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Son of the Cypresses

Memories, Reflections, and Regrets from a Political Life

Meron Benvenisti (Author)


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"Now that I am seventy years of age, it is my prerogative to offer a summing up," says Meron Benvenisti, internationally known author and columnist, Jerusalem native, and scion of Israel’s founders. Born in Palestine in 1934 to a Sephardic father and an Ashkenazi mother, Benvenisti has enjoyed an unusual vantage point from which to consider his homeland’s conflicts and controversies.

Throughout his long and provocative career as a scholar, an elected official, and a respected journalist, he has remained intimately involved with Israel’s social and political development.

Part memoir and part political polemic, Son of the Cypresses threads Benvenisti’s own story through the story of Israel. The result is a vivid, sharply drawn eyewitness account of pre-state Jerusalem and Israel’s early years. He memorably sets the scene by recalling his father’s emotional journey from Jewish Salonika in 1913 to Palestine, with all its attendant euphoria and frustration, and his father’s pioneer dedication to inculcating Israeli youth with a “native’s” attachment to the homeland.

In describing the colorful and lively Jerusalem in which he grew up, Benvenisti recalls the many challenges faced by new Jewish immigrants, who found themselves not only in conflict with the Arab population but also with each other as Sephardim and Ashkenazim. He revisits his own public disagreements with both Zionists and Palestinians and shares indelible memories such as his boyhood experiences of the 1948 War. In remembering his life as an Israeli sabra, Benvenisti offers a vivid record of the historical roots of the conflict that persists today.
1. A Founding Father
2. Delayed Filial Rebellion
3. Jerusalemites
4. "The Ceremony of Innocence Is Drowned..."
5. The Morning After
6. Separation and Disengagement
7. Descriptions and Prescriptions

Meron Benvenisti was deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 1971 to 1978. He was a columnist for Haaretz, Israel’s largest newspaper, and is the author of numerous books including Intimate Enemies (UC Press, 1995), City of Stone (UC Press, 1996), and Sacred Landscape (UC Press, 2000).
“Powerfully presented.”—Jewish Journal - Dade County
“[A] deeply sobering work of autobiography and political reflection.”—Middle East Journal
“This book is a cri de coeur, a cry from the heart, that cannot be ignored.”—National Jewish Post
“A richly layered account of the fractures in Israeli society.”—The Economist
"Whether Benvenisti takes up the issues of Jerusalem or the Oslo Agreements, whether people believe him to be marginal, heretical, or a contradictory critic of Israeli and Palestinian societies and politics, there is real force in his arguments and interpretations. His writing is so compelling and disturbing that his positions must be taken seriously."—Richard D. Hecht, Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Wading into the white-hot cauldron of Israeli-Palestinian cultural politics, the independent-minded Benvenisti crowns his long career as politician, author, and scholar-journalist with this fearless, highly personal history of and engagement with his nation's dreams and trials. Part autobiography, part painful cultural history, part polemical argument with a host of equally strong-willed countrymen and intellectuals, Jerusalem's former deputy mayor provides readers with one veteran insider's search for an ethical place to stand in what may be the most intractable, complex and dangerous dilemma of our times. This book is an impossibly lonely, courageous effort to make the basic case to both his own ancestors and fellow Israelis that only surrender of the demand for full sovereignty for both Jews and Palestinians in favor of some yet-to-be-created shared polity will save his beloved land of Israeli cypresses and Palestinian orchards. A stunningly brave and urgent achievement, and an intensely rewarding experience for all readers concerned about the fate of the Middle East."—Peter Nabokov, author of A Forest of Time and Where the Lightening Strikes

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