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Americans in Israel

- Abstract

THERE are times when an American settler in Israel might think he was back in the 50′s all over again.

Suddenly everyone is talking about a house in the suburbs. Television is still a novelty but so is the family that doesn’t have one, and the tangled masts of antennas over Israel’s cities make them look like beached fishing fleets that could well sail away in the night. If the movie houses are consequently emptier than they used to be, the new supermarkets are always full: the girls at the check-out counters have their names embroidered on their uniforms in Hebrew and live carp for gefilte fish cruise in the aerated pools. The first generation of frozen foods. Of superhighways. Of motels. Of high-rise apartments. In the elevator of a new office building in Tel Aviv the unsuspecting American is accosted by the familiar sound of Muzak. Even the pop songs on the radio, which have all but driven out the earnest if somewhat ersatz attempts of former years to create an indigenous Israeli folk music of a vaguely Oriental character, are dreamy and soft. One could practically fox-trot to them.

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.