The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

by Mike Peled (2012), reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

Mike Peled was born in Jerusalem in 1961 into a well-known Zionist family.  His father, Matti Peled, was an Israeli army officer during the 1948 Israeli war of independence, and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai.

The growing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians came into Peled’s family when his niece was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem.  Pele, who had been living in California, found the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and this began a warm relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.  Several other discussion groups were formed.  Here he heard Palestinian stories of people forced from their homes as children, and Peled and his new friends began to speak at Rotary clubs, sharing their stories of friendship and trust.

A major high point was when the two sons of a Palestinian friend slept over at the home of a Jewish Israeli home (Peled’s home).  The peace position for Peled developed as he heard more of what his father, an army office, had believed and held on to—how his father had “opposed the massive land confiscation Palestinians had to endure, helped those who had legal issues and spoke out against injustice when people were detained or deported” (p 137).

Through Rotary International, Peled and fellow Rotarians sought to bring medical supplies to Israeli and Palestinian victims, including wheel chairs.  He documents the ways in which Israeli officials, especially the army, held up the transfer of medical supplies, and even charged $7,000 in holding fees (p 133).  He shares the stories of arbitrary arrests and imprisonment (p 210) and the terror of check points, even to himself as an Israeli.  Reading his story brings back the arbitrary state terrorism of Jesus’ Galilean experience, except that it’s the Israelis who have assumed the role of the Roman occupation.  A new empire.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.