Religion Magazine

Book Review: My Country, My Life

By Gldmeier @gldmeier

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.
Book Review: My Country, My Life, by Ehud Barak
Former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak has written his memoirs in the newly published book, by St. Martin's Press, My Country, My Life. The memoirs are not from one period in his life, or in his involvement in government or his time in the army, or the like. 

Book Review: My Country, My LifeThese are Barak's memoirs spanning his entire life - growing up on a kibbutz, serving in Sayeret Matkal, private life, army life , government life, and back to private life. Anybody growing up along with the foundation of the State surely has what to write about, memories worth sharing. A person who grew up with the state and was so involved in every aspect of the growth of the state throughout the years surely has memories worth sharing and worth being read, whether you agreed with his politics or not.

My Country, My Life is such a fascinating, intriguing, and captivating story that i am not even sure which part of it I felt more connected to, which captivated me the most. Very possibly it was Barak's memories of growing up on a left wing kibbutz, with no religion, just Zionism and a drive to build the State, describing what life was like back then. I have read a lot about the early days of the State of Israel, but his descriptions as a kibbutz child in those days are unique.

Another strong contender is Barak's days in Sayeret Matkal - the premier special forces unit of which he was one of the founding members. Barak describes, in great detail, some of the missions they were sent on, such as the infamous Sabena hijacking, the operation in Entebbe and other less famous and less widely known operations that were crucial for the security of the State of Israel.

The time as Prime Minister, and even Defense Minister, in the governments of Israel, seem more frustrating than brilliant. Barak took his strengths in planning and his detail oriented approach into government, but it did not help him with his efforts in making peace, which he describes as his prime focus when he went into government. 

It is interesting to see how he developed strong relationships over the years with figures like Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and how that advanced him and helped him succeed at various stages of his life - entering government, in the army, etc. but also how he tried to advance Rabin's legacy and how he was still able to worth with right wing governments when that was necessary.

Barak's relationship with Yasser Arafat took a tremendous change from when he was an army officer, looking to possibly killing Arafat and at least doing a lot of damage to his organization, to when Barak entered government and suddenly had to look at Arafat as a partner for peace, and how that frustrated him when he was willing to go to almost no ends to make peace offers that Arafat never seemed to reciprocate.

One of the most intriguing aspects of My Country, My Life is Barak's connection to a young Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi, and how that developed over the years. This connection is well known, as Barak was Netanyahu's commander in the Sayeret Matkal, but one can trace throughout the book the connections that keep coming up over the years and how their fates and careers were intertwined with each other. So much so that early on it had been predicted, over a decade earlier, that the two young up and coming stars would face off against each other in the 1996 elections -a prediction that would come true albeit off by just a few years. One can see how Barak did not like Netanyahu, from the beginning, and can get a feel his attitude abotu Netanyahu from the early days, though he continued to work with him for decades in a professional manner.

Barak describes Jerusalem, and other parts of the land recaptured in the 1967 Six Day War, and the feelings of being able to see and experience these parts of the country in words and descriptions that are just beautiful and emotive, and particularly interesting is his feelings about these despite growing up with practically no religious upbringing - it was just part of the early days of Zionism and the State of Israel.

The conclusion of the book, when Barak describes the bar mitzva ceremony of his class, on the secular kibbutz that was anti-religious, is poignant and touching, and even a bit surprising.

Anybody interested in the history of modern Israel should read My Country, My Life by Ehud Barak. It is that good.


NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.
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