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Beyond required reading: REVIEW of Catch the Jew, by Tuvia Tenenbom

cover of Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbaum (Gefen Publishing House:  2015) is not only required reading, it's enlightening reading.

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia TenenbomDid you ever wish there was somebody who could talk to ANYBODY who would run around making sense of the Middle East so you don't have to?

I know I have.

And then, did you wish they'd make it fun to read so reading all about it didn't feel swallowing taking some kind of dull, boring medicine?

I’ll tell you the truth:  I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book.  I picked it up in a bookstore because it was only 70nis.  For an English book of this size, that’s a great price.  “That’s a lot of book!” I thought, excitedly.  But then I realized that it was about Israel, and politics, and it had a goofy cartoon on the cover, and I groaned inside.

review, Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

(The cover for the Hebrew version is a little less goofy, but also strange…)

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

But once I started reading it, reluctantly, once I’d read everything else I had on hand, I was immediately sucked into Tenenbom’s world.

You might not like what Tuvia Tenenbom has to say, or who he rubs shoulders with in his new book Catch the Jew!, but if you're interested in Israel and Judaism today, you'll want to read it anyway.

Tenbenbom, born and raised Hareidi in Israel, but who has lived as a non-religious Jew in the U.S. and Germany most of his adult life, is a modern-day chameleon. 

While to me he looks like a Jew (and reads like Borat), to Palestinians and others, his German citizenship lets him passes for what he calls an "Aryan," Tobi the German.  He also, apparently, speaks enough Arabic to get around the official story and hear more than just what the translators and PA government officials want him to hear. 

And he’s not afraid to lie and say he’s whatever religion whoever he’s talking to wants him to be.

image from Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

You may not like his methods.  I was certainly put off by the term “gonzo journalist” used in the book’s back cover and on Amazon.  If you are too, well, don’t be.  There’s a little bit of gonzo in the book (whatever the heck that means), but there’s a whole lot of common sense.

True, Tenenbom runs around Israel and the PA rubbing people the wrong way (and taking selfies with some pretty interesting characters). 

You probably won’t enjoy everything he and his characters have to say.  He doesn’t seem to have any boundaries, and doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at politicians, hareidim, soldiers, prostitutes, non-religious Jews (and ex-Jews), peaceniks and anyone else who crosses his path.  Only his beloved Jerusalem cats are spared the onslaught.

He may even get on your nerves, with the weird little photos and canned intros to each chapter.  I got over that fast.

image from Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

The book is well worth reading, because it turns out that what he has to say is very, very important. 

With a dash of humour and a very odd wit, Tenenbom follows the money, digging up real answers to everyone’s most pressing questions about what’s really going on in the Middle East.

image from Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

It takes Tenenbom nearly 500 very dense pages to get his point across. 

It’s like he’s moving an entire beach of sand one tweezerfull at a time, if each tweezerfull were utterly, utterly fascinating. 

Another metaphor comes to mind:  reading this book feels as if Tenenbom is untangling a massive, twisted, tangled, snarled ball of yarn… one narrow strand at a time. 

And in the end, the cumulative effect is both eye-opening and devastating.  You may not agree with his conclusions, but you will want to have this book in your arsenal when you’re talking about Israel, along with her friends, “friends,” and enemies both near and far.

You can buy Catch the Jew! via Amazon, at many local booksellers in Israel, through Barnes & Noble in the U.S., and at Jewish bookstores worldwide.  I really hope you will.

If you’ve read it already (or if you have questions about the book), I’d love to hear from you in the Comments!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


  1. I was feeling depressed about the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, and wanted a break from the bad news, with a funny, light read. I looked through my Kindle library, didn't remember anything about the book, and because of the cartoon on the cover, I thought it would be funny. Well, it starts out funny, and unique. A true chameleon who has access to all sides, from the bottom to the top of society, going places in Israel where no Jews are allowed. (The truth about apartheid in Israel is that it exists, but it limits the Jews from entering certain cities, the Temple Mount, and some holy places). He's witty, and his writing style made for an entertaining read, but halfway through I wanted to leap from my balcony. Having already been pierced by the poison dart, I read on hoping for an antidote. No such luck. I'm glad I read it, but it took me a couple of days to recover...

  2. I enjoyed the book though I was a bit more critical of it. Here's another review that you and some readers might find interesting...


I'd love to hear what you have to say.