5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2011
David Ben-Gurion and the Jewish Renaissance offers an insightful and fresh examination of the decades just preceding and following the founding of the State of Israel through the lens of its first Prime Minister. The book begins with a study of the philosophical issues surrounding the renewal of Jewish nationalism in the modern world including Ben-Gurion's synthesis of Greek philosophy and Biblical ethics and the effort of Ben-Gurion as both a statesman and practical politician to transform the Jewish People from living as a powerless minority into an independent society able to deal with the complexities of geopolitics and democratic governance. Aronson examines both Ben-Gurion's political philosophy and how he dealt with the major activities involved in the founding of the state: the creation of a citizen army that would serve also as the vehicle for uniting diverse groups of Jewish immigrants from European Holocaust survivors to Jewish refugees from the Arab world; sustaining a realistic foreign policy in a volatile region among enemies determined to prevent and then destroy the Jewish State; developing a framework for governing a fractious people in a manner that allows for democratic expression and minority rights while giving the political leadership sufficient authority to govern for a sustained period of time, an objective that ultimately eluded Ben-Gurion. Aronson contrasts and defends Ben-Gurion's approach, despite his occasional errors and failures, with and against that of both the Left and the Right with the adherence of the Left to ideological preconceptions and of the Right to a romantic vision of political power. The book is particularly helpful in showing the value of Ben-Gurion's mix of idealism and pragmatism in the development of relations with Germany and with the establishment of a nuclear deterrent (in which France played a key role). The author also explains the impossibility of effective action against the Nazis by the leadership of the Yishuv (the Jewish community in pre-state Palestine) concurrent with the need to try something and the unfairness of the charge in light of this reality from the Left and the Right that Ben-Gurion didn't do enough to save Jews from the Holocaust (most Jews having been murdered before the tide of war changed and the fear of the Allies that rescue of Jews would be seen as proving Hitler's contention that they were fighting for the Jews). Last, Aronson discusses Ben-Gurion's ambivalent relationship with the British, his philosophical admiration for the British Parliamentary system and his difficult position during World War II as a leader who strove to fight the White Paper barring further immigration into Palestine while fighting with the British against Hitler, at one point the only hope for the survival of democratic civilization. Some of the philosophical discourse in the book is difficult compared to the narrative of political events but it enriches one's perspective of a flawed but great visionary and practical statesman. The insights and facts contained in this volume are helpful in understanding the current domestic and geopolitical circumstances facing Israel today. Lawrence Kohn
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2013
i'm not smart enough for this book. i was about to spend 3 weeks in israel, & wanting an overview of the country's modern history i thought a biography of david ben-gurion would enlighten me. this is not that book. it gets high ratings, probably well-deserved, but i'm guessing they're from zionist theory intellectuals & experts. if you don't have an at-hand, working knowledge of the theories of schopenhauer, nitzsche, hegel, kant, marx & countless other thinkers from ancient cultures & the renaissance plus talmudic law, don't bother - you will likely get hopelessly bogged down. if you do, you'll probably love it. i struggled through the first quarter of this arcane book & realized i was only getting deeper & deeper in the weeds. i give it 2 stars because it impressed me with how deeply ben-gurion, katznelson, weitzmann et. al thought through their zionist principles, but i would've had to study for years to follow the nuances of them. thankfully, a historian friend of mine turned me on to tom segev's "one palestine complete", which turned out to be just what i was looking for & i highly recommend.