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Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem. Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem. Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the object of its opprobrium. Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns? More pressingly: Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future? We cannot answer these questions until we understand Israel’s people and the questions and conflicts, the hopes and desires, that have animated their conversations and actions. Though Israel’s history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core. Guiding us through the milestones of Israeli history, Gordis relays the drama of the Jewish people’s story and the creation of the state. Clear-eyed and erudite, he illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic and military powerhouse—but also explains where Israel made grave mistakes and traces the long history of Israel’s deepening isolation. With Israel, public intellectual Daniel Gordis offers us a brief but thorough account of the cultural, economic, and political history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, levelheaded, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on the Israel’s past so we can understand its future. The result is a vivid portrait of a people, and a nation, reborn.


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Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem. Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem. Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the object of its opprobrium. Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns? More pressingly: Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future? We cannot answer these questions until we understand Israel’s people and the questions and conflicts, the hopes and desires, that have animated their conversations and actions. Though Israel’s history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core. Guiding us through the milestones of Israeli history, Gordis relays the drama of the Jewish people’s story and the creation of the state. Clear-eyed and erudite, he illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic and military powerhouse—but also explains where Israel made grave mistakes and traces the long history of Israel’s deepening isolation. With Israel, public intellectual Daniel Gordis offers us a brief but thorough account of the cultural, economic, and political history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, levelheaded, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on the Israel’s past so we can understand its future. The result is a vivid portrait of a people, and a nation, reborn.

30 review for Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael O'Brien

    This was an informative, well written history of Israel. For the most part, I would characterize it as a political history of Israel primarily --- as opposed to some of the other books I've read of Israel-Palestinian histories which tend to focus more on the military aspects. From reading this book, I did gain more an appreciation for how unlikely it is that a state like Israel ever came into existence in the first place. I think, perhaps, an analogy in American terms might be if some American In This was an informative, well written history of Israel. For the most part, I would characterize it as a political history of Israel primarily --- as opposed to some of the other books I've read of Israel-Palestinian histories which tend to focus more on the military aspects. From reading this book, I did gain more an appreciation for how unlikely it is that a state like Israel ever came into existence in the first place. I think, perhaps, an analogy in American terms might be if some American Indian tribe such as the Cherokee or Seminoles, driven from their ancestral lands, were scattered all over the globe, somehow managed to maintain their cultural and ethnic identity, and centuries later reconstitute inside their original lands in the southeastern US, deal with the new occupants of their land who moved in during their absence, and build an entirely separate, distinct Cherokee or Seminole nation in these lands. And, on top of all that, long after their original language was all but dead --- make that original language of theirs the commonly spoken tongue of their new state. This is how this seems in the same way with the Jewish people establishing the State of Israel in 1948. Gordis does an excellent job telling of the great minds such as Theodore Herzl and others who, in the 19th Century, proposed the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland. Also, he does well in describing the historical background driving these new minds behind the Zionist Movement --- the centuries of anti-Semitism, the discriminatory laws --- and extreme brutality and increasing viciousness of the pogroms, particularly within Russia. One thing I was not fully aware of until reading this book is that the modern use of Hebrew is really a relatively recent thing. For the most part, until the 19th Century, Hebrew --- as far as being a language in daily use by common people --- was dead --- like Latin or Ancient Egyptian. That Hebrew took off and was revived at all is in large part due to the efforts of Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda --- the man who modernized Hebrew, popularized its use, expended great effort in converting other Jews to learn it and use it in their daily lives --- and pass this on to their children and generations thereafter. I doubt that any effort at reviving an ancient "dead" language in other civilizations has ever happened as successfully. Perhaps, Ireland's efforts with Gaelic come close, but nowhere near as has been the case with Hebrew in Israel and the rest of the Jewish community. In addition, Gordis does well in describing the phenomenal efforts involved in unifying Jews within a state like Israel. I think most Gentiles have a tendency to think of Jews and Judaism as one bloc. But, as he shows, that is far from the case. In fact, there are many subdivisions --- each with their own profound culture, beliefs, and customs. Groups based on where the Jews originated with terms such "Ash-Kenazi", "Mizrahim", and "Sephardim" --- as well as groups based upon religion --- such as the Orthodox and Haredim ---- as well as divisions based upon politics such as socialism, secularism, nationalism, and free markets. From reading this book, it's very clear that the forces working within against, at least in the beginning, of settling Palestine and eventually building the State of Israel were very nearly as strong as those seeking the destruction of Israel from without. I was surprised at the extent to which Gordis does not go into much detail on Israel's wars or upon the terrorist attacks upon it such as the 1972 murders of its Olympic athletes or the Entebbe raid. However, this is "a concise history" ---- so keeping things brief does make some sense, given this. Doing so also gives him more room to discuss aspects of Israel's politics and culture that many readers may not be aware of. This is definitely a book written primarily from an Israeli Jewish point of view --- so it may be good to read other accounts of Israeli and Palestinian history to get a balanced story of this region; however, it is very well-written, factual, and readable, and I enjoyed it very much. While earlier I did not plan it out this way, I did find that reading this along with the "Lonely Planet: Israel and the Palestinian Territories" complemented each other --- with this book giving me the background and the travel guide giving me the geography and descriptions of historical sites described in this book which made it fun and interesting to me in planning future travel to this nation. I do recommend this book for anyone desiring more about Israel and about the events driving its establishment.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    My life-long fascination and love of Israel was amplified by visiting in November. Anyone following along on my wall saw the pictures, poem and thoughts I expressed about the trip. I remember crying for joy as a young teen when I heard about the Camp David Peace Accords. I was more devastated by the horrible assassination of Yitzhak Rabin than I was by the election of Donald Trump. Both events had frightening implications for the two countries I love the most. But I am a J-Street Jew. I believe in My life-long fascination and love of Israel was amplified by visiting in November. Anyone following along on my wall saw the pictures, poem and thoughts I expressed about the trip. I remember crying for joy as a young teen when I heard about the Camp David Peace Accords. I was more devastated by the horrible assassination of Yitzhak Rabin than I was by the election of Donald Trump. Both events had frightening implications for the two countries I love the most. But I am a J-Street Jew. I believe in questioning Israel's leadership, which I find in its current form to be extremist, anti-peace (but less so than the Palestinian leadership) and the greatest threat to Israel's long-term security. The ultra orthodox in Israel are a tremendous drag on the economy there. And the settler movements' racist, absolutist, violent, and zealous hold on the Israeli government is a stain on the creation of the likes of Herzl, Ha'am, Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Rabin, and countless others. Having just completed reading Daniel Gordis;s "Israel, A Concise History of a Nation Reborn," my love for Israel is stronger, as is my appreciation for the Israeli perspectives. My fear for the country might also be more substantial, largely based on some of what I mentioned above. Gordis, who Wikipedia says was a more liberal Jew who has shifted to be slightly right of center, does a masterful job of laying out Israel's history, and the place of Jews in and on the land. He is balanced in his portrayal, but the pro-Israel leanings that naturally surface at times appear reasonable for the most part. While Gordis is a bit too slanted when he discusses the Iranian nuclear deal (How about citing all the experts in Israel and the world who supported the deal, instead of focusing on Henry Kissinger and George Schultz?), only hints at the threats of the settler movement to peace and the ultra orthodox to the economy, and offers little on the current extremism of the Netanyahu government, overall he has accomplished something remarkable and of long-lasting value in his book. For a more balanced portrayal of the most recent decade, you will have to look elsewhere. Well worth the read, no matter the weaknesses on current events.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    After I read The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine late last year, I promised myself and any of my review-readers that I would read something more sympathetic to Israel, so that's why I read this. I'm very glad I did even though it really didn't help me to work my way through my feelings about the conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. I'm Jewish by the Nazi/Israel definition of the word and I think I undeniably would have supported the creation of the state of Israel when it b After I read The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine late last year, I promised myself and any of my review-readers that I would read something more sympathetic to Israel, so that's why I read this. I'm very glad I did even though it really didn't help me to work my way through my feelings about the conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. I'm Jewish by the Nazi/Israel definition of the word and I think I undeniably would have supported the creation of the state of Israel when it began and I also find a lot that Israel has accomplished to be inspiring and it really does fill me with pride for the amazingness of the Jewish people throughout time. That said, I cannot forget the other book I read. It was very upsetting to learn about the horrific mistreatment of Palestineans at the hands of the IDF and the Jewish settlers. That is real, it's not just an anti-Semitic fantasy. But after reading this book I'm even less sure of what anyone should be doing about any of this. I knew already from reading Bill Clinton's memoir years ago that Arafat had turned down a two-state agreement, and I learned from this book that Palestine has rejected many chances to have their own state next to Israel. Instead, they only want the end to the Jewish state altogether, and that cannot and should not happen. There is no doubt in my mind, especially after also having just read Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, that the refusal of the Arabs in the middle east to accept deals with Israel that forces them to recognize that Israel IS a country is not simply an anger about colonialism or a disliking of western values, but specifically about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that seems to infect people and cause enormous harm repeatedly throughout history. And that makes me worry that there can never be peace. Because this book failed to talk really at all about the kinds of things Isreal does to Palestine every day, and instead focuses only on the losses Isreal has, even when they're far fewer than the losses on the other side, I have to admit I find it untrustworthy. The author seems to really take pride in the IDF not trying to kill civilians, but the stories out of Palestine tell us otherwise, and also tells us that there are other ways to mistreat people besides killing them. For instance, you could spray "skunk" liquid on them, you can bulldoze their houses, you can arrest and torture them, you can force everyone to have a curfew, you can limit their mobility. Also, you can turn a blind eye to settlers moving into territories that are not theirs and then killing plenty of people (people interviewed in The Way to the Spring feared the settlers more than they feared the IDF) while technically being about to say their military doesn't routinely kill civilians. Honestly, though, I'm not sure what anyone should do about any of it. I feel terrible for the Palestinians and I cannot stand them being killed, but I think their leadership has fucked them time and time again by refusing compromises mostly due to an ani-Semitic hatred for Israel. I used to think that Israel, as the stronger party, had all the responsibility to back off of their military incursions, and to really try to make a good faith peace, even if some Israelis get killed in the process. And I guess I still think that, but I'm less cocksure that shit would work. Now that I'm 34, I guess the last of my youthful idealism about human nature is gone, and now I think humans suck so bad that we'll fight this planet right into its early grave. Maybe the Christians are right about the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland signaling the start of the apocalypse and now we're ringing in the end times with trumpets (Trump/Pence). I almost wish that was the case because then all this shit would have been predetemined and decidedly less tragic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Adam Hummel

    Wish I could give it 10 out of 5 stars. Cannot say enough good things about this book. Insightful, great history, meaningful, well-written. Incredible volume to add to the already amazing library out there of books on Israeli history. Another brilliant book by Daniel Gordis.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    3.5*'s Not being Jewish it's amazing how much of the history of Israel I actually knew and remembered. With all the focus in today's world on racism and equality it's a sad focal point that after thousands of years this group of people are still on the receiving end of so much outright hatred. 3.5*'s Not being Jewish it's amazing how much of the history of Israel I actually knew and remembered. With all the focus in today's world on racism and equality it's a sad focal point that after thousands of years this group of people are still on the receiving end of so much outright hatred.

  6. 4 out of 5

    James

    Although I've long been a proponent of Israel and tried to keep up with its news, much has escaped me. Much of the history of its founding was also new to me (or forgotten if I knew it). This book (which I listened to rather than read) was an enormous aid in helping me fill in the gaps in my knowledge as well as to enlighten me on many of the issues currently facing the nation. The publication date of the book, 2016, is also fortuitous for me since it, while mostly up to date, was written before Although I've long been a proponent of Israel and tried to keep up with its news, much has escaped me. Much of the history of its founding was also new to me (or forgotten if I knew it). This book (which I listened to rather than read) was an enormous aid in helping me fill in the gaps in my knowledge as well as to enlighten me on many of the issues currently facing the nation. The publication date of the book, 2016, is also fortuitous for me since it, while mostly up to date, was written before the current crowd of anti-Semites in US government and public life came to prominence. There were times when I wondered if perhaps pro-Israeli commentators were being too sensitive to certain remarks, such as the one made late last year (2018) using the words "from the river to the sea." Thanks to this book, I learned of the phrase's origin and meaning and now understand better why it was so strongly criticized. Another disturbing revelation is the continued rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. It is horrifying that this trend exists and persists. It's also disheartening and frustrating to learn how completely the chatterati have been seduced by the PR put out by terrorists who seek Israel's demise. On a positive note, I'm amazed but not surprised by the decency and self-awareness of the Israeli populace. Israel, as with all nations, sometimes does bad things. To their credit, the Israeli people, while seeking to remain strong, also seek to remain just.

  7. 5 out of 5

    A Man Called Ove

    4.5/5 Extraordinary ! This was a political history of (modern) Israel right from the roots of Zionism in the 19th century to the 2010s. It was perfect - readable, informative, empathetic, self-critical (the author is an Israeli) and never lost sight of the "big picture" too. Have been interested in learning about Israel as there are some parallels with India and with Europe's present predicament. Some insights :- a) Firstly, I think the issue of why Israel was founded by partitioning Palestine (an 4.5/5 Extraordinary ! This was a political history of (modern) Israel right from the roots of Zionism in the 19th century to the 2010s. It was perfect - readable, informative, empathetic, self-critical (the author is an Israeli) and never lost sight of the "big picture" too. Have been interested in learning about Israel as there are some parallels with India and with Europe's present predicament. Some insights :- a) Firstly, I think the issue of why Israel was founded by partitioning Palestine (and not say Poland/Germany) needed to be elaborated more. The 0.5 rating has been deducted for this reason else the book is perfect. b) A truth conveniently forgotten by the world is that the refugee movement on partition of Palestine was 2-way. Just as with partition in India, an equal no. of Jews became refugees from Arab lands and Palestine, as Arab Palestinians. Israel gave them citizenship and they rebuilt their lives. The Arab countries did not. And I think Palestinians and Israel's Arab neighbours have a problem in closure and moving on. c) Israel's repeated efforts at peace were thwarted despite public declarations of returning close to 95% of the land under occupation and providing reparations. It is noteworthy that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 while uprooting thousands of Jews, and the Palestinians responded to this gesture by upscaling violence and electing Hamas. d) A great feature that distinguishes Israel from Arabs is self-criticism and liberty. Was surprised to read that some authors with strong anti-Israel views like Ilan Pappe are Jews. This is not an exception but a necessary and sufficient condition of being a liberal democracy. Please name one Arab Muslim who has empathised with the Israeli position or criticised the Palestinian violence. e) While India lacks intellectuals in the RW space, Israel seems to have a strong intellectual tradition because of (d). Infact , I am continuing with "Saving Israel" by the author to read a sensible opinion on what lies ahead for Israel ? How does one deal with an intolerant minority and hateful neighbours who want to wipe out your existence.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    The story of the foundation of modern Israel, from the first conception of Zionism by Theodor Herzl to the modern Jewish state, is a fascinating piece of history, and Daniel Gordis tells it very well. This is a great and highly readable book. Gordis comes to the subject with a strong bias in favor of Israel, and he makes a good case for his point of view. (But then again, all my sympathies are with Israel to begin with.) Gordis doesn’t shy away from the mistakes and even atrocities that have bee The story of the foundation of modern Israel, from the first conception of Zionism by Theodor Herzl to the modern Jewish state, is a fascinating piece of history, and Daniel Gordis tells it very well. This is a great and highly readable book. Gordis comes to the subject with a strong bias in favor of Israel, and he makes a good case for his point of view. (But then again, all my sympathies are with Israel to begin with.) Gordis doesn’t shy away from the mistakes and even atrocities that have been committed in the creation of the state of Israel, but he always puts them in context and is careful to show them from each side’s perspective. It really is astonishing that 2,000 years after Titus destroyed the temple and scattered the Jews across the Empire their culture and sense of home was so powerful that they went back. Lots of people have been scattered and dislocated by history, only the Jews have maintained their identity so completely that they have come back home again after such a length of time. And it’s also amazing how things came together, from the first spark of modern zionism, to Turkey losing control of Palestine, to the holocaust, and then a successful war for independence against all their neighbors at once... the Jewish people can be excused for seeing a miracle in all this. Of course, there is a messy side to all the glory, with the teeming shantytowns full of Palestinian refugees who have been stuck between Israel and the Arab world since the late 1940s and all the bitter fighting and terrorism that has flowed out of this situation... Israel is suffering from a number of sores that ooze to this day and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lukas

    I started this book in preparation for a week-long trip to Israel -- it has ended up as one of my all-time favorite books. Gordis, the author, manages to convey Israel's highly complex history in an accessible, coherent, and dense reading that you cannot put away. By interjecting excerpts from contemporary poems, songs, speeches, and religious texts, he creates a vivid image of the zeitgeist at any given time. Every fact, every personality, and every event is well embedded in its historical cont I started this book in preparation for a week-long trip to Israel -- it has ended up as one of my all-time favorite books. Gordis, the author, manages to convey Israel's highly complex history in an accessible, coherent, and dense reading that you cannot put away. By interjecting excerpts from contemporary poems, songs, speeches, and religious texts, he creates a vivid image of the zeitgeist at any given time. Every fact, every personality, and every event is well embedded in its historical context so that you do not get lost a single time. This book is an important reading if one aims to understand contemporary international affairs. Key Learnings: - To better understand the context of historical events, delve into some popular contemporary poetry, literature, and song-writing. In the case of Israel, these media helped create a unifying vision around the founding of a Jewish state. - A handful of committed, idealistic people can change the course of history entirely. Israeli history has repeatedly made clear that even a couple of 12th-graders sending a letter to the government can make it to the history books. - To understand most, of not all, current international affairs, Israel’s history is an insightful teacher. Israel holds an important role in the international intelligence community. In the Middle East, it is surrounded by hostile neighbor countries, pointing back to many of the tensions in the regions. Historically, it has been the site of proxy wars of global superpowers. An amazing amount of resolutions of the United Nations has focused on this nation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Non-Fiction>History, 4 Stars I picked up this book because I realized I knew very little about the region and its history. I thought I knew about Israel-it's a nation that the winning side of WWII set aside for the Jews and the reason for the placement of this nation is that this is the place that the Jews are originally 'from' as a people. Having lived in various other nations for many generations, the Jewish people have seen suffering and oppression everywhere they have migrated to and needed a Non-Fiction>History, 4 Stars I picked up this book because I realized I knew very little about the region and its history. I thought I knew about Israel-it's a nation that the winning side of WWII set aside for the Jews and the reason for the placement of this nation is that this is the place that the Jews are originally 'from' as a people. Having lived in various other nations for many generations, the Jewish people have seen suffering and oppression everywhere they have migrated to and needed a place to be 'theirs.' My very rudimentary understanding wasn't necessarily wrong, but was definitely simplistic. I very much enjoyed this history. The author makes clear attempts to be unbiased, but I don't think this is an attainable goal. This is not the fault of the author; it is just the way it is sometimes with contentious situations. While the Arabs are described as mostly hostile with some forgiving examples, the hostile Jews are described with qualifiers such as an individual who carries out an attack being 'insane' or a group has 'no choice but to respond with violence'-- the Arab descriptions rarely include such qualifiers. Again, this is understandable but I do want to explain it for potential readers to understand the bias that is inherent (and I would argue unavoidable) here. I enjoyed reading the earlier history the most--this is usually the case for me. The author describes the biblical foundation for seeking out specifically the land around Jerusalem and the generations of Jews who would dream of returning as more of an abstract ideal than an actual plan, the beginnings of Zionism, the poetry and other cultural works of the Jewish people, and the leaders of various movements along the way to finally fighting for their own nation that would become Israel. Other than then early history, I also enjoyed learning about the internal struggles and that there have been various divides between religion vs secular, Israeli Jew vs US Jew-- just the internal struggles that risk the overall plan for the people as a whole. It is really amazing that Israel has gotten to the position that it has considering it is surrounded by enemies who literally plan to exterminate it, its allies are mercurial and everchanging, its people are united but with internal struggles and historical differences and its very liberal immigration policies. I learned a lot. I would encourage anyone wanting to know more about the Jewish state of Israel to read this book. It is full of well-delivered facts. Yes, it's a bit dense and it is not a beach read, but it is very informative. If I only retain 10% of what I learned I will be much better off for it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    A unique and interesting account on the creation of Israel. Mr. Gordis does not start his biography on the state in 1948, but about 50 years before that with the creation of Zionism and how that idea created the state for Jews to come to and live free of persecution. Unlike Ahron Bregman’s balanced view of the state of Israel and the occupied territories, Mr. Gordis has a more slanted view towards the Jewish people and their right to the land. However, his view and reasoning aren’t as belligeren A unique and interesting account on the creation of Israel. Mr. Gordis does not start his biography on the state in 1948, but about 50 years before that with the creation of Zionism and how that idea created the state for Jews to come to and live free of persecution. Unlike Ahron Bregman’s balanced view of the state of Israel and the occupied territories, Mr. Gordis has a more slanted view towards the Jewish people and their right to the land. However, his view and reasoning aren’t as belligerent as some Right-wing Israelis and American Jews and non-Jews say in the media or on the internet, as their "love" for Israel is shorthand for their hatred of Arabs. Mr. Gordis describes the Jewish state as a set of compromises that one side was never willing to accommodate to, and even when they got what they wanted, they were never happy. Israel is a state of many different ideologies, views on how the Jewish state should survive, and the way Israeli society should function. A deep and interesting account on the different views of Zionism and how it created the state of Israel and the political, social, and economic culture and powerhouse it is today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ameya Joshi

    If you don't know too much about Israel - this is the perfect place to start without any doubt at all. As it says in the long title : it is a 'concise history' and although one may debate how long should something which is 'concise' be (at 500ish pages probably longer than what the word would lead you to believe) - it is breezy, brief and very readable. The book is accessible even for absolute novices - I appreciated the effort to go back into the history of Judaism and why the land of Israel If you don't know too much about Israel - this is the perfect place to start without any doubt at all. As it says in the long title : it is a 'concise history' and although one may debate how long should something which is 'concise' be (at 500ish pages probably longer than what the word would lead you to believe) - it is breezy, brief and very readable. The book is accessible even for absolute novices - I appreciated the effort to go back into the history of Judaism and why the land of Israel was so important was also covered - before the more expected part of history from Herzl and his Zionist Congress. Gordis balances between being exhaustive and getting too detailed very well; also providing not just a political history but also the cultural evolution and an introduction to the thought leaders of Israel. The post-1948 part also tries hard to provide multiple threads of vox populi, the changing political & religious winds and not just the official line. So while this is a book I wholeheartedly recommend -it is also a book I feel which must be read in conjunction with something else . Gordis is unapologetically, unabashedly Israeli and although he says he tries to make his perspective neutral - the bias stands out. The Arabs 'astonishingly reject peace-overtures', 'predictably respond with violence' and are unwilling to compromise while being dishonest, manipulative and unappreciative of the Israelis in general. The whole Israel-Palestine saga is more a narrative war today than anything else with both sides having made innumerable mistakes and intentional misdeeds, both having been victims and aggressors countless number of times and to go back in time to unravel the threads is essentially an exercise in 'who started it'. Depending on who tells you the story could lead to a completely different picture being painted. So read this for the Israeli side of things, but do follow it up with the other narrative as well. I would recommend : (1) The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan or (2) Palestine by Joe Sacco as two options.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amrit

    Danny Gordis is eloquent, polarizing, and weaves threads from Israel's complicated history in a coherent fashion. My uneducated admiration of the country comes from friends and family. After reading this book, I better understand the difference of opinion between European Jewry, American Jewry and the nation state of Israel. Danny Gordis is eloquent, polarizing, and weaves threads from Israel's complicated history in a coherent fashion. My uneducated admiration of the country comes from friends and family. After reading this book, I better understand the difference of opinion between European Jewry, American Jewry and the nation state of Israel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rodney Harvill

    This book covers the history of Israel from the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 1890’s to 2016, when it was published. Even for a small nation like Israel, a century of history is a lot of ground to cover; hence the book is a high-level survey of the relevant history. A few high points I noticed include: • The Zionist movement was prompted by rising anti-Semitism in Europe, especially in western Europe. As centuries-old restrictions on occupations were removed, Jews had been enterin This book covers the history of Israel from the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 1890’s to 2016, when it was published. Even for a small nation like Israel, a century of history is a lot of ground to cover; hence the book is a high-level survey of the relevant history. A few high points I noticed include: • The Zionist movement was prompted by rising anti-Semitism in Europe, especially in western Europe. As centuries-old restrictions on occupations were removed, Jews had been entering new fields and excelling, often outperforming their non-Jewish colleagues and arousing envy. Furthermore, those engaging in violence against the Jews in pogroms often called on them to go back to their homeland. The Zionists got the message and concluded that the only way to truly be safe in the world was to have a Jewish homeland where Jews would make and enforce the laws. • In 1903, there was a violent pogrom in Kishinev, Russia that claimed the lives of four dozen Jews. In the wake of this pogrom, Jewish poet Chaim Bialik wrote “In the City of Slaughter,” condemning both the violent persecutors as well as the Jews themselves for cowering in their basements while their families were brutalized. It was time for a new Jew who would no longer tolerate being abused. Interestingly enough, Kishinev may have cast a longer shadow than did the Holocaust, for it merely validated the lessons already learned at Kishinev. • While some Zionists worked towards formation of a Jewish homeland, the vision and diligent efforts of Eliezer Ben Yehuda restored Hebrew to the status of a spoken language, believing that a Jewish homeland needed its own Jewish language. Interestingly enough, he ran into resistance from Orthodox Jews, who thought he was profaning a sacred language. I find this absolutely stunning. When the Old Testament scriptures were written, Hebrew was a spoken language, covering every aspect of life, from the sacred to the profane. How did these Orthodox Jews fail to see this? • The Zionist movement prompted a series of Aliyot (plural of Aliyah), waves of Jewish immigration into Palestine, both before and after World War I. In the wake of the Balfour declaration and the formation of the British Mandate after World War I, the British initially encouraged Jewish immigration into Palestine but then restricted it in an effort to appease Arab opposition. These restrictions proved to be an obstacle for Jews fleeing Germany between Hitler’s rise to power and the outbreak of World War II. Many Jews attempting to immigrate to Palestine were forced to return to Europe to face death in Hitler’s concentration camps. After World War II, these restrictions remained in place, and Holocaust survivors attempting to immigrate found themselves locked up behind the barbed wire fences around internment camps. • Starting in the 1920’s Arabs in Palestine started resorting to violence against Jews in an effort to drive them out. The ad hoc defense forces formed up for self defense would go on to be the core of the armed forces Israel fielded in its 1948 Independence War. • During the Independence War, many Arabs in Palestine left their homes or were forced to leave. Simultaneously, a similar number of Jews in Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc., were driven out, forced to leave their homes and worldly possessions behind. Israel, lacking the resources to care for them, welcomed them. The Arab nations turned the Palestinian Arabs into permanent refugees. • The 1967 Six Day War was prompted a military mobilization and buildup by Israel’s neighbors, coupled with bellicose rhetoric about driving the Jews into the sea. Severely outnumbered, Israel recognized that it could not afford to let its enemies choose the time and place of battle and decided to launch a surprise attack that decimated enemy air forces and gained for Israel air superiority. As the primary threat was from Egypt, along with the need to reopen the Straits of Tiran, which Egypt had closed in violation of international law, Israel initially focused its efforts in the Sinai but soon recognized an opportunity to deal with other issues. For example, the Golan Heights had been used as high ground to periodically bombard Galilee. Furthermore, all Jewish holy sites were under Jordanian control in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since Israel was now at war with Syria and Jordan, there was a golden opportunity to gain control of these territories, and Israel took advantage of it. • After its overwhelming victory in the Six Day War, Israel became overconfident in its ability to defeat its enemies. This period of overconfidence, the conceptzia, ended with the surprise attack by Syria and Egypt on Yom Kippur in 1973. In the end, Israel was victorious in its third existential war in twenty-five years. • Because the Palestinians began using southern Lebanon as a base of operations from which they could fire rockets into Galilee, Israel decided to invade and occupy part of Lebanon to stop the rockets. I had wrongly assumed that being caught by surprise in the Yom Kippur War had made Israel more reactive to provocations. Instead, these rocket attacks were causing Israelis to have to sleep in their basements and in shelters. Israel hadn’t come as far as it had for its people to have to cower in their basements as at Kishinev, and the prime minister decided to take decisive action. • In deciding who qualified as sufficiently Jewish to be eligible for citizenship, Israel abandoned the traditional criterion of having a Jewish mother and followed the lead of the Nuremberg laws. If a person was Jewish enough to be hunted down by the Nazis, he was Jewish enough to be an Israeli citizen. Not surprisingly, Jews came to Israel from all over the world and brought with them the values of their places of origin. Not surprisingly, this has produced conflict, but it is also a part of their Israeli identity. • In its conflicts with its neighbors and with Palestinian terrorists, Israel has sometimes overreacted. The author acknowledges this and also points out that such overreactions tend to provoke soul searching in Israel and lead to changes in how Israelis wage war. What he finds frustrating, though, is that the world tends to spotlight Israel’s overreactions to a provocation and completely ignore the provocation, typically an act of terrorism, that led to the overreaction. One such incident occurred in 1953. A group of Palestinian infiltrators lobbed a grenade into an apartment in the middle of the night, killing a mother and two of her young children as they slept in their beds. In response, Israeli troops demolished Qibya, a West Bank border village, killing 50-60 inhabitants and provoking an international outcry over the reprisal but not over the Israelis killed in their sleep. The author and other Israelis tend to see such asymmetric international responses as the latest manifestation of Jew-hatred, and I am inclined to agree with him. No provocation, no response. If the provocations stop, so will the reprisals. My review barely scratches the surface. The book is very informative and well written.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Boze Herrington

    Periodically I become fascinated by the question of how the Jewish people have managed to survive 2,500 years of near-constant persecution. Toward the end of his book “Israel: A Concise History,” Daniel Gordis, a Jewish reporter living in Israel, points out that the Jews are the only ancient people still living in their ancestral homeland, practicing their ancient religion and speaking the same language they spoke thousands of years ago. A Washington Post columnist once called it the greatest mi Periodically I become fascinated by the question of how the Jewish people have managed to survive 2,500 years of near-constant persecution. Toward the end of his book “Israel: A Concise History,” Daniel Gordis, a Jewish reporter living in Israel, points out that the Jews are the only ancient people still living in their ancestral homeland, practicing their ancient religion and speaking the same language they spoke thousands of years ago. A Washington Post columnist once called it the greatest miracle of modern times; and yet, with the exception of weird Bible prophecy types, no one seems to care. I’ve taken informal polls of my Christian friends and very few of them were aware that the Jewish return to Israel in the 1940s (after 2,000 years of exile and diaspora) was an event of an unprecedented nature. To put it in perspective, no other race of people in world history has survived more than forty years of exile and returned home en masse; conquest and assimilation typically wipes them out. And yet the Jews have endured, despite the fact that they’re persecuted and marked for extermination seemingly everywhere they go. The question of why the Jews are so hated is a great mystery, one that Gordis touches on at various points in this accessible survey of modern Israel: he calls anti-semitism an irrational, almost super-human force that is capable of manifesting anywhere, citing, among countless other examples, a Russian pogrom in the 1900s in which Jewish women and children were viciously slaughtered by mobs. At the height of the second world war, the Germans continued to waste money and resources on rounding up and exterminating Jews as if the Holocaust mattered more to them than winning the war did. What accounts for that? And how did the Jews ultimately triumph against these and other enemies and rebuild their homeland? It’s possibly the most extraordinary drama of the twentieth century but again, no one seems to be talking about it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Glen Stott

    This was a long book, filled with information – way more than I could possibly pass along in a review. Gordis begins his History in the mid to late 1800s. He describes the birth of Zionism and what it stood for. He follows various movements to create a Jewish state, not all of them focused on the Middle East – Argentina, for example, was seriously considered. Gordis caries through the impact of the disastrous WWI & WWII, though the impact of WWII was significantly greater. He describes, in detai This was a long book, filled with information – way more than I could possibly pass along in a review. Gordis begins his History in the mid to late 1800s. He describes the birth of Zionism and what it stood for. He follows various movements to create a Jewish state, not all of them focused on the Middle East – Argentina, for example, was seriously considered. Gordis caries through the impact of the disastrous WWI & WWII, though the impact of WWII was significantly greater. He describes, in detail, the political movements and changes as Israel has struggled through several wars and battled terrorism. Politically it has vacillated between the right (religious) and left (secular). He outlines the various international relationships that have waxed and waned through the seventy years Israel has existed. The book is highly informative and points out the successes and the painful lessons learned through mistakes made along the way. In order to be as well informed as I can, I make it a habit to read different views on many subjects, including politics, science, history, etc. I try to read with an open mind to fairly evaluate what I read. This means I must also be willing to change my mind about any subject when new data or facts show me a change is appropriate. When I was younger, the need to change arose more often. At over seventy years old, I rarely read anything that requires a significant change. This book is an exception. I find I must change my mind about Israel in several ways. I have always viewed Jews as God’s first chosen people, along with my Christian belief that the Messiah will come, and they will finally recognize him. The Promised Land was given to them, but they lost it. In 1948, the United Nations gave part of Palestine to the Jews for their homeland. I have always thought the UN does not have the power to give a land to any people. That would be like giving California to Mexico, (which in today’s world, sometimes seems like a good idea 😉). So, while I have high hopes and best wishes for the Jewish people, I have felt they should not have taken Palestine and driven the Palestinians from their established homes and country. As it turns out, I was uninformed and misinformed about what happened. When the Jews developed serious intentions of making Palestine the Jewish homeland in the 1800’s, it was a sparsely populated land (mostly Arabs with some Jews) that was part of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). In the 1880s, Jews began moving in with no resistance from Turkey. After World War I and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain took Palestine as a colony. To begin with, Great Britain welcomed the Jews. As the Jews immigrated into Palestine they set up governments and communities. When the Arabic countries of the Middle East realized Jews were becoming the majority they tried to flood in Arabs and complained to Great Britain. Great Britain bowed to the Arabic nations and turned on the Jews. It established annual immigration limits of Jews while Arabs were allowed to rush in. After the end of World War II, Great Britain was attempting to extricate itself from the Middle East. It was in this situation that the UN stepped in to establish Palestine as a homeland for the Jews. For centuries Palestine had not been a country, but a satellite of other countries. It was not filled with an Arabic population with deep roots. Most of the Arabs and Jews were new arrivals that came in from the early part of the 20th century to the end of WWII. Israel was established as a democratic nation and the Jews were the majority, though in some areas Arabs did have significant representation. Ultimately, the Jews had to fight a revolutionary war to subdue Arabs who were unwilling to be governed by Jews. Most of the major Arabic countries fought against Israel. As Israel began to win the revolution, many of the Arabian Palestinians fled the country. Arabian countries refused to accept the refugees as citizens and kept them in refugee camps, where many are still today, along with their posterity. They don’t want to go back to the country they left, a democratic Israel. Instead they want Israel destroyed and the Jews removed from power. In the revolution, Great Britain supported the Arabs, but when Israel demonstrated a willingness to use force of arms against Great Britain, the British decided this was not a war they wanted to get into. The United States was not willing to assist Israel in their revolution, so Israel purchased arms from Czechoslovakia with money donated by Jews from around the world. Based upon this information, I now believe Israel has a valid right to exist. I have read other related books, “The New Middle East” by Shimon Perez (1993) for one, but none had nearly the depth of information in this book. Started 2018.03.18 - Finished 2018.03.31

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    Anyone wanting to voice an opinion on the situation in the Middle East would do well to read this book first. While I had always known that England, France, the US, and the UN had contributed to the royal mess that exists, I had no idea to what extent. Nor did I know how inhumane those nations and institutions could be. After WWII was over, and knowing full well what went on in the concentration camps, Britain's actions were deplorable when Jewish refugees sought to escape Europe and go to Pales Anyone wanting to voice an opinion on the situation in the Middle East would do well to read this book first. While I had always known that England, France, the US, and the UN had contributed to the royal mess that exists, I had no idea to what extent. Nor did I know how inhumane those nations and institutions could be. After WWII was over, and knowing full well what went on in the concentration camps, Britain's actions were deplorable when Jewish refugees sought to escape Europe and go to Palestine. "...they saw 'British soldiers using rifle butts, hose pipes, and tear gas against the survivors of death camps. Men, women, and children were forcibly taken off to prison ships, locked in cages below decks, and sent out of Palestine waters.' When the UNSCOP members returned to Jerusalem, 'they were pale with shock' at the British cruelty they had witnessed." The horrific dislocations of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Jews -- refugees going in both directions -- has never been resolved and haunts the Mideast the way the history of slavery haunts the US. Interestingly, while Israel has a Declaration of Independence, it has never ratified a Constitution. And, there are many Jews living within Israel who thought the region should be a cultural center for Jews, but never a Jewish state. The book does a good job of explaining all the different factions within the nation itself. An excellent history!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Talia Carner

    From near annihilation to resurrection. In the rich tapestry of Israel’s concise—yet dense and painful—history, Daniel Gordis weaves awe into the complexity of constructing a new kind of Jewish society. Out of a dream that would not die, the new nation is a self-reflective, spiritual and intellectual, yet one that has conquered swamps and dessert and taken arms time and again because there was never the option of turning back. “Israel” the book is an extraordinary reminder that “Israel” the cou From near annihilation to resurrection. In the rich tapestry of Israel’s concise—yet dense and painful—history, Daniel Gordis weaves awe into the complexity of constructing a new kind of Jewish society. Out of a dream that would not die, the new nation is a self-reflective, spiritual and intellectual, yet one that has conquered swamps and dessert and taken arms time and again because there was never the option of turning back. “Israel” the book is an extraordinary reminder that “Israel” the county, with its new language, secular culture and unparalleled achievements, is nothing short of a man-made miracle. -- Talia Carner, author HOTEL MOSCOW and JERUSALEM MAIDEN (and others).

  19. 4 out of 5

    M(^-__-^)M_ken_M(^-__-^)M

    History of Israel interesting read. It read like a collection of biographies of different people one after the other. Then in parts like news bulletins. Some people and events I had never heard about others a little, this book for me filled in some gaps about Israel, so its very good book easy to follow and if it interests you go ahead have a go. Definately enlightened me on troubles facing people living in that part of the world and how complicated it is. Recommend it to anyone who is a student History of Israel interesting read. It read like a collection of biographies of different people one after the other. Then in parts like news bulletins. Some people and events I had never heard about others a little, this book for me filled in some gaps about Israel, so its very good book easy to follow and if it interests you go ahead have a go. Definately enlightened me on troubles facing people living in that part of the world and how complicated it is. Recommend it to anyone who is a student of history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Gross

    Probably the best one volume history of Israel. On the plus side, the writing is generally clear and politics-free. The bits of poetry are welcome. On the negative side, the outlook is a little to the left of center but not obnoxiously so.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    While the word 'concise' in the title may be a marketing ploy, Gordis touches all the necessary basis in a very readable style and easy to follow format, which means this the perfect book for an overview of the founding and first seven decades of Israel's existence. While the word 'concise' in the title may be a marketing ploy, Gordis touches all the necessary basis in a very readable style and easy to follow format, which means this the perfect book for an overview of the founding and first seven decades of Israel's existence.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I wanted to understand the situation in Israel better and this book was great. It's a great history of the area, well written and very easy to read. I wanted to understand the situation in Israel better and this book was great. It's a great history of the area, well written and very easy to read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Nice mixture of history and many references to the poems, books and writers who voiced the dreams and debacles of the Jewish people during their struggle for a homeland.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Igor Putina

    Great book. Easy to listen, interesting and well written!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Curran

    “The story of the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland became, in short, one of the great dramas in the history of humankind.” A very precise and detailed history of the Jewish people and the rebirth/creation of the Jewish state Israel. Gordis takes us through history, as seen in 2 SOME SPOT OF A NATIVE LAND: "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed."—Psalm 126 Giordis gives us the story of the Israelites, being trapped in Egypt by Pharaoh, who “The story of the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland became, in short, one of the great dramas in the history of humankind.” A very precise and detailed history of the Jewish people and the rebirth/creation of the Jewish state Israel. Gordis takes us through history, as seen in 2 SOME SPOT OF A NATIVE LAND: "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed."—Psalm 126 Giordis gives us the story of the Israelites, being trapped in Egypt by Pharaoh, who viewed them for the potentiality for liberation and leaving Egypt. (To break the shackles of a fervent slavery forced upon them...) "According to the biblical account, the land was occupied by seven different nations, and others menaced from the outside. Wars were frequent, and several models of Israelite political leadership failed. Eventually, weary from the never-ending struggle to stay secure in the land, the Israelites—composed of twelve different tribes—demanded a king. The Israelites’ first king, Saul, was deeply flawed, and the young David soon replaced him. Seemingly small and self-effacing at first, David became a skilled military commander and established a stable monarchy and vast kingdom. (See Map 1.) Though David, too, was flawed (he could be ruthless, for example), the Bible tells a story in which he embodied vision, power, spiritual sensitivity—he was described as a leader as close to the ideal of perfection as a person of flesh and blood could be. Is it then any wonder that at the First Zionist Congress, when one of the delegates sought to express the grandeur that they felt in Herzl’s presence, he wrote: Before us rose a marvelous and exalted figure, kingly in bearing and stature, with deep eyes in which could be read quiet majesty and unuttered sorrow. . . . [I]t is a royal scion of the House of David, risen from among the dead, clothed in legend and fantasy and beauty. Part of the magic and the power of the First Zionist Congress was that it seemed to its participants the beginning of the restoration of a previous glory, a glory the Jews had experienced thousands of years earlier, a flourishing that they had known before—in the Land of Israel. David passed the kingdom on to his son, Solomon, who built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BCE. The Temple became the epicenter of Israelite religious life. It was there that sacrifices were offered and to there that Israelites made pilgrimages three times a year. Jerusalem and the Temple also served, for all intents and purposes, as the capital of the Israelite world. The Temple Mount, on which the Temple was situated, would become sacred not only to Jews, because both the First and Second Temples stood there, but to Christians and Muslims, as well. To Christians, it was the place where Jesus preached against corruption in the Temple and expelled moneychangers. To Muslims, the Temple Mount’s sanctity would stem from the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which would be completed there in 691–692 CE to commemorate the site from which Muslim tradition asserts that Mohammed ascended to heaven." Gordis goes on to describe the Assyrian Empire, located where northern Iraq is nowadays. Also to describe the Babylonians as well as the Egyptians: "Still another central dimension of Israeli life today was introduced thousands of years earlier in the Bible. As had always been the case in that region, and still is—the kingdoms were surrounded by powerful enemies. To the north lay the Assyrian Empire, situated in what today is northern Iraq. (See Map 1.) A brutal military power, it threatened many of the states to the west of the Euphrates River, Israel and Judea among them. In addition to Assyria, the north was home to yet another menacing power: Aram. Due east lay Babylonia, an empire that also often joined the warring fray. Complicating matters even further was the massive Egyptian empire to the south. Any power that sought to control the region needed to conquer the land on which the kingdoms of Israel and Judea were situated. In many ways, the Jewish kingdoms were damned no matter what the outcome: whichever power triumphed would eventually subjugate them. That, too, is a lens through which contemporary Israel sees its own challenges. Even then, the Middle East was a complicated region. Even then, survival was a constant struggle." The first chapters are focused and concerned with ancient history and the first Zionist congresses, their hopes to have back their indigenous land, and find a home after many years of persecution and exile. The Babylonians destroyed the first temple and stamped out Jewish life under Nebuchadnezzar who ruthlessly exacted dominance. Jeremiah, a prophet who witnessed the fall of Jerusalem and who then prophesied during the exile, insisted that the brutal turn of events did not have to spell the end of their people. “Build houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that you may be increased there, and not diminished.” Jeremiah was advocating both hope and patience; the covenant between the Jews and their God, he insisted, was not over, but they had to wait until powers greater than themselves returned them to Zion. So it goes on to describe the defeat of the Babylonians by Cyrus, King of Persia, who defeated the Babylonians in 539 BCE, informed the exiles that they could return home and rebuild the Temple. “Any of you of all [God’s] people . . . let him go up [to Jerusalem].” We do not know precisely what portion of the exiled community chose to return to Zion and to rebuild the Temple, but it was apparently a small percentage. Then later with the fall of the Persian Empire, the area came under control of Alexander the Great, and the severity and harshness that followed as a consequence. The matter of Jews embracing Hellenistic ways/religious polytheistic phenomena is addressed and the lack of freedom of religion was apparent under such rule. In response to Greek suppression of Jewish religious liberty, Jewish resistance groups took up arms in what would become the most significant Jewish display of power since the Kingdom of David. In 164 BCE, a small band of Jews known as the Maccabees initiated a successful revolt against the Greeks. The Maccabees managed to create the first autonomous Jewish state in the Land of Israel in more than four hundred years, and Jews would forever celebrate that success through the holiday of Hanukkah. The Jews were sovereign for about a century, however, after which they became a vassal state once more, this time to the Roman Empire. At first, life under Roman rule was fairly tolerable. Rome was far from Judea, and daily life for those Israelites living in the Land of Israel was not a crucial issue for the Roman leaders. Israelites were mostly left to their own devices, though like all subjugated peoples of that era, they were obliged to pay heavy taxes. With time, though, that changed. Roman rule grew increasingly oppressive—the Romans raised taxes and gradually erased Jewish religious autonomy. In 6 CE, Rome instituted direct rule of Judea, ending even the illusion of Jewish sovereignty. Once again, the Jewish yearning for sovereignty led to rebellion. A small group, this time known as the Zealots, advocated military uprising against the Romans. At first, when rebellion actually broke out in 66 CE, the rebels forced the Romans to retreat. The Romans, however, were a massive power, and the rebelling Judeans were no match for them. By 70 CE, the Romans were ready to storm Jerusalem. The army besieged the city, allowing nothing to enter or exit. Food supplies ran out, and the population began to starve; soon thereafter, the Romans broke through Jerusalem’s walls. They razed the city of Jerusalem and burned the Second Temple to the ground. The Romans massacred much of the Jewish population, and exiled many of the region’s remaining Jews, inaugurating a two-thousand-year-long exile. The Second Jewish Commonwealth had come to a brutal end. Jerusalem was no longer. The drive not to succumb to Roman rule was so impassioned, however, that a few pockets of resistance remained. The best known, the Zealots’ outpost on Masada (a fortified mountain on the western edge of the Dead Sea), held out the longest. But they, too, were doomed to defeat; Rome was simply too massive, and the Zealots knew it. The Romans eventually surrounded them, but rather than let the Romans kill them—or worse, sell them into slavery or prostitution—these last Jewish fighters decided to take their own lives. A few people killed almost all the women, children, and most of the men, until one remaining Zealot killed himself; of the almost one thousand Jews on Masada, only two women and five children were found alive.12 The long war against Rome had exacted a horrific price. Josephus, the historian who provides most of the information we have about that period, notes that hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the war, while many others were sold into slavery or forced to work in Roman mines. As seen in 3 A CONVERSATION, NOT AN IDEOLOGY Zionist Divisions at the Turn of the Century Kishinev exists wherever Jews undergo bodily or spiritual torture, wherever their self-respect is injured and their property despoiled because they are Jews. Let us save those who can still be saved! —Theodor Herzl at the Sixth Zionist Congress, 1903 Gordis gives us more of the persecution and rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and across the globe, and the horrors of the Kishinev progrom of 1903 where Jewish men, women and children were violated, killed and abused. (Many women raped and killed and others mutilated as well as tortured and abused...) Plus the scathing rebuttal of the failure of Jewish resistance to defend themselves or stand up to this dreadful oppressive violence and volatile hatred. Without dwelling too long on the modern and ancient, as well as medieval, timeframes, the book is a long and extensive guide illustrating the dizzying struggle of the Jewish people towards statehood and liberation. The invention of the word Palestine etymologically born from Philistine coined by the Roman Emperor Hadrian: Almost 2,000 years ago, the Roman Emperor Hadrian cursed the Jewish People and decreed that Judea should be henceforth called "Palestine" after the Philistines, an ancient enemy of Israel that had disappeared from the world's stage more than 600 years earlier. It was his final twist of the knife and legacy after wars, massacres, persecutions, and exiles that had largely extinguished the Jewish presence from Judea. Today, the modern enemies of a resurrected Jewish Nation have dusted off Hadrian's curse and are attempting to pull off a monumental theft: the Arab world (The continual rise of Arab supremacy and Arab colonialism and radical Islamists hating and inciting violence towards Jewish people under the guise of anti-Zionism... If the Palestinians and Israelis can peacefully co-exist then entities such as Hamas or Hezbollah, who use children as soldiers and suicide bombers must actually take part in such a process rather than trying to fool the international community with their two-faced propaganda where they say they want peace but their actions reflect a totally different notion that they deny Israel its right to exist and also deny any possibility of a two state solution by not meeting the other side half way... They are showing that a two state solution would only bring more chaos and destruction.) have reincarnated "Palestine" (In many examples where there is no interest in constructive dialogue or participation in peaceful co-existence...) to steal Israel's heritage and the Land of the Jewish People. Incidentally it is often seen in the present that Arab Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are seen in academic roles that see Israel for what it is: A democratic, multicultural and technological, as well as progressive state. If there is an issue with further settlements being built then this should be raised in a political way and combated using policy rather than resorting to terror and violence. The apparent hypocrisy of those on the left that want to destroy a sovereign state is blatant and demeaning. A multicultural hub of innovation and advanced medical/technological brilliance doesn't deserve to be extinguished. Israelis have worked too hard and battled too long to let that happen and the reality is they are not going anywhere else. They are home to stay. The long occupation of the decadent Ottoman empire in modern times, when it comes to the area known as Palestine, and the later British mandate occupation under the British empire. The intense rivalry and competition between the Jews and Arabs was to afflict the British administration for virtually their entire period of governance. The Ottomans and the British (at the time...) were no friends to the early Zionists, even with the Balfour agreement, the British did not care about Jews or Arabs but only their own agendas and power being maintained. It was a volatile and imperialistic oppressor (Often just as toxic and vitriolic as the Ottoman Empire had been with occupied territories...) who thought to control the area in a similar manner to the Romans who came long before them. 8 INDEPENDENCE The State Is Born By virtue of our natural and historic right . . . we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel. —Israel’s Declaration of Independence The War of Independence was a complex and intense struggle. This battle, the battle for Lydda, has become emblematic in the “war of narratives” not only over Israel’s War of Independence but much of Israel’s history. “Great wars in history eventually became great wars about history,” wrote Michael Oren, a leading historian of Israel (and later Israel’s ambassador to the United States),37 and no country in the world has evoked a “war about history” as vociferous as the one still waging about Israel. Why is that? As Oren notes, “The unusual ferocity of the debate over Arab-Israeli history is directly related to the singularly high stakes involved. The adversaries are not merely vying for space on university bookshelves, but grappling with issues that have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people: Israel’s security, the rights of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jerusalem.”38 Nor is this exclusively a battle of Israelis versus Arabs; among Israelis themselves, a group of scholars known as the “new historians” have sought at numerous turns to upend Israel’s mainstream narrative about the conflict. And they are unabashed about their aims. As Israeli Ilan Pappe—a member of this group—put it, the goal is to “reconsider the validity of the quest for a Jewish nation-state in what used to be geographic Palestine.” The war over history, then, is a war over Israel’s legitimacy, and therefore, over its future. It is thus not surprising that key moments in the War of Independence, and particularly those that contributed to the flood of Palestinian Arabs leaving Israel (a politically fraught issue to this very day), would become a key battleground between these various schools of historians. The biggest losers in the conflict were Palestine’s Arabs, who came to refer to this period as the Nakba, “the Catastrophe.” Some seven hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs were displaced by the war and thousands more died. It was a terrible human toll. That so many Palestinian Arabs had to leave their homes was undeniably heartbreaking. And Israel had, without doubt, played a role in their displacement. At the same time, however, what turned the heartbreak into genuine human tragedy was the decision of their new host countries to deliberately perpetuate their homelessness to foment international condemnation of Israel. Maintaining the refugee status of the Palestinians who had entered their countries gave the Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, and Egyptians a card they were intent on playing as the conflict unfolded. Israel did precisely the opposite with Jews who were homeless. When hundreds of thousands of Jews evicted from Arab countries reached Israel’s shores, the Jewish state granted them citizenship. One was a response of cynicism and manipulation, while the other was a commitment to peoplehood and a vision of a brighter future. Those differing responses made all the difference in what the future would hold for each population. IN THE TWO YEARS that had passed since the UN vote on November 29, 1947, Israel had declared independence, had triumphed in a war that its Arab neighbors had initiated in order to destroy it and that many thought Israel could not survive, and had made tremendous progress on numerous fronts. Ben-Gurion, though, was anything but naive. He understood that the very existence of the Jewish state was anathema to Israel’s Arab neighbors, and he assumed—correctly—that they would simply regroup in order to attack once again. Eventually, the war was bound to resume. For now, though, the prime minister put war out of his mind and turned his attention elsewhere. It was time to build a nation. Overall, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis is a very informative book, that covers the history of the state of Israel, the Jewish people throughout a long history, the 1967 six day war, the Eichmann trial and confronting the holocaust, the rise of Palestinian nationalism, the PLO, Hamas and extreme tactics of Yasser Arafat, the Jewish renaissance, and issues involving occupation and settlements and the future for Israel on the international stage. The stability and only Jewish state in existence, surrounded by 22 Arab states, and finding an old home still outnumbered by hostile entities, they have forged a renewed indigenous dream while many others around them are not progressive or democratic Israel has emerged as a beacon of modernisation. Cultivating the land and turning the once veracious desert into a farming success has transformed the region from its Ottoman bleakness and temperament wilderness. The story of Israel from Gordis shows us a present and future where Arabs and Jews, who have lived together for centuries, can peacefully exist together and continue making the dream a reality. “Zionism was centered around the Jewish future and the subject of a Jewish national home—but precisely how those needs ought to be met would remain the subject of often messy and acrimonious disagreement. As much as it was a movement, Zionism was actually a complex and often feisty conversation.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    To cover such a complex, contested, and long history in a concise format (yes, 560 pages is concise, given the topic) is a remarkable achievement. I learned a lot.

  27. 4 out of 5

    thereadytraveller

    If you’ve ever wanted to try and get some understanding of the whole “Middle East situation”, as it particularly pertains to Israel, there is no better place to start than Gordis’s superb historical narrative Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn. Covering more than 3,000 years from before the time when Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BC, this book delivers a wealth of historical information on the Jewish people and their subsequent 2,000 year exile after If you’ve ever wanted to try and get some understanding of the whole “Middle East situation”, as it particularly pertains to Israel, there is no better place to start than Gordis’s superb historical narrative Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn. Covering more than 3,000 years from before the time when Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BC, this book delivers a wealth of historical information on the Jewish people and their subsequent 2,000 year exile after the Roman massacres in 66 CE. In easily accessible fashion Gordis lays out all of the important “milestones” that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel. Significant events such as the rampant anti-Semitism across Europe that resulted in more than 2.5 million Jews departing Eastern Europe before WWI, the beginnings of the Zionist movement, the establishment of a Jewish National Fund to purchase and develop land in Palestine, the Balfour declaration and the horrors and Holocaust of WWII, after which one-third of the world’s Jews (six million) were killed, are all covered so as to provide some sort of appreciation as to why Israel is the state that it is today. Gordis also provides an excellent outline of the numerous conflicts that have involved Israel in order to both achieve and retain its statehood including the Israeli War of Independence, Sinai War, Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War. Particular attention is also paid to the politics of the country as well as shedding light on how the Jewish religious political parties have increasingly paid a greater part in how the country is shaped. As could reasonably be expected when history is retold from a Jewish perspective, there are biases that surface. However, Gordis manages to retain enough balance so that the main historical thrust is not warped. I've come away knowing a lot more about the history of this small but vitally important country. I've also come away with a grudging respect for the people who have managed to reestablish a home in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, like most people, I still have no idea about how the middle east/Palestinian problem might one day be solved.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Interesting book showing the birth pains this rebirth of the nation has gone through. So many things that are quite amazing like the immigration of huge numbers of people. It also shows the damed if you do damed if you don't situation that Israelis find themselves in. Wanting peace with their neighbors and if they give in not finding it. Giving up west bank only to find new war and terrorism coming down on them. The Oslo accord is an example of this that utterly failed from Israeli perspective. Th Interesting book showing the birth pains this rebirth of the nation has gone through. So many things that are quite amazing like the immigration of huge numbers of people. It also shows the damed if you do damed if you don't situation that Israelis find themselves in. Wanting peace with their neighbors and if they give in not finding it. Giving up west bank only to find new war and terrorism coming down on them. The Oslo accord is an example of this that utterly failed from Israeli perspective. This little nation the size of NJ has contributed in a huge way to the rest of the world yet gets no credit. Another amazing thing is how of all the horrible nations in the world at the UN only Israel had been sanctioned by the UN at certain times. Even when Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Cuba massacred thousands of their own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I took this book with me on my trip to Israel. While our secular Jewish guide drove us back to the cruise ship, I was able to ask him intelligent questions based on the book. I learned about the aliyahs, what the Orthodox Jews are truly like (I had no idea the men do not work and live off the government). I came to understand Zionism, the history of the wars and the land very well through this book and then it was all capped off being there. The author is not a very religious Jewish man, but I w I took this book with me on my trip to Israel. While our secular Jewish guide drove us back to the cruise ship, I was able to ask him intelligent questions based on the book. I learned about the aliyahs, what the Orthodox Jews are truly like (I had no idea the men do not work and live off the government). I came to understand Zionism, the history of the wars and the land very well through this book and then it was all capped off being there. The author is not a very religious Jewish man, but I was able to see Biblical history through the guides we had on the 3 days we were there. The book is well-written, easy to read. The author does not get bogged down with details. I highly recommend reading this book before one goes to Israel. I had wished I had also been able to find a book about Israel that tied in more of the Bible but I did not find one so I just had this one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abdul Hannan

    I think it's a one-sided story of a very complex history. I think it's a one-sided story of a very complex history.

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