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1949: The First Israelis Paperback – April 15, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0805058963 ISBN-10: 0805058966 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books by Henry Holt and Company; First Edition edition (April 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805058966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805058963
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

First published in 1986 in Israel, Tom Segev's book excited controversy by suggesting that the founders of the Jewish state courted war in 1948 by refusing to negotiate in good faith with Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. Segev cites, for instance, the argument of finance minister David Horowitz that the West Bank should be annexed not to Israel but to Jordan, because the West Bank would be a financial burden on any power that occupied it and Jordan might therefore become dependent on Israel for assistance--and thus easy to manipulate politically. Segev also explores the ideological disagreements among Israel's founders, some of which are being revisited today in the clash between religious and secular politicians. --Gregory McNamee

From Library Journal

Segev is a well-known Israeli journalist with a degree in history from Boston University. This book, a translation from the original Hebrew, recounts the events during the first year of Israeli independence. The book is divided into four parts: "Between Jews and Arabs"; "Between Veterans and Newcomers"; "Between the Orthodox and the Secular"; "Between the Vision and Reality." Based on unpublished official and personal records, it is an unsentimental and balanced view of life in Israel. It contains many new and often shocking revelations that will no doubt be upsetting to some. At the same time it is a highly interesting book of value to the general public and historians alike. Jehuda Reinharz, Near Eastern & Judaic Studies Dept., Brandeis Univ., Waltham, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By B. H. Macy on August 4, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been searching for information around the 1949 magic carpet operation, since my parents were part of that operation. Tom Segev's book gives a very complete view of the events around the immigration, both politically and within Israel where they had the task of assimilating the new settlers. And there are tidbits in my parents letters home that sync up perfectly with what Tom is describing! I give kudos to Mr Segev for painting a realistic picture of the struggles of that time period, complete with all the warts! Tom Segev's book is far more comprehensive about 1949 events in Israel then any other reference I have found to date.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a really fantastic book and one of the few to really write about the times in a completely unbiased fashion. It manages to touch upon every aspect of Israeli life in 1949, from war, to immigration, to education, to corruption, to triumph.
In addition to accurate and detailed occurences and the events leading up to them, intimate details of both significant and little known players are discussed.
If you want to know what was really going on during that time and what the principals were thinking, read this book.
If you're sick of reading literature that is either Pro-Arab or Pro-Israeli, read this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on December 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Perhaps Segev's finest work next to One Palestine, Complete, 1949 chronicles the often messy business of building the Jewish state. From the conflict between Arabs and Israelis, the tensions between native born Israelis and immigrants, the battles between religious and secular Jews, and the spotty, sometimes faulty business of developing an "Israeli" identity, Segev provides a handy view of topics seldom (until recently) treated by Israeli historians. He does what American historians have known for sometime: the official historical version of a nation's development is often quite at odds to what actually occurred; or, in the case of the new Israeli historians, what can now be read in (recently opened) Israeli government documents. Unless you come to this book with a hard and fast agenda, it will be well worth your time to read and absorb its fascinating thesis and historical details.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D.C.Hudson on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book tarnishes the glow of the romantic fairy tales about Israel's being founded by heroic pioneers who made an empty desert bloom. One does not have to be a complete cynic to believe that people of Arab descent in the territory from which Israel was carved were uprooted and driven from their homes or that there were significant conflicts among those who arrived from the diaspora to settle in the Jewish homeland. Myths however "needed" for psychological comfort make it more difficult to deal with today's problems and to find solutions.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bill K. on June 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Tom Segev gives an honest account of Israel's first days. One develops a clear understanding of the many challenges (including defense, absorption of new immigrants, and a decent standard of living for all) that faced Israelis and their government. After reading this book, one cannot but appreciate the tremendous contribution of Ben-Gurion's pragmatic leadership in ensuring Israel's survival during this difficult period and in shaping Israel's future. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to gain an insight into the harsh realities of nation building. After reading this book, they will have a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices all made to make Israel a reality in 1948-1949.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tatiana Waisberg on May 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an obligatory reading for anyone interested in Zionism and Israeli culture.
The book unfolds a surprising narrative of the early conflicts faced by the newborn Israeli State - Arabs v. Jews, Immigrants v. new Jewish Immigrants, Secular v. Religious - that overcomes the traditional approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The book touches sensitive subjects related to the discrimination against new Jewish immigrants and religious groups inside the Israeli establishment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo on March 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Tom Segev has written a great, unbiased account of the early days of the State of Israel. It's clear why it caused such an outcry when it came out, as he debunks many self-glorifying myths of the country's early days. Some of it may be hard to stomach but it is all based on documentation that had just been declassified at the time. To criticize a country does not mean that one hates it; despite what other reviewers have said, Mr. Segev never comes across as an Israel hater. You may dislike what he says, but in order to disagree one has to produce primary sources, and not skewed stats, as counterarguments.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Smith on October 18, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
1949 was a very compelling read and Mr. Segev's account is wonderfully done. I enjoyed this work immensely and learned a lot about the just who those first Israelis were and the adversity they had to overcome to create a state and society out of such an ethnically, religiously and politically diverse group of people. David Ben-Gurion is an amazing political figure and the more I learn the more I think he deserves to stand in the upper echelons of political figures.

What really amazes me is how Ben-Gurion was able to steer Israel through the extremely turbulent waters of war, immigration and state building and keep Israel intact as a democratic state. There were so many sides battling for dominance within this tiny, infant nation, between the secularists, religious, socialists, communists, criminals and terrorists, the singular most amazing incident is the lack of a civil war ever erupting. There were so many people pulling in different directions and then on top of that there were hundreds of thousands of new immigrants that it was a huge feat for this nation to remain together. I think that without the war and the ever looming possibility of destruction then there in all probability would have been a civil war.

This book helped to explode some myths of the creation of the state of Israel, and so many people have derided this work because it treats the subject honestly using the evidence from the Israeli archives and government. Those on who are pro-Israel (to a fault) feel they have to disparage this work, while those who are anti-Israel hold this book up to demonize the state, but the truth is that in war every nation commits excesses. Soldiers become different people and actions that would have been unthinkable become acceptable.
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