Noa Tishby’s new book with Simon & Schuster, “Israel: A Simple Guide To The Most Misunderstood Country On Earth”, managed to produce a significant buzz when it received flattering reviews and praise from many in the Entertainment industry in Hollywood. “This is not your Bubbie’s history book,” wrote TV presenter and political commentator Bill Maher about the 352-page book. “Noa Tishby bravely provides a guide to understanding Israel through the personal story of her family. More than anything, this is a hopeful book that calls for a peaceful tomorrow through a courageous look at the past,” says Gideon Raff, creator of “Prisoners of War” and “The Spy” and Emmy-winning screenwriter and executive producer of “Homeland”.
Shortly before she turned 24, renowned actress and producer, Noa Tishby, left Israel (partly, because she still works there and visits often) and moved to Hollywood to develop an international career. In recent years she has been known in Hollywood mainly as a producer after in 2006 she sold the series “In Treatment” to HBO with great success. At the same time, she serves as Israel’s unofficial ambassador, and never stops working on improving the country’s image.
We asked her a few questions in an attempt to learn more about her (soon to be a best-seller) book, and she kindly agreed to speak with us from her Los Angeles residency, to further explain why this book is so important, especially in today’s political climate.
What is unique about your book compared to other books written about Israel, let’s say, for example, the book by Daniel “Gordis Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn” (September 2017) or the book “My promised land” by author Ari Shavit?
The books you’ve mentioned are amazing books, but my book is different in some respects, firstly, the book I wrote is very simple to understand, what I would call “A modern take – speaking to a new audience”, so it’s accessible to individuals who aren’t necessarily interested or proficient in this specific field, so it allows the reader to learn about the country and the region more easily. When people approached me in the past and asked me to refer them to a book that would help them better understand Israel, I realized that this book had not yet been written, so I took it upon myself to write it.
What do you think are the three most frequent misconceptions people have about Israel?
The first thing that people don’t know, is that the state of Israel wasn’t just established but re-established, so there has been a Jewish state on that land before, and in fact, that was the only land where there was a sovereign nation – the Jews. People mistakenly think that in the past there was a state here called Palestine, when in fact Palestine was simply a geographical region, not an actual state. Secondly, people do not really understand how modern Israel is, how liberal and inviting it is, as the only consistent democracy in the middle east, where you can practice any religion, speak your mind freely and criticize people in power and even hold hands with your same-sex partner on the beach without being killed or sent to jail. Thirdly, people don’t understand that it is not an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but an Israeli-Arab world conflict. It’s a much wider conflict than people believe, and it continues for well over 100 years.
While reading this book, I noticed that you’ve made many references to spiritual doctrines and concepts, and that you touch upon Homeopathy and alchemy etc. What did you intent by doing so?
I’m glad you picked up on it, it’s true. I have inserted a bunch of easter eggs into the book, to encourage people to perhaps think differently about the world we live in, about Israel, and about themselves. For example, I use Alchemy when I talk about the settlements, and I talk about many spiritual concepts that you wouldn’t find in a history book. it’s all intended to make people think differently about themselves, and I do it by talking about my own self.
For example, in chapter 7, when you talk about the wars, right?
Yes! Exactly. Chapter seven is about the wars that accrued in this region. In it, I talk about the loss that my parents experienced and how it directly affected my psyche and personality, and the process I had to go through in order to uncover it, and how it actually transformed me when I did uncover it. And I hope what happens for people reading this book, is while they understand more about Israel and the middle east, they can also have some personal revelations and hopefully come out as changed people by the end of the book. I talk about a personal transformation as it relates to the transformation of a nation because a nation cannot transform unless every single person transforms themselves. So, I believe that working on oneself, in every means available to that person, whether it’s with meditation or any other self-help practice, will help humanity to transform as a whole on a larger global scale, so we all need to do our part and work on our personal healing because eventually, it will translate itself into the healing of humanity in general.
Have you at any point in writing this book, feared that identifying with Israel will close vital doors in your career?
It was never a consideration for me. I will not be discouraged to keep standing out for what is right, no matter the cost.
Have you already received threats on your life or comments with a violent tone, from anti-Semitic groups or individuals?
That happens regularly. I’m not the least bit concerned about these people.
Perhaps the most relevant question for the Israeli audience is, is there a plan to translate the book into Hebrew and other languages as well?
Absolutely. we have plans to translate the book for other languages based on demand, and especially to Hebrew. the reviews are very positive, so this project is already in the works.
Were you surprised by the book’s success in such a short time, or did you have a gut feeling that it’s going to be a bestseller?
When I started writing the book, I had no idea where it would go, because I was sitting alone and isolated from the world, in a vacuum of creation, but as soon as I sent a draft to friends and colleagues, (“second readers”) even the top ones in their field, and those who owe me nothing, and the feedback was positive beyond expectation, I realized I had something good in hand. Many high-profile personalities have agreed to give me a public endorsement for this book, (Bill Maher, Eric Weinstein, Aaron Sorkin, Congressman Ritchie Torres and others) and that’s when it dawned on me that this book could turn out to be very special.
As a writer, as an actress and model and especially as a human being, what can you tell us about the value principles that accompany you in every decision in life?
My intention was and still is, to make the world a better place through pop culture. However, I’m fully aware that this concept, as positive as it may be, is something that happens gradually and over time, and I’m not sure if I will live to see the result of my intentions. But this is the intention in which I wake up to in the morning and choose to live by, and every day is a new step forward to achieving that goal.
Is there a comradery amongst the Israeli American actresses in Hollywood? Are you friendly with Gal Gadot, Moran Atias, Shira Haas or even Natalie portman?
I don’t know Natalie Portman personally, but I do know all the others you’ve mentioned and there is a great friendship there. There is even a line in the book where I say jokingly “I didn’t turn out to be Gal Gadot” (paraphrasing), and that’s because self-deprecating humor is super important, and I don’t take myself too seriously, unlike my work and this book, which I take very seriously.
“There is a great friendship there”. Gal Gadot with Noa Tishby, Alona Tal, and Sharon Rechter (Source: Twitter)
Do you believe in a higher power, and if so, how do you define it for yourself?
Yes, I do believe in a higher power, but to say that I understand it or know how to define it would be blasphemy in my opinion. Even in science there are more questions than answers. I consider myself a very open-mined person that isn’t afraid to explore different spiritual concept and I know that this realm is ever changing and evolving, meaning that what we believe in today may not be what we used to believe in the past. I don’t dismiss anything, but rather will read about it myself and look into it before forming an opinion. It is a “Child-mind” mentality that I practice consistently. The only thing I’m sure of, is that the divine is not interested in us killing each other. Any religion that celebrates death and murder, is probably just a misguided human interpretation of that religion.
In your opinion and assessment, what is the thing we are missing most at the moment, not as Israelis or Americans, but in Western society as a whole?
We are missing the basic understanding that we are all ONE. We are one big organism. We are one with the planet.
You can purchase Noa’s new book here: www.noatishby.com
Illustrations: Yael Berezdivin