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Israel
Cover of Israel
Israel
A Concise History of a Nation Reborn
Borrow Borrow

Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award

The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem.

Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world's attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the object of its opprobrium. Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns? More pressingly: Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future?

We cannot answer these questions until we understand Israel's people and the questions and conflicts, the hopes and desires, that have animated their conversations and actions. Though Israel's history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core. Guiding us through the milestones of Israeli history, Gordis relays the drama of the Jewish people's story and the creation of the state. Clear-eyed and erudite, he illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic and military powerhouse—but also explains where Israel made grave mistakes and traces the long history of Israel's deepening isolation.

With Israel, public intellectual Daniel Gordis offers us a brief but thorough account of the cultural, economic, and political history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, levelheaded, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on the Israel's past so we can understand its future. The result is a vivid portrait of a people, and a nation, reborn.

Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award

The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem.

Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world's attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the object of its opprobrium. Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns? More pressingly: Why does Israel make the decisions it does? And what lies in its future?

We cannot answer these questions until we understand Israel's people and the questions and conflicts, the hopes and desires, that have animated their conversations and actions. Though Israel's history is rife with conflict, these conflicts do not fully communicate the spirit of Israel and its people: they give short shrift to the dream that gave birth to the state, and to the vision for the Jewish people that was at its core. Guiding us through the milestones of Israeli history, Gordis relays the drama of the Jewish people's story and the creation of the state. Clear-eyed and erudite, he illustrates how Israel became a cultural, economic and military powerhouse—but also explains where Israel made grave mistakes and traces the long history of Israel's deepening isolation.

With Israel, public intellectual Daniel Gordis offers us a brief but thorough account of the cultural, economic, and political history of this complex nation, from its beginnings to the present. Accessible, levelheaded, and rigorous, Israel sheds light on the Israel's past so we can understand its future. The result is a vivid portrait of a people, and a nation, reborn.

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About the Author-
  • Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. He writes a regular column - "A Dose of Nuance" - for the Jerusalem Post, and is also a regular columnist for Bloomberg View. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and political currents in Israel, and a winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, the first rabbinical college on the West Coast of the United States. Dr. Gordis joined Shalem in 2007 to help found Israel's first liberal arts college, after spending nine years as vice president of the Mandel Foundation in Israel and director of its Leadership Institute.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    A thematic one-volume survey of Israel delineating the evolution of late-19th-century Zionism through the tumultuous defense of the nascent state to today's rise of the religious right.Fair-handed in dealing with the Palestinian question though definitely written with an Israeli bias, this solid work by Israeli author Gordis (Senior Vice President/Shalem Coll; Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul, 201, etc.) thankfully keeps concision in mind, but the author does not sacrifice veracity. By asking big questions--e.g., what was behind this "grand human story"--he gets at the broad contours of the founding of the state of Israel. Gordis begins with the importance of the writings of Moses Hess, Leon Pinsker, and Theodor Herzl in articulating the need for a Jewish homeland to combat perennial anti-Semitism. The dream entailed the pursuit of a secular political plan--sparked, in part, by the Russian pogrom at Kishinev in 1903--financed by well-connected Jews of the Diaspora, sanctioned by the Balfour Declaration, and followed by the "entirely legal" purchase of land in Palestine, which "aroused the concern of both the Ottomans and the local Arabs." Gordis crafts an elegant, personal narrative, and he ably captures the existential crisis during the Nazi era with the tragic stories of three different refugee ships full of Jews fleeing Europe. From the challenges of early statehood, including its cast of colorful characters like David Ben-Gurion, and combating rivalrous Arab neighbors with the buildup of a massive military, Israel became an international player. Yet the 1967 Six Day War brought euphoria as well as the long-term burden of the occupation of Palestinian territories, which would alter the founding vision irreparably. Gordis gives a good bit of space to the marginalized Mizrahi "revolution" of the 1970s, culminating in Menachem Begin's Likud victory of 1977. Moreover, the author concludes that "the ideology of classic Zionism was beginning to crack," allowing the more religious Jews to find their place. A readable, concise history that effectively captures the sense of grand ideas in Israel's identity. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2016

    American Israeli author (The Promise of Israel) and scholar (senior vice president, Koret Distinguished Fellow, Shalem Coll., Jerusalem) Gordis derives a relatively brief history of Israel and Zionism from hundreds of previously published histories, biographies, memoirs, and journalistic works. The author mines sources, which include interviews with contemporary Israelis, for details of the major events of Jewish history from 2000 BCE to the present day in an effort to inform readers how the modern State of Israel came into being and how the country developed its political stances. While new books about Israel and its history are published each year, most seem directed to readers who have an ongoing interest in Middle East affairs or who have aligned themselves with one faction or another. Gordis largely succeeds in introducing Israel to those recently taking an interest, offering footnotes and glossaries to define or explain important people, places, and institutions. VERDICT An excellent introduction for anyone with a new or ongoing interest in Israel. A comprehensive bibliography serves as a guide to further reading.--Joel Neuberg, Santa Rosa Junior Coll. Lib., CA

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Wall Street Journal "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."
  • New York Post "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."
  • San Francisco Book Review "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."
  • Jewish Book Council "Gordis guides readers through all of this and much more, with a blend of energy and grace, brain and heart in mutual embrace."
  • Jerusalem Post "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."
  • Library Journal "An excellent introduction for anyone with a new or ongoing interest in Israel. A comprehensive bibliography serves as a guide to further reading."
  • Atlanta Jewish Times 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."
  • Hoover Institution "Israel . . . captures the clamorous freedom, cultural effervescence, and economic prosperity that mark Israel today."
  • Washington Free Beacon Review "Gordis has an ability to get to the core of issues and to discuss them in straightforward language that nevertheless conveys sophisticated analysis. . . . Gordis's concise history of Israel fills an urgent need."
  • The American Thinker "Gordis shows how Israel has battled the odds for decades."
  • Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land "Like Israel itself, Daniel Gordis' Israel is audacious, intensive and unique. It tells the breathtaking story of the third Jewish commonwealth from the very beginning to today. Anyone interested in the history of Zionism will find priceless information and profound insight in this much needed, fair and balanced book."
  • Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation "Gordis has written a luminous history that tells the story of Israel not only through its statesmen and warriors but its artists and writers and poets. Gordis gives us the soul of Israel, and helps explain why the most hated country on the planet is also among the most beloved."
  • Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denial: Holocaust History on Trial and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University "A fascinating, accessible, nuanced, and smart account of a complex story, this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand this complicated corner of the world."
  • Ambassador Dennis Ross, Special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton and author of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace "Gordis captures the essence of who Israel is, where it has come from, and why the Jewish state will—and must—continue to exist. When I am asked "Is there one book to read about Israel?", I now have an answer."
  • Talia Carner, author Hotel Moscow and Jerusalem Maiden "Israel the book is an extraordinary reminder that Israel the county, with its new language, secular culture and unparalleled achievements, is nothing short of a man-made miracle."
  • Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy, A Code of Jewish Ethics, and Rebbe "Daniel Gordis combines encyclopedic knowledge with the writing talent of a novelist. He makes complex historical events accessible as he spans the whole sweep of Israel's history, explaining how and why the rebuilding of the Jewish state in the twentieth century has transformed Jewish history forever."
  • Ilan Troen, President of the Association for Israel Studies "Gordis weaves anecdote with historic judgment, and effectively uses both literary sources and introductions to Israel's formative personalities to reflect on Israel's history, its politics and especially, its soul. Israel is vibrant, articulate, and replete with wisdom."
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