call!


Not much has changed in the Middle East since 76


a good book to read while in jerusalem...and bellow is also from chicago, so i did...


this is the first work of saul bellow that i've ever read. i picked it up thinking it would be journal like of his trip to jerusalem. what a surprise for me. it was the story of the state of israel and the arab/palestinian situation. it was written in 1976. and know what? he could be writing today! does anything change?


In 1976 Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature "...for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work." This was the year "To Jerusalem and Back" was published. It is a wonderful personal account of his trip to that city.There is an anecdote in the book which tells of his going into a barber shop in Jerusalem and seeing a picture of Hubert H. Humphrey hanging on the wall. When asked about the picture, the barber gave the best description of the politician I have ever heard.

Don Weidinger

where there is no paradox no life, never take right to live as natural right, called to be more just more moral, Israel more definitions of heaven, informed about everything know nothing, a garrison state and cultivated, rebirth of society, US unable to make sacrifices of liberty, can democracy survive, liberals use Marxist language to describe middle east, Kissinger if bible written in Uganda better off, why grant right to exist, mutual extinction.


... less about the Jerusalem that Bellow visited, and more about Bellow himself. Bellow appears more fascinated with his own perceptions than what he is witnessing.


I'm not sure what the genre of this one would be. Travel writing? Historical essay? Sartre-bashing? I loved it all. Bellow writes so well, I would read anything he wrote. He could make paint drying interesting and arresting. Saddle him with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the 70s, and you set yourself up for some refreshing insights and at least a sliver of better understanding of a conflict that continues to draw the international spotlight today.


Very little has changed in Mid-East relationships during the 35 years since this book's been written, which is what made it interesting.


Idiosyncratic, impressionistic, informed, and entertaining account of Bellow's extended 1975 trip to Israel. It's shocking and disheartening to what extent the troublesome Arab-Israeli dynamics remain the same today; seemingly, 35 years have passed with only extra deaths to show for them. (OK, the Soviet Union fell. That was good.) One Israeli spoke to Bellow about the importance of American oil independence to successfully resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--gee, we sure made a lot of progress on that one. As far as I can tell, Bellow tells it straight--and, of course, he tells it well.


Assumi assim que lhe peguei, que ler o livro do Saul Bellow seria desafiante e que a probabilidade de me irritar e praguejar seria grande. Será possível para um judeu, qualquer judeu, sionista ou não, a viver em Israel, ou na diáspora, ser totalmente objectivo quando fala de Israel e no conflito com os árabes? Duvido. Menos ainda levando em consideração a data em que o livro foi escrito: primeira metade da década de 70.E no entanto, fui avançando na leitura e acalmando o ânimo. Nem que fosse apenas por me deixar uma maior compreensão e leitura do lado israelita, teria valido a pena lê-lo. Mas Bellow é um grande escritor e não é completamente cego. Não é completamente objectivo (seria possível pedir-lhe isso? Seria sequer obrigado a sê-lo?), mas não é cego. Nem para (algumas) falhas de Israel, nem para (algumas) dores dos árabes. O que me irritou particularmente foi o recorrente recurso à observação de que se espera mais de Israel do que de outros países, que Israel não é pior do que foram outros, que não é mais injusto do que outros são, que não derrama mais sangue do que derramaram outros na formação dos seus países. Não ser pior não devia ser desculpa para ser. E faz-me muita confusão ler este discurso pela caneta de um judeu. Se espero mais? Se calhar sim. Por terem sofrido deviam ter noção de sofrimento. Maior do que “os outros”. Se é justo esperar mais de Israel e dos judeus? Parece-me mais justo esperar mais e melhor do que esperar igual ou pior. E Israel não está a saber ser melhor.Se ambos os lados conseguissem reconhecer que ambos são irracionais na pretensão do terreno. É, mais do que qualquer outra coisa, uma questão emocional, religiosa, de fé. E nenhum a admite do outro lado.Ser-se ateu torna mais difícil compreender o quão importante aquela terra é para ambos os povos. O livro A Porta do Sol de Khouri mostrou-me o amor de alguém que nunca viveu naquele espaço, e o de Bellow mostra o mesmo. Bellow é o judeu americano que vai a Israel de férias, de passagem. A personagem do livro de Khouri é o árabe que ama a Palestina mas que nunca a conheceu a não ser pelas histórias doridas dos velhos. Que conhece as oliveiras que os israelitas arrancaram e as casas brancas onde agora moram colonos, porque cresceu a aprendê-las de cor. Cresceu e vive em campos de refugiados. Não tem pátria. Os judeus da diáspora defendem a terra onde nunca moraram. Onde podem “regressar” quando quiserem, que amam como se sempre tivesse sido sua, mesmo que nunca tenha sido. Porque lhes foi destinada por Deus."Mas a ânsia de matar para cumprir desígnios políticos — ou de justificar as mortes através desses desígnios — tem a mesma força de sempre."Saul Bellow in Jerusalém Ida e VoltaE por esta altura recomeçam as negociações de paz…


Bellow's account of his time in Jerusalem and the evolution of his thinking about the conflict there functions on several levels.The narrative is threaded with a critical survey of thinking and writing on the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. As he interacts with the life of the state, Bellow summarizes, converses with or comments on Chomsky, Sartre, Kissinger, and an impressive array of scholars. He does assert his opinion, but he seems to do so with integrity, granting points to those whose thinking runs counter to his own, and examining the context carefully for lines of thought.Bellow also does a wonderful job of depicting life in a city marked by violence. The way the threat of annihilation affects the daily life of the neighborhoods and homes Bellow visits is nuanced, devastating, and sometimes quite funny.The most compelling aspect for me was his depiction of an intellectual trying to think and listen well in highly politicized times. Can one think clearly about larger themes in the face of Annihilation? Should one even try? What kind of fellowship and discipline can keep thoughts rich and nuanced when people are dying?The integration of all these approaches to the Arab-Israeli conflict seems to frustrate many readers, but I found it far more satisfying that straight arguments. When Bellow finally offers his own conclusion, he seems to do so out of a sense of obligation. But the story itself he tells with the craftsmanship of a masterful thinker and novelist.


fine writer, great insight into bellow's personal life, into 1975 seen by a serious american and into a privileged, liberal, engaging israeli milieu. limited reference to or apparent interest in arabs or to history before 1948.

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