Walk­sand thoughts

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - MEM­OIR KEREN DAVID

PREPAR­ING FOR her first visit to Is­rael, in 1978, read widely — politics and his­tory —and bought a sand-coloured shirt from St Lau­rent and a blouse from M&S. Harold Pin­ter “con­cen­trated his shop­ping for the trip on shoes.” And, in­stead of read­ing, “H, I sense, is just think­ing…”

Thus be­gins Fraser’s diary of the cou­ple’s trip to Is­rael in 1978 ( Our Is­raeli Diary, Oneworld, £9.99) a few years af­ter they had left their spouses to be to­gether, but be­fore they mar­ried. (“We’re lovers!” Pin­ter tells an Is­raeli air­port se­cu­rity of­fi­cer. “I’m sorry…” she replies).

Nearly 40 years later, Fraser dis­cov­ered the diary as she cleaned out a cup­board, and now it has been pub­lished, a lit­tle gem of a book that of­fers a snap­shot of Is­rael 30 years af­ter in­de­pen­dence; sharp in­sights into a range of char­ac­ters from Shi­mon Peres to Jackie Kennedy; and mo­ments where reader’s hind­sight throws Fraser’s 1978 re­flec­tions into fo­cus. This is par­tic­u­larly acute when she talks about Me­nachem Be­gin, Prime Min­is­ter for a year and start­ing the pol­icy of build­ing set­tle­ments on the West bank.

“It’s as if an ex head of the Provo IRA be­camePMof aUnit­edIre­land— acause in which we all be­lieve, but how could one get over the past of vi­o­lence and mur­der? One wouldn’t,” muses Fraser.

Driv­ing past an Is­raeli set­tle­ment on the road to Jeri­cho she notes its barbed­wire and look­outs: “it is like a prison.” Lois Si­eff, wife of M&S chair­man and ar­dent Zion­ist Teddy, tells her: “They are re­ally mil­i­tary post… b u t B e g i n ’ s aim would be to make them set­tle­ments.”

The cou­ple do many of the usual touri s t things — the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Old City of Jerusalem, and Masada — a trial to Pin­ter, suf­fer­ing from heat and ver­tigo and the loud voices of or­di­nary tourists: “in tiny hats, too tiny for their big heads, with IS­RAEL on them and a funny face and plump women in short sun-dresses.”

Fraser sees Is­rael through the lens of her Chris­tian­ity, Pin­ter con­sid­ers his Jewish roots. “I def­i­nitely am Jewish, I know that now,” he tells her. “But of course that makes it more com­pli­cated. I am also English. And this is an Arab town.” And she replies: “I could live here in ev­ery way ex­cept one, and that’s not be­ing Jewish.”

Some things haven’t changed. Fraser notes “the dread­ful yo-yo of Is­rael’s ex­is­tence. As if the World had de­cided that, re­ally unique among states, Is­rael must be a moral state… some­thing no other state is ex­pected to be…” An­to­nia Fraser will be talk­ing about ‘Our Is­rael Diary, 1978’ at Jewish Book Week on Sun­day March 5

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.