Book Reviews

 

Living at the heart of a “Promised Land”

 

Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2013) pp. 449).

The anguish of the believer is not the same as that of the renegade, and Ari Shavit writes as a believer in the Zionist enterprise. Not Zionism in the mystical sense that sweeps away all reality and overlooks all issues and problems, but as a man loves his wife of many years, fully aware of her virtues, fully mindful of her flaws and fully embracing the love that is at the core of their relationship. He writes of Israel as “we,” not “they.” He hears in the many discordant Israeli voices that often rage at one another voices that make the society thrive.

Ari Shavit’s new book, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” is a tour de force. Written in lyrical prose by a distinguished journalist who listens attentively when he interviews, Shavit engages his subjects and also the land of Israel. He is the great-grandson of Herbert Bentwich, a religious English Jew who came to survey Palestine in 1897 to evaluate its potential as a national home for the Jewish people and then returned to create a familial home, a national home. Shavit does not write of others, but of his own nation, his promised land.

 

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Antisemitism: A History

 

Albert S. Lindemann add Richard S. Levy, eds.. Antisemitism: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp. 288.

 

Some books are good and some are useful; this is both.

 

In fifteen well written, concise chapters, this work covers the entire history of antisemitism from the pre-Christian era to contemporary times. Though written by different authors, there is a rare uniformity of quality that is difficult to obtain from a multi-authored collection; more rare still, each author has stuck to their assignment, writing an essay that is deep enough to be of interest to scholars, broad enough to serve as a general introduction, clear enough to serve as a classroom textbook both for an overview course and for a more specialized one. The editors provide the bookends with Lindemann’s important essay on the Jewish Question and the persistence, duration and intensity of antisemitism and a conclusion that is both a wrap up overview but also indicates what remains to be understood.

 

 

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