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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel Kindle Edition
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“[A] must-read book . . . Shavit celebrates the Zionist man-made miracle—from its start-ups to its gay bars—while remaining affectionate, critical, realistic and morally anchored. . . . His book is a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel and building a healthier relationship with it. Before their next ninety-minute phone call, both Barack and Bibi should read it.”—Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
“[An] important and powerful book . . . [Shavit] has an undoctrinaire mind. He comes not to praise or to blame, though along the way he does both, with erudition and with eloquence; he comes instead to observe and to reflect. This is the least tendentious book about Israel I have ever read. It is a Zionist book unblinkered by Zionism. It is about the entirety of the Israeli experience. Shavit is immersed in all of the history of his country. While some of it offends him, none of it is alien to him. . . . The author of My Promised Land is a dreamer with an addiction to reality. He holds out for affirmation without illusion. Shavit’s book is an extended test of his own capacity to maintain his principles in full view of the brutality that surrounds them.”—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review
“Spellbinding . . . In this divided, fought-over shard of land splintered from the Middle East barely seventy years ago, Mr. Shavit’s prophetic voice carries lessons that all sides need to hear.”—The Economist
“One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years . . . [The] book’s real power: On an issue so prone to polemic, Mr. Shavit offers candor.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A tour de force.”—Jewish Journal
“Reads like a love story and a thriller at once.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[A] searingly honest, descriptively lush, painful and riveting story of the creation of Zionism in Israel and [Shavit’s] own personal voyage.”—The Washington Post
“Shavit is a master storyteller. [His] retelling of history jars us out of our familiar retrospections, reminds us (and we do need reminders) that there are historical reasons why Israel is a country on the edge. . . . Required reading for both the left and the right.”—The Jewish Week
“The most extraordinary book that I’ve read on [Israel] since Amos Elon’s book called The Israelis, and that was published in the late sixties.”—David Remnick, on Charlie Rose
“My Promised Land is an Israeli book like no other. Not since Amos Elon’s The Israelis, Amos Oz’s In the Land of Israel, and Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem has there been such a powerful and comprehensive book written about the Jewish State and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ari Shavit is one of Israel’s leading columnists and writers, and the story he tells describes with great empathy the Palestinian tragedy and the century-long struggle between Jews and Arabs over the Holy Land. While Shavit is being brutally honest regarding the Zionist enterprise, he is also insightful, sensitive, and attentive to the dramatic life-stories of his fascinating heroes and heroines. The result is a unique nonfiction book that has the qualities of fine literature. It brings to life epic history without being a conventional history book. It deepens contemporary political understanding without being a one-sided political polemic. It is painful and provocative, yet colorful, emotional, life-loving, and inspiring. My Promised Land is the ultimate personal odyssey of a humanist exploring the startling biography of his tormented homeland, which is at the very center of global interest.”—Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel
“With deeply engaging personal narratives and morally nuanced portraits, Ari Shavit takes us way beneath the headlines to the very heart of Israel’s dilemmas in his brilliant new work. His expertise as a reporter comes through in the interviews, while his lyricism brings the writing—and the people—to life. Shavit also challenges Israelis and Diaspora Jewry to be bold in imagining the next chapter for Israel, a challenge that will no doubt be informed by this important book.”—Rick Jacobs, president, Union for Reform Judaism
“This is the epic history that Israel deserves—beautifully written, dramatically rendered, full of moral complexity. Ari Shavit has made a storied career of explaining Israel to Israelis; now he shares his mind-blowing, trustworthy insights with the rest of us. It is the best book on the subject to arrive in many years.”—Franklin Foer, editor, The New Republic
“A beautiful, mesmerizing, morally serious, and vexing book. I’ve been waiting most of my adult life for an Israeli to plumb the deepest mysteries of his country’s existence and share his discoveries, and Ari Shavit does so brilliantly, writing simultaneously like a poet and a prophet. My Promised Land is a remarkable achievement.”—Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent, The Atlantic
“Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land is without question one of the most important books about Israel and Zionism that I have ever read. Both movingly inspiring and at times heartbreakingly painful, My Promised Land tells the story of the Jewish state as it has never been told before, capturing both the triumph and the torment of Israel’s experience and soul. This is the book that has the capacity to reinvent and reshape the long-overdue conversation about how Israel’s complex past ought to shape its still-uncertain future.”—Daniel Gordis, author of Saving Israel and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College, Jerusalem
“This book is vital reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the United States but of the world.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
- ASIN : B009QJMXI8
- Publisher : Random House; Reissue edition (November 19, 2013)
- Publication date : November 19, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 19828 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 466 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #118,122 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It is, at once, the idealistic, romantic story of Israel's 19th century beginnings, which ever so quickly folds into the initial conflicts with Palestinian neighbors, followed by conflicts ever more intense with each succeeding decade, and leading ultimately to the situation today in which a prosperous and powerful country of 6 million people is surrounded by 3 or 4 hundred million Arabs who, for the most part, wish they weren't there.
The author, Ari Shavit, a proud Israeli citizen, sees his country as a land careening toward disaster unless and until it threads the needle out of the vortex in which it now finds itself. In a certain sense, this is a 'Waiting for Godot' story in which it appears that no solution is anywhere in sight. For there is, for certain, a poison cup in this land from which both sides drunk deeply.
So profoundly distressing and so dangerous is the current situation that, at least to me, the only possible present path forward would seem to be a long series of moderating mini-steps that might, over time, ever so gradually dissipate the fear and hostility that today governs the multiple 'players and parties' who inhabit this troubled land.
For instance, an entire chapter is devoted to (Laborite) Shmaryahu Gutman, whose key achievement, for the author, is erecting - in the lead up to the 1948 War of Independence - ancient Masada (the mountaintop fortress where Jews made their suicidal last stand against Herod’s Romans 2,000 years ago) as a stirring symbol for Israeli youth.
However, the (Labor) opposition Revisionist movement lionised Masada decades before Gutman.
In fact, Shavit even refers in his book to the hanging of Shlomo Ben Yosef (“the first Jewish terrorist”) in 1938.
21-year old Ben Yosef (in)famously declared before being executed (for attempting to murder Arab civilians in a retaliatory attack): “To die or to conquer the hill (Yodefet, Masada, Betar)” - these Masada-inspired lines drawn from the Revisionist youth movement anthem he had grown up with.
Ben Yosef’ declaration is a very well known Zionist historical incident. It seems almost inconceivable to me that Shavit would not be aware of this (pre-Gutman) Masada link.
But no matter, for the author pretty clearly stresses that “My Promised Land” is his own “personal journey” and NOT a history. The finished product is certainly personal, and - on balance - an excellent, quietly passionate and instructive polemic.
There are parts of it that bored me witless, but there are huge - shocking - factoids as well:
- the Ofra leader who openly shares with Shavit his dispassionate plans for blowing up the Dome of the Rock;
- Defence Minister Dayan empathetically defending a Gaza Palestinian at the funeral of an Israeli soldier he murdered (the Palestinian, not Dayan);
- the former top engineer at the Dimona nuclear plant essentially telling Shavit that Israel ought to nuke Iran before Iran nukes Israel;
- technicolor details of deliberate (and deliberately low key), systematic, mass-scale disenfranchisement of Palestinians by Jewish leaders.
The author is a bit of a hand-wringing Nellie, for mine - and a bit slippery too, not only vis-a-vis the tailored information, but also in the way he seems to drool at several points in the book over “slim ... good looking” young people (cf, you can’t help it, the sordid accusations against him in recent years) ...
... But My Promised Land is a really good, thought provoking book, a quality piece of work.
Top reviews from other countries
Whatever you think of how the nation was born, and how it has handled itself since, it's a fascinating, mostly dark story.
I hope the future - for Israel and its neighbours - is brighter, and there are some things here to give you hope, along with more things to make you worry.
How could a people who suffered so much then inflict suffering on others, and kick them off their land? Why in 70 years haven't all sides been able to sit down and talk, and why when it was attempted did one side or other refuse to listen?
What has the outside world done to help, and why has it helped one side at times, and the other side at times? There are a million questions, that a lot of very intelligent people over the years have been unable to answer.
Interesting, how secularism could alter everything, and how the Arab Spring has kept people otherwise engaged, or things could have reached a head already. Interesting, some critics' take on this book, how it is an exercise in liberal hand-wringing, concealing another agenda, an apologist's agenda. And interesting how passionately he can write on behalf of his non-Jewish friends, and see it from their perspective and agree, over and over, that the way Israel took land was wrong and still needs to be addressed.
It's a subject that splits us, and confuses outsiders from every side, but I think this book has great value for those of us too far away to properly grasp every single detail. I went to Tel Aviv once, found it fascinating but with an unmistakeable paranoia and a bit intimidating, too. I have seen parallels much closer to my home, with a lot of what happened in Northern Ireland and all of Ireland.
At least this book made me think about it all, and view it from new perspectives, and witness an Israeli who admits openly there have been plenty mistakes on both sides.
Clearly, a country that will be in the news for years to come. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all get along, settle historical differences and find a liveable solution for everyone? Sadly, it's unlikely. Meantime, Israel does have to protect itself, and Palestine does have to keep asking when they will get their land back. I wouldn't want to be the politician who is left to sort it all out.
Thank you, sir, a very interesting book.
Reading this beautifully written ruthlessly honest book has opened my mind to the complex multi-faceted society Israel has become.
Ari's book has me exultant about the triumphs, weeping about the tragedies and horrified by the actions some Israelis have and are taking to defend themselves.
My heart aches for all the Jews and Arabs caught up in this painful painful situation.
As I read the first half of the book I wished the story telling and clear balance was augmented with Palestinian voices. And then in the second half, there they were. Perhaps all the more powerful for having held off these testimonies until then.
In a few places the style was arrogant. More often it was repetitive in the reflective passages. And, especially towards the end, it was too eulogistic about Israel and Israelis. I'm not referring to the right or wrong of the merits of Israel or Israelis, but to the eulogising itself. It serves only to undermine the otherwise balanced narrative by hinting at bias.
I felt the last third of the book lost the focus of what had come before and, as more reflective sections came in made me think, as I was reading, that one of his interviewees might have been right in accusing Shavit of 'thinking too much'. That said, once I finished and reflected on what I'd learnt, I admit I found it helpful to follow Shavit's introspective thoughts.
However, these are relatively petty asides, the book was unputdownable. It's just a shame that (in my humble opinion) these petty asides give the critics of this liberal left opinion their entry points for attack.
If you want a brilliant perspective on Israel, I strongly recommend that you read My Promised Land by Ari Shavit. I promise that your opinion will be worth hearing after reading his fantastic book.