In June 1967, Israel won a swift and decisive victory in the Six Day War. Among the many future leaders who fought, a group of men-young paratroopers from the reservists’ Brigade 55 who restored Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem-would come to the forefront of two diverging and conflicting political movements that would shape the progress of the young nation.
Through Yossi Klein Halevi’s extensive and sharp reporting, he traces the lives and political power of seven members of Brigade 55, from future artists and radicals to settlement founders and spiritual leaders. With a supporting cast of family members, politicians, and rabbis, Halevi captures the urgency of a victorious nation and the evolution of their beliefs and actions over time. Emerging from a religious Zionist background, one group of the book’s central characters went on to become founders and leaders of the West Bank settlement movement. The other rose in opposition to the settlements-peace activists coming from the world of secular agrarian communes known as kibbutzim. Both groups agreed that Jewish statehood was a powerful, transformative event: For the founders of the kibbutz-based peace movement, Israel would become the laboratory for democratic communism. For many religious Zionists, Israel would become the catalyst for the messianic era.
The main characters of the book-the men that tried to reshape Israel politically, economically, and spiritually after achieving victory in 1967-include, among others:
* Arik Achmon : Brigade 55’s chief intelligence officer who went on to help establish Israel’s domestic aviation industry and shift the economy toward capitalism. One of the fathers of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
* Udi Adiv: Helped create an anti-Zionist terror underground in Damascus that would bring together Arabs and anti-Zionist Jews and served 12 years in an Israeli prison on charges of spying for Syria.
* Avital Geva: A leading conceptual artist, he founded an educational greenhouse to teach young people communal and ecological principles. Among the leading activists of Peace Now.
* Yoel Bin-Nun: A founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement. Led a generation of religious Zionists back to the study of the Bible as a way to understand contemporary Israel. Broke with his fellow rabbis in the settlement movement following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.