Friday, December 18, 2015

For Better and For Worse, A Book Review

An "Only in Israel story" in an "Only in Israel story"...

A few weeks ago, I saw a reference to what looked like an interesting book on facebook. I decided to comment that I'd like to review it. After some fb messages and emails with the author, I discovered that she's a customer of mine in Yafiz, the clothing store where I work. This sort of coincidence is just the type of "only in Israel" story you'll find if you read For Better and For Worse: An Israel Odyssey by Batya Kroopnick.

And I want to make it clear that I would have enjoyed the book a lot, even if I wasn't acquainted with Batya Kroopnick. As far as I understand, this fictionalized story of Kroopnick's life in Israel is fairly close to her actual life. Names of people and some of the places mentioned have been changed, and of course it's not a diary.  But what is most important for the reader are the events, the recent history of the State of Israel and the feelings and reactions of the author.

I like the fact that she calls her life here an "odyssey: a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding to someone," because life, especially in Israel is certainly that.

Kroopnick begins the book by telling of her main character, Shelly's childhood in America, why she came to Israel and how she became more Torah observant in Israel. When the media likes to publicize books by Jews who left Torah observance aka Orthodox Judaism, it's especially nice to find an interesting and well-written book showing how intelligent and idealistic Jews are attracted to a Torah observant life in Israel.

When I was reading For Better and For Worse: An Israel Odyssey I read it as if I wasn't a "neighbor" in a nearby community; I tried to read it as if I was living in New York. In a sense you can say she about an "Israeli Forrest Gump," because the family Kroopnick wrote about had been involved with everything that has been going on here for over a quarter of a century. Her alter ego Shelly, the husband and children have been part of Modern Israeli History from up close. They vacationed in Gush Katif before the expulsion, and she went to help support Sderot when the Gazans were shooting missiles at it. The older daughter was at the terrible Amona destruction that had traumatized my yeshiva high school students. (I was an English Teacher at the time.)

I sincerely recommend For Better and For Worse: An Israel Odyssey no matter where you live and no matter what your religion. It gives a very necessary view into the lives and feelings of real Israelis in Judea-Samaria, especially when the international and even local media paint us so badly. And more than that, it is a wonderful story of how idealistic young Jews cope with the reality of life in a very turbulent world.

At present the book may be purchased through Amazon, click the titles in the review and you'll get to the right page. The book is also currently in the Mintzer book store in Gush Etzion and also in the Pomeranz bookstore.  Click here for the site that has more information on how to purchase the book. You can get more details by emailing

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