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In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands Paperback – October 25, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300177984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300177985
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this epic examination, celebrated historian Gilbert (the six-volume biography of Winston Churchill) explores the evolution of Judaism and Islam through a lens of Middle Eastern stability. Islam upholds some of Judaism's practices, like strict dietary laws, circumcision, and multiple prayers daily, and followers of both religions have historically banded together during holy wars in opposition to Christianity. Yet early relations between Jews and Muslims were often precarious, and the treatment Jews received was often dependent on the manner in which the Islamic leader at the time interpreted "the two extremes of protection and intolerance," a conflict that Gilbert believes "has defined the Muslim-Jewish relationship to this day." Indeed, under the rule of the second Caliph, Jews volunteered as soldiers and guides and offered provisions for their Muslim allies, whereas under the eighth Caliph, Jews and Christians were equally segregated and oppressed. With a comprehensive yet accessible approach, Gilbert scrutinizes the roles that Muslims and Jews have played and continue to play in the Middle East, and the impact of this on the world, unearthing the ongoing struggles these religions have faced over their 1400 years of shared history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'... a nonstop barrage of compelling facts from a breathtakingly wide collection of archives, to build up an overwhelming portrait of a people's suffering.' (Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times) 'A valuable, balanced contribution.' (Iain Finlayson, The Times) 'Gilbert's scholarship is meticulous, his tone balanced, and he takes care to include painstaking details.' (Marina Benjamin, London Evening Standard) 'Gilbert fluently recounts the ups and downs of Jewish-Arab relations over the centuries.' (Adam LeBor, Literary Review) 'Gilbert's book is an illuminating and a moving account of the history of the Jews in Arab lands.' (Avi Shlaim, Financial Times) 'Hard-hitting and frequently harrowing' (Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday)"

More About the Author

Sir Martin Gilbert is one of the leading historians of his generation. An Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford - of which he was a fellow for thirty years - he is the official biographer of Churchill and the author of eighty books, among them Churchill - A Life and The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust. For more information please visit http://www.martingilbert

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Customer Reviews

Sir Martin Gilbert has done it again.
S. Cranow
Overall I recommend this book if you are widely interested in the subject.
Well documented it is also written in a clear and simple prose.
max herzberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By L. King on September 17, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Sir Martin Gilbert has created a master work and generational touchstone on the history of Jewish/Muslim relations from the time of Muhammed to the present day. The flowing narrative consolidates a wide range of reference material including books by Mark Cohen, Gotein,Hitti, Hourani, Levin, Lewis ,Satloff, Shulewitz, Stillman, Troper (and many others), historical archives, government documents and the author's personal interviews and correspondence with members of the Oriental Jewish community.Read more ›
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jew from Egypt on January 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The history of Jews in the Arab world is very long and detailed. However, Gilbert's work provides a great overview even though it is by necessity brief.

As a Jewish refugee from Egypt, I found his descriptions and analyses highly accurate. Personal history confirms the spectrum of atrocious behaviours tempered by the pockets of kindness and humanity. It was rather interesting to read about Edna Anzarut's experiences for instance, particularly given that she and her parents were, for a brief period, our neighbours in Alexandria. Her story is of course more interesting than could be described in a volume such as Gilbert's. I also found some revelations, particularly the fact that Dr Max Salame was Nasser's dentist. He was mine as well and probably one of the first in Egypt to do root canal therapy, showing the significant contribution made by Jews to the country before it was ethnically cleansed by Nasser.

Gilbert does a great job describing the constant insecurity pervading the atmosphere in the country,the fact that "good times" were merely the absence of bad ones and the fact that one could never be sure that a classmate would not use the label 'dirty Jew' at the drop of a hat, or that a teacher would not openly humiliate us in class. The July 26 speeches by Nasser were always awaited with dread and Jews would listen to at least three overseas radio stations, just to know what was really going on.

Gilbert's narrative is story-like, but apart from some very minor glitches, his history is outstanding.

I have come to know the history of a number of my fellow Jews from Egypt, including a Karaiite Jew whose relative was hanged in Cairo. Their personal histories are testament to the accuracy of Gilbert's narrative.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By James Comfort on September 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand the relationship of Jews living in Muslim lands for over 1400 years. The best summary of this history is when Gilbert quotes Bernard Lewis, to the effect "the Jews were never free from discrimination, but only rarely subject to persecution The situation of Jews living under Islamic rulers was never as bad as in Christendom at its worst, nor ever as good as in Christendom at its best." Gilbert then goes on to describe the life of Jews since the time of Mohammed to the present day. There were over 900,000 Jews living in Muslim lands, and now there are few. To learn and understand this history, there is nothing as good as Gilbert's book. I have read most of his eighty books, and this one stands with the others.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By LES SCHRIEBER on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book by a distinguished British historian. It challenges the commonly held view that Jews in Muslim lands were treated well. Mr Gilbert presents a compelling, balanced account of Jewish-Muslim relations over the past 1400 years. There were golden periods in Egypt,Iran and Iraq during which Jews were treated well, were free to practice their religion and rose to prominence in the professions and in government. However, more often they were regarded as second class citizens,dhimmi,and were subject to physical attacks.With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 the position of these Jews became progressively more intolerable. They were frequently targets of anti-Zionist sentiment. The only solution became mass migration, but they had to leave behind virtually all of their possessions. In 2010 there are only a few thousand Jews left in all the Muslim lands combined.800,000 were expelled or simply departed. This has brought an end to 1400 years of shared existence between Jews and Muslims. On the positive side, although Jews were often treated as second class citizens they fared better than their co-religionists in Christian Europe. There were no equivalents of the Spanish inquisition or The Holocaust.

In summary, for those interested in the history of Muslim-Jewish relations this book will be a worthy addition to their library.
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