Cover image for If a place can make you cry : dispatches from an anxious state
If a place can make you cry : dispatches from an anxious state
Gordis, Daniel.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, 2002.
Physical Description:
xxiii, 279 pages : maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS113.8.A4 G67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the summer of 1998, Daniel Gordis and his family moved to Israel from Los Angeles. They planned to be there for a year, during which time Daniel would be a Fellow at the Mandel Institute in Jerusalem. This was a euphoric time in Israel. The economy was booming, and peace seemed virtually guaranteed. A few months into their stay, Gordis and his wife decided to remain in Israel permanently, confident that their children would be among the first generation of Israelis to grow up in peace. Immediately after arriving in Israel, Daniel had started sending out e-mails about his and his family's life to friends and family abroad. These missives--passionate, thoughtful, beautifully written, and informative--began reaching a much broader readership than he'd ever envisioned, eventually being excerpted in The New York Times Magazine to much acclaim. An edited and finely crafted collection of his original e-mails, If a Place Can Make You Cry is a first-person, immediate account of Israel's post-Oslo meltdown that cuts through the rhetoric and stridency of most dispatches from that country or from the international media. Above all, Gordis tells the story of a family that must cope with the sudden realization that they took their children from a serene and secure neighborhood in Los Angeles to an Israel not at peace but mired in war. This is the chronicle of a loss of innocence--the innocence of Daniel and his wife, and of their children. Ultimately, through Gordis's eyes, Israel, with all its beauty, madness, violence, and history, comes to life in a way we've never quite seen before. Daniel Gordis captures as no one has the years leading up to what every Israeli dreaded: on April 1, 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Israel was at war. After an almost endless cycle of suicide bombings and harsh retaliation, any remaining chance for peace had seemingly died. If a Place Can Make You Cry is the story of a time in which peace gave way to war, when childhood innocence evaporated in the heat of hatred, when it became difficult even to hope. Like countless other Israeli parents, Gordis and his wife struggled to make their children's lives manageable and meaningful, despite it all. This is a book about what their children gained, what they lost, and how, in the midst of everything, a whole family learned time and again what really matters.

Author Notes

Daniel Gordis is director of the Mandel Foundation's Jerusalem Fellows Program. He was formerly dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In 1998 Rabbi Gordis, his wife, and their three children moved to Israel from Los Angeles, embarking on what they thought would be a one-year sabbatical; instead it has become their permanent home. Gordis began sending e-mails about his life there to friends and family, and some of these eventually appeared in the New York Times Magazine. Gordis' book is an edited collection of his e-mails. At the end of September 2000, hostilities broke out between the Palestinians and Israel, and Gordis divides the book into two sections, before and after that date. He explains how his family must balance their love of Israel with the fear of living in a land torn by strife. "It's the story of a time in which peace gave way to war, when childhood innocence evaporated in the heat of hatred, when it became difficult even to hope," he writes, putting in human terms the agony of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1998, Gordis, his wife and three children left their home in Los Angeles, where he was vice president of the University of Judaism, to spend a one-year sabbatical in Jerusalem. While in Israel, though, Gordis began to feel that it was not only his home, but "an experiment of cosmic significance," that he wished to be a permanent part of. This volume gathers e-mails-some excerpted previously in the New York Times Magazine-and private musings that record Gordis's impressions of his new home up through the current turmoil. Gordis, along with many other liberal and leftist sympathizers with the Palestinians, grows thoroughly disillusioned. With the gnawing sense that the Palestinians are not willing to abide a Jewish presence in their region, he comes to believe that there is no end in sight to the daily violence. Yet, he never contemplates returning to the comforts of L.A., even when questioning the ethics of placing his children in danger. But he is troubled primarily by the fate and possible future of the region's children-Israeli and Palestinian. Pondering God's call to Abraham to sacrifice Jacob, he wonders, "Could it be that there is something so subtle, so magical, so intoxicating-and so dangerous-about this land that it leads parents to willingly sacrifice their children?" Gordis is a provocative and penetrating observer, and his writings perfectly capture the complex conundrum of a soul in the tense present, yearning for a state of eternity. Maps. (Oct.) Forecast: This will certainly have a strong Jewish market, but other readers trying to glimpse daily life in Israel in this turbulent time will also find much to appreciate here. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved