The future of Israel?
A Q-and-A with Dutch novelist and filmmaker Leon de Winter.
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De Winter: Preferably, a miracle. The arrival of the Messiah would be a nice surprise, don't you agree? If that's not possible, a civil revolution in the Arab world would also be a nice event – sorry, this is also part of the miracle solution. I mean, there is no solution. This is an old, tribal, atavistic conflict. There aren't that many of these conflicts in our present world anymore, but they have been fundamental in the development of our world: the fight over land.Skip to next paragraph
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In the past, these conflicts were solved very simply: One group exterminated the other group. End of conflict. We don't accept this kind of problem management anymore, with good reason. We ask for sanity, compromises. But this conflict is being defined by two groups with very strong demands and traditions. They exclude each other's idea of reason. They have to give up some elements of claims they consider sacred. Time, more time, would help, if the Iranian people succeed in transforming the Shiite revolution into a civil revolution – that would be an amazing event, with wide-reaching consequences for the whole world.
Gardels: You have said you wouldn't live in Israel. Why? How has Israel changed?
De Winter: I don't want to live there because I feel that other countries have the right, too, to have stubborn, difficult, always-complaining Jews like me as their citizen.
Gardels: Where do you expect most Jews to live in 20 years? Back in Europe? The US?
De Winter: In my novel, the Jews still living in Tel Aviv all want to go to Moscow, like in a Chekhov play. Putin is president of Russia for the third time. In 2024, he is considered the main statesman in the world. Russia is rich; in the main Russian cities Jews are playing in the symphony orchestras again, there are fancy restaurants, the streets at night are full with lights and ladies in mink coats and elegantly dressed men on their way to the theater, and they have wonderful little cakes, petits fours, in cafes with chandeliers.
Despite the old Russian anti-Semitism, there has been a strong bond between Jews and Russia – there is a melancholy that Russians and Jews share, a sense of the dramatic flow of time, and a longing for a faraway land, behind the horizon. So, the Jews in my novel dream of going home to Moscow.
Leon de Winter is a Dutch filmmaker and one of Holland's most acclaimed novelists. He comes from a family of Orthodox Jews who, thanks to a Roman Catholic resistance network, escaped capture by the Nazis. In his novels, including "Zionoco" and "God's Gym," the protagonists search for their Jewish identity. His controversial new novel is "Right of Return." It's currently only available in Dutch and German.