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Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (Pluto Middle Eastern Studies) Paperback – December 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0745308197 ISBN-10: 0745308198 Edition: First Edition

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Paperback, December 1, 1997
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Product Details

  • Series: Pluto Middle Eastern Studies
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press; First Edition edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745308198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745308197
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,120,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Shahak is a very brave man who should be honored for his services to humanity ... One of the most remarkable individuals in the contemporary Middle East.' Edward Said 'Shahak subjects the whole history of Orthodoxy ... to a hilarious and scrupulous critique.' --Christopher Hitchens
'The future of the Palestinian people would have looked much brighter if there had been more Israelis like Shahak ... An outstanding personality.' The Jerusalem Times 'Dr Shahak's courage in speaking out against the very foundations of the state of Israel, and his kindly, humane personality, have won him influential friends.' --Al Hayat
'Deserves a wide readership, not only among Jews, but among Christians who seek a fuller understanding both of historical Judaism and of modern-day Israel.’ --Catholic New Times
‘His message gets to the heart of U.S.-Israeli relations. It is not only Jews who should read Jewish History, Jewish Religion, but Christians as well.’ --Middle East Policy

About the Author

Israel Shahak was a resident of the Warsaw Ghetto and a survivor of Bergen-Belsen. He arrived in Palestine in 1945 and lived there until his death in 2001. He was an outspoken critic of the state of Israel and a human rights activist. He was also the author of the highly acclaimed Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (Pluto Press 1999) and Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies (Pluto Press 1997).

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 124 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend reading the book "Jewish history, Jewish Religion". Its author, Israel Shahak, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, engages in deep introspection about Jewish religion and practices.
He seems deeply toubled by the rigidity, and intolerance of Jewish religion. Shahak quotes from the Talmud and points out a pervasive Jewish racism and haughtiness toward non-Jews.
He believes that anti-semitism may have its roots in this historic Jewish mindset. Shahak also points out a wide-spread practice of deception and double-speak.
In writing this book, he hopes that other Jews will engage in similar introspection to estabish a more harmonious relationship with Goyims.
Recommended books: 'The Holocaust Industry' (by Finkelstein) 'An Eye for an Eye' (John Sack)
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188 of 229 people found the following review helpful By joe.baker@virgin.net on April 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
In his most illuminating and disturbing book Professor Shahak takes the lid off previously hidden Orthodox Jewish beliefs and practices. He explains how these beliefs are at the heart of the Zionist adventure and constitute a major influence upon Israeli government policies and actions. We are made aware of the paradox of a largely secular state basing its raison d'etre and future direction upon biblical text. The depth of Orthodox Jewish antipathy toward the gentile, and especially toward Christianity (and Jesus) will come as an unsettling surprise to the many millions of American evangelical Christians who uncritically accept a fawning admiration of all things Israeli repeatedly displayed by the TV evangelists. Frightening, too, is the near-total control of most Jewish organizations now in the hands of Zionists; it is now almost impossible for a Jew to openly disassociate him or herself from, let alone be critical of, the state of Israel or the aims of Zionism. Whereas the critical gentile must be an 'anti-Semite' so must the critical Jew be 'self-hating'. Whatever your point of view on the situation in Israel, whatever your religion or philosophical perspective, however deeply you hold your convictions, you cannot fail to be challenged by this marvelous book.
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80 of 98 people found the following review helpful By kinda sawaf on September 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you talk to a Muslim/Christian palastinian who is living under the Israeli occupation, he or she will not be surprised by what is written in Mr. Shahak's book. What is being described in this book as classical judaism teaching is currently being practiced and for the last fifty years in the State of Israel in the form of legitimate Judaism but comprise extreme injustice against non-Jewish people of Israel and of the occupied territories. Mr. Shahak describes where do these practices come from, and how are they being supported by the Jewish Israeli community. This book is not anti-semitic, the autor is a Jewish person born in a conservative Jewish family and lived most of his life in Israel. I think that this book has honestly analyzed the origins of the conflict in Israel and the occupied territories. Without considering the role and power of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel as described by Mr. Shahak, the quest for peace will never materialize.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on November 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Certain issues raised by Shahak are undeveloped by other reviewers, and I elaborate on the situation facing Polish Jews and peasants at about the time of the Partitions and thereafter.

The anti-Semitism in part of the peasantry of eastern and central Europe is commonly stereotyped as the product of Christian religion and of their backwardness. By contrast, Shahak emphasizes the evolution of Polish society in a direction that placed peasants and Jews into a quasi-adversarial position. It began with the uncontrolled growth of the power of self-interested nobility since about 1600: "This process was accompanied by a debasement in the position of the Polish peasants (who had been free in the Middle Ages) to the point of utter serfdom, hardly distinguishable from outright slavery and certainly the worst in Europe." (p. 61).

The Jewish situation then was very different: "Polish Jewry burst into social and political prominence accompanied, as usual, with a much greater degree of autonomy. It was at this time that Poland's Jews were granted their greatest privileges...Until 1939, the population of many towns east of the river Bug was at least 90 percent Jewish...Outside the towns very many Jews throughout Poland, but especially in the east, were employed as the direct supervisors and oppressors of the enserfed peasantry." (pp. 62-63).

"But, as we have remarked, the peasants suffered worse oppression at the hands of both landlords and Jews; and one may assume that, except in times of peasant uprisings, the full weight of the Jewish religious laws against Gentiles fell upon the peasants." (p. 63).

Shahak continues: "Internal conditions within the Jewish community moved in a similar course...In the period 1500-1795...
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57 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Wes on May 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Well written and informative. Although many portions of this writing could easily be extended greatly to include an almost endless amount of details and further examples, this work serves as an excellent source for anyone wishing to gain a solid basic understanding of certain portions of Judaism.
By "Judaism", it must be understood that Mr. Shahak uses the term "classical Judaism". By definition, Judaism itself is Talmudic/Rabbinic/Pharisaic. Not to be confused with the Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, et. al. "movements", as these do NOT constitute the religion of Judaism.
True Judaism is Orthodox...it always has been as such. This work discusses "Orthodox" Judaism. I mention this upfront because many who may read this and know someone who is Jewish, or is Jewish themselves, who does not believe or practice the items mentioned in this writing, may experience some confusion. This is due to the fact that this book deals mainly with Orthodox Judaism, which is Talmudic/Rabbinic/Pharisaic.
The so-called Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, et. al. "movements" have appeared only since the early to mid-1800's. Before this Judaism was Judaism. It was neither "Reformed" nor "Conservative", etc. In the most basic sense, it was and always has been Orthodox. Understanding Mr. Shahak's work is vital to this fact.
To the layperson, Jews are Jews and their religion is simply the religion of the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth. "This is not an uncommon impression and one finds it sometimes among Jews as well as Christians - that Judaism is the religion of the Hebrew bible. It is, of course, a fallacious impression ... Judaism is not the religion of the Bible." (Rabbi Ben Zion Boskser, Judaism and the Christian Predicament, p 59, 159.
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