Book Review: New book tells the unsung story Israel's humanitarianism
   17-Mar-2020
 
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VIJETA UNIYAL
 
With anti-Israel activism sweeping Western educational institutions, and antisemitism raising its head again – this time cloaked as hostility toward Israel – there was never a better time to reacquaint one’s self with the benevolence and altruism that have propelled the Jewish state into a humanitarian superpower. Be it the tiny Caribbean islands devastated by a hurricane, or giant India hit by an earthquake, Israelis and the Jewish state are among the world’s first responders.
 
Fortunately, a newly published book by Israeli educator and entrepreneur David Kramer tells us this very story. State of the Heart: Stories of a Humanitarian Israel is a collection of more than 50 stories, each celebrating the unsung Israeli heroes that today’s busy news cycle seldom cares to note. Written in short-story format, State of the Heart introduces readers to the selfless and courageous men and women behind Israeli non-profit organizations, charities and voluntary groups who are making a difference at home and abroad.
 
These inspiring individual stories are intimately intertwined with the Jewish spiritual tradition and shared historic experience. Kramer’s writes that his book is about “people and a look at the motivations, influences and philosophies that drive them to take action.”
 
The narrative, a product of author’s direct acquaintance with key actors and organizations, is both an informative and entertaining read. From life-saving technology to developmental assistance reaching emerging nations, from disaster relief to wild-life conservation, Kramer’s account shows us the vibrancy of Israel’s civil society and innovation ecosystem.
 
These are not just stories of great rescue missions and social initiatives impacting lives across the globe. Running throughout these narratives are common themes of individual selflessness and courage that lie at the heart of the Jewish state and Israeli society. Kramer explores the seven decades of Israel’s history of humanitarian engagement to reveal what makes Israelis among the first to respond to the call for help from near and far.
 
This is not a literary attempt to depict Israel as a flawless nation or to brush aside the conflicts and challenges that may lie ahead. Kramer’s narrative style walks us through past events and personal stories which reveal the benevolent and generosity that distinguish Israeli society from many others.
 
“When the tough exterior displayed by many Israelis is stripped away, it reveals a compassionate heart that is forever giving and caring,” Kramer writes.
 
This book is for anyone who wants to understand what makes the small and embattled Jewish state a humanitarian superpower.
 
(The writer is an Indian-born writer currently based in South Africa. The article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post)