The Lion’s Gate

071114_mishmash-bookBy Stephen Pressfield
Sentinel, 430 pages

Taken on its own terms, as “hybrid history,” “The Lion’s Gate” is an engaging immersion in the experiences and emotions of participants in Israel’s first three wars.

Steven Pressfield, author of 12 previous books, interviewed 63 people over the course of 370 hours and sliced their recollections into chronological placement.

“The focus is deliberately personal, subjective and idiosyncratic” and limited to a few units, he said. He didn’t attempt a standard history or “pretend to document the ‘facts’ of the [1967] war,” and he acknowledges up front that memory can be imperfect.

What he wants, he says, is “to be in the cockpit, inside the tank, under the helmet … the event as the man or woman experienced it.”

Pressfield’s unconventional approach saw him editing and sometimes rewriting interviewees’ words, using material from their books and even from a documentary and weaving them into spoken narratives. Done with interviewees’ agreement and our knowledge, that’s OK, but readers need caution.

“The Lion’s Gate,” with maps, photos and an index, is well worth reading. It’s a compelling account of the achievement and feelings of an outnumbered people armed with enough competence, determination, weapons and courage to prevent a promised annihilation.

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