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The Invention of the Jewish People Paperback – June 14, 2010
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“Sand’s questions about how Israel’s democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”—Haaretz
“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don’t change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”—Eric Hobsbawm, Observer
“[Sand’s] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”—Rafael Behr, Observer
“Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”—Tony Judt
“Extravagantly denounced and praised.”—New York Times
“No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”—Independent on Sunday, Best History Books of 2009
“A radical dismantling of a national myth.”—Guardian
“Almost too baseless to debunk.”—Jewish Journal
About the Author
Shlomo Sand studied history at the University of Tel Aviv and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, in Paris. He currently teaches contemporary history at the University of Tel Aviv. His books include The Invention of the Jewish People, On the Nation and the Jewish People, L’Illusion du politique: Georges Sorel et le débat intellectuel 1900, Georges Sorel en son temps, Le XXe siècle à l’écran and Les Mots et la terre: les intellectuels en Israël.
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The most interesting parts were the couple of chapters dedicated to Jewish proselytism and whether or not there was a mass expulsion of Jews from Judea. The parts of the book about Jewish ethno-nationalism in the 19th Century were far less interesting.
- The Jewish Bible as Mythistory: even though there are no evidences for most of the histories told in the Bible, and the invocation of God is pervasive in it, Jews in general and Israelis in particular read and teach the Bible as a history text. Thus, Jewish identity is based on myth rather than on historical facts.
- Jewish proselytism from about 200 B.C to 400 A.D: even though we consider the Jewish religion as a "non proselytist religion", in contrast with the Christian religion, that was not the case in that period. Proselytism is the origin of the Jews in Europe, in North Africa, in the Caucasus and in Asia.
- The exile of the Jews, Jewish Diaspora. Galut : this is perhaps the most important and recurrent myth in both jews and gentiles alike. There was no Exile during the Roman period, and this fact is widely known in history experts circles. However, most Jews believe that they are the 'historical descendents' of the Hebrew people that inhabited Canaan (or Palestine) duringthe biblical times,and that the were exiled by force.
- The origin of the Ashkenazim and Sefaradim : the Sefaradim are probably descendents of the tribes from North Africa that invaded Spain in the 8th century, which converted to Judaism before the invasion. The Ashkenazim probably descend from the Khazars, a reign in the Caucasus that converted to Judaism in the 8th century to reject islam civilization and retain political independence, This point is very well developed in the book, as it is so important for current Jewish identity.
- Zionism and history manipulation: the ups and down in Zionism ideology, how Zionism selects and rejects historical facts to create a coherent narrative of the Jews in order to support its own goals and agenda.
In summary, even though the facts may be known to some history experts, they do not constitute the 'popular wisdom' of the masses, both in and outside Israel. The consequences to the Jewish identity if these facts were more widely known, debated and discussed would be enormous. A delicious read, an important and brave contribution, all I can say is: Bravo Shlomo ! And many thanks.