Book review: Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating book about the history of Israeli intelligence and policies of targeted assassinations. The author is an Israeli investigative reporter, and the book is written originally in Hebrew. The translation is excellent, however, and the book is very readable and incredibly interesting. In addition, the author is surprisingly even-handed about the foreign policy, operational, and tactical policies and decisions of the Israeli government and intelligence agencies. He is critical of the blunders made and of the decisions taken, especially in recent events, but he is also realistic about the choices faced by the Israelis.
If there is one quote that epitomizes the philosophy of the Israeli intelligence agencies, it is this one: “Let’s admit the truth: most of the Jews in the Holocaust died without fighting. We must never reach that situation again, kneeling, without the ability to fight for our lives.”
The title of the book comes from a Babylonian Talmud, “If someone comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.”
Read the book.

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Graduation 2021 and Hawaii

Two joyous events, especially in a year like this one.

In mid-June, we celebrated our daughter’s graduation from Stanford (total brag: she graduated with a degree in math, with distinction, and phi beta kappa). The graduation was a limited in-person event (two fully vaccinated guests per student). Issa Rae was the graduation speaker, and she did an excellent job. In addition, we had two VERY lovely friends who opened their home for a reception after the ceremony for Jade and her friends and their families. It was a truly celebratory day, and I think everyone appreciated the moment even more than they usually would.

Graduation 2021

Our summer trip was to Honolulu a few weeks later. We rented a house and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. There was a beautiful ocean, there were many beautiful rainbows (Hawaii isn’t called the rainbow state for no reason), there was fabulous food (fancy and not fancy), and there were wonderful guests who stayed with us. It really was a perfect time to relax, eat, and have fun.

I cannot tell you how wonderful Hawaii is. I can feel my blood pressure going down after landing at the Honolulu airport. My east coast friends wonder why we don’t go to the Caribbean for sun and ocean since it’s so much closer. I’ve concluded that it’s best to smile and keep the magical island paradise of Hawaii as a west coast secret. 🙂

sunrise over Koko Head
Moon over Koko Head
Pali Lookout

Book review: Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw

Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed Gillian Bradshaw’s historical fiction for many many years. This book has an interesting premise: if Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s son survived after Cleopatra’s defeat and death, what might have happened to him? Would he have tried to take his throne back? Would he have been content to live like a normal person? How might he have done that?
The author explores this premise, exploring the possible mindset of Caesarion as a privileged (in the non-21st century meaning of the word) member of the royal family to someone with no family, no money, and in danger of his life. The book is charmingly written (as is all of the author’s books) and informative about life in the Egyptian court. If there is any criticism, it is that there is a little too much teenage drama and angst from Caesarion. But perhaps that is more about my impatience with and intolerance of teenage angst than it is a criticism of the book. 🙂
The book also takes an interesting perspective on Octavian, Cleopatra, and Mark Anthony and makes them more human than legend has made them. I liked the angle.
In the end, as the Author’s Note made clear, Caesarion was almost certainly killed by the Romans. But this book fascinates with the “what if” alternative. It’s definitely a worthwhile read!

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