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Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn Hardcover – October 18, 2016
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“The author loves his adopted homeland without ignoring its blemishes. He treats the most contested episodes in Israeli history, such as the plight of both Arab and Jewish refugees during the 1948 War of Independence, honestly and fairly.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Gordis is determined to do his best to provide some to those who don’t know as much about Israel as they think they know, or as much as they need to know.” (New York Post)
“You will enjoy the fluid motion of Gordis’s writing style, which somehow condenses thousands of details into memorable, thought-provoking passages. . .. Gordis grants us more than a peek at the past and present.” (San Francisco Book Review)
“Gordis brings to life the colorful patchwork of Israeli society and all those whose work helped shape it. . . . His writerly feat is in making so much so vivid through straightforward prose. . . . Certain to become a standard work.” (Commentary)
“Gordis guides readers through all of this and much more, with a blend of energy and grace, brain and heart in mutual embrace.” (Jewish Book Council)
“A welcome new primer, just in time for a new generation of English-speakers who are interested in Israel, to learn about the country and its struggles.” (Jerusalem Post)
“Gordis crafts an elegant, personal narrative. . . . a readable, concise history that effectively captures the sense of grand ideas in Israel’s identity.” (Kirkus)
“This will serve as a fine introduction to this tiny but vitally important nation.” (Booklist)
“An excellent introduction for anyone with a new or ongoing interest in Israel. A comprehensive bibliography serves as a guide to further reading.” (Library Journal)
As the title promises, he delivers a concise, readable history that celebrates its subject without idealizing it. It’s a book that belongs on the shelf of every believer in the Zionist dream.” (Atlanta Jewish Times)
From the Back Cover
Israel is a tiny state, and yet since its creation, it has captured the world’s attention, earned its admiration, and, often, been the object of its opprobrium. Why is so much of the international community focused on a small country like Israel? Why are Israelis so deeply divided on so many key issues? Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future?
Weaving together historical documents, letters, and interviews with his own intimate knowledge of the country, Daniel Gordis tells the story of Israel: when the idea of a Jewish state originated, how the dream was transformed into reality, and how Israel’s history has unfolded and why. Israel probes the soul of both a people and a country that have long triumphed over adversity, but which still face grave—some say insurmountable—challenges.
Gordis guides us through the milestones of Israeli history and introduces the passionate and formidable personalities who pioneered the country and shaped its pivotal moments. He illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic, and military powerhouse—but he also explains its grave mistakes and traces its long history of international isolation. Clear-eyed and authoritative, Gordis shows that above all else Israel’s prime purpose—and its major accomplishment—has been the modern rebirth of the Jewish people.
With Israel, Gordis offers us a brief but thorough history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, level-headed, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on Israel’s past so we can understand its present and future. The result is a vivid portrait of a people, and a nation, reborn.
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Although it touts itself as a "Concise History" of Israel, the author has packed a lot of information and thoughtful analysis in this 546-page book.
This is much more than a chronological time-line of the highlights regarding the creation and existence of the Jewish state of Israel. The author re-plows the basic history as to how Theodor Herzel advocated for pogrom-weary European Jews to move to Palestine. The author not only details how Eastern European Jews were divided over whether or not a Jewish state should be created, the author notes the arguments and diverse personalities that debated this challenge. (The author provides some interesting commentary as to how the American writer Mark Twain reflected upon this issue.) [This book does a better job in explaining the "workings" of the early Zionist movement than what is discussed in the recently published "Zionism" by M. Viorst.]
Rather than reviewing all of the Zionist arguments here, I found that the author really provided a lot of insight as to the various Zionist and anti-Zionist arguments and how personalities were split between secularists and religious fundamentalists.. I found that the author provide new insights as to the developments in the "return to Israel" movement, and how the Balfour Declaration was born. I found that the author reviewed many sources and provided great, informative insights into how the Zionist movement campaigned throughout Europe to entice Jews to return to the Palestine region.
The author provided fine insight into the political and military disputes between Ben-Gurion and Begin during the 1940s. While the author noted that the Israeli government had a very difficult time in absorbing and caring for new, and oftentimes impoverished immigrants, I felt the author failed to convey the seriousness of the really desperate economic conditions of Israel during its first decade.
I found it interesting to learn that Begin had opposed Israel receiving financial "war reparations" from the West German government. Also, perhaps it was due to his remembrance of the Holocaust he resigned as prime minister rather than receive a new German official.
In reviewing the various political parties, it seemed that the primary disputes were more over personalities rather than economic policies -- although Begin certainly and consistently advocated for a greater "free market" economy that was in contrast to Ben-Gurion's socialistic Labor Party. It was interesting to learn how the high large influx of secular, Soviet-Jews starting in the 1980s changed the political dynamics of Israeli politics.
I was surprised to learn that the kibbutzim accounted for only about 15% of the Israeli population, and how they eventually declined in popularity and economic influence.
While the various wars are discussed, and casualties are noted, the author really doesn't spend much time in providing details as to how some military unit conducted some maneuver -- except to note how it affected the outcome of a war.
Yes, it is a strong pro-Jewish Israel book -- the author doesn't lament much about the plight of Palestinian Arabs, except to claim that much of their problems were of their own doing by failing to accept a peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state. While the author noted that within the occupied/administered "West Bank" [Samaria-Judea] there are three areas/zones of control or semi-control that are governed/administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the author doesn't dwell on analyzing the successes or failures of the PA's administration (that would take several other books to accomplish) -- except to say that Israelis themselves are deeply divided over the future "independence" of that area, and how Jewish settlements within are to be either expanded or reduced. (The author doesn't analyze the theological aspects of the Quran as to why the Muslim-Arabs won't accept a Jewish state.)
The author has produced a fine book in revealing the determination of the Zionists to birth a secular, Jewish state -- and he analyzes how the original Zionist dream/hope that both Arabs and Jews could live peacefully together has not and most likely will not be achieved. This is more than just a history of Israel, it is a history -- well, for the lack of a better word -- of the "revival" of the Jewish spirit in reclaiming a homeland; or as the author put it in the book's sub-title: "of a Nation Reborn". A book that I can highly recommend.
Without religious faith the nation of Israel will not survive and is a meaningless existence and cultural experiment. But of that the author cannot speak. To understand he must first must gain faith in that God created Israel and the Jews. The perspective must be from God's point of view, not from the Jewish ever changing culture, preferences and circumstances. Israel and the Jews exists because God wants it, not the other way around. No meaning of life can be deduced from science, culture and politics - only endless business.
Most recent customer reviews
This history book was fascinating, informative, and moving. I downloaded it because I recently returned from two weeks of vacation in Israel and Jordan.Read more