The scion of an aristocratic Jerusalem family, Nusseibeh traces his roots back 1,300 years to one of the tribal leaders who joined Mohammad on his seventh century pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
It is not accidental that Gershom Gorenberg limited his substantial study, "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977," to the first decade of the settler movement, for by 1977, when Menachem Begin and the right gained power for the first time in Israeli history, 80 settlements housing more than 11,000 Israelis already dotted the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
I have friends and parents of friends with numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. He worked in a concentration camp in France. Yes of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps.
Neither of these characters, driving at breakneck speed toward each other, are seeing anything too clearly. So a crash is expected. But with the prolific Joyce Carol Oates' deft and dark hands on both wheels, the carnage is far worse than is easily imagined.
"City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterstam and Early Manhattan," by Beverly Swerling. (Scribner paperback, $15.)
John Irving, whose novels have the rare distinction of being widely praised, read and filmed, has said that he always follows havoc with healing. Spanning the destruction-filled years of 1661 to 1798, Beverly Swerling's sprawling and successful novel about the origins of Manhattan purposely offers her readers no such solace.
Pride in American Jewish life, from the ivory towers to the country club greens, has centered on "Making It," as longtime Commentary Editor-in-Chief Norman Podhoretz unabashedly titled his 1968 memoir. More recently, popular oversized books like "Great Jewish Men" and "Great Jewish Women" adorn coffee tables and assure us that, though we disembarked from refugee ships, we have arrived. For the last 50 years, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg has railed that we ought to busy ourselves less with how many of us sit in the Senate or nab Nobel Prizes -- and more with how many can read a page of Talmud. Hertzberg notes that Podhoretz's memoir includes not a single reference to the Holocaust and that we have "made it" to a better than 50 percent intermarriage rate.
On Sept. 9, 1965, Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. Less than a month later, the opening game of the World Series fell on Yom Kippur and, in an act that reverberated throughout America, Koufax refused to pitch. In a terrific and elegantly written book, Jane Leavy has shown us that the way Koufax handled his success flowed purposefully from great depth of character.
Four years ago, Perry Netter feared his divorce from his wife, Esther, would end his career as a rabbi. Sitting in his office at Conservative Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles, he said he knew that people want their rabbi married. Congregants like to gaze upon the rabbi's family as the ideal Jewish family.
Perry Netter's wonderful title comes from the preeminent biblical commentator, Rashi, who in the 11th century said of the biblical command to write out a bill of divorcement: "Divorce is a mitzvah." A divorce is not to be pursued, Netter comments on the commentator, but should a separation between husband and wife be warranted, obligations are imposed upon the spouses that contain all the weight of God's commanding voice.
"Under Radar" by Michael Tolkin (Atlantic Monthly Press, $23).
Recently, I heard Michael Tolkin speak at Temple Beth Am about "Under Radar." Pacing frenetically, he explained that midway through the writing he had stalled and shelved the manuscript. During that time, slipping on his own spiritual path -- parallel to the novel's -- he had ransacked various synagogues for answers and had succeeded only in worrying his wife.