HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of…
Loading...

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by Ari Shavit

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2974537,787 (4.31)52
Recently added byprivate library, joeydag, Raymond.Habbaz, DanTarlin, DRGPZ, e-zReader, catalib, merrittlibrary
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 52 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Ari Shavit's master opus about the history and future of Israel from a very personal perspective. Whether you agree with his political views or not, the author raises essential questions for the future of Israel. ( )
  alancaro | Apr 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Ari Shavit is a prominent reporter for Haaretz. Shavit is politically left, and an advocate of Israeli peace with Arabs, particularly the end of the occupation of Palestinian lands and the reigning-in of Israeli settlements. This is to say that Shavit is not without his biases. Still, Shavit's panoramic history of Israel, My Promised Land, is a remarkably balanced and powerful vision of Israel's history and future.

Shavit takes the reader through the history of Israel by honing in on one or two events per decade per chapter. Shavit begins with the journey to Palestine, 1897, of his great-grandfather, an English Jew and gentleman who was sympathetic to the need for a Jewish state. Thus Shavit's story is inexorably entwined with Israel. Shavit moves forward at a steady clip, jumping from decade to decade, capturing the remarkable development of the Jewish settlements and, eventually, the Israeli state. His chapter on the establishment of the first kibbutz is particularly well done.

The pace of the book begins to drag a bit as Shavit catches up to recent decades, particularly the beginning of the settlement movement in the 1970s. This is somewhat paradoxical, since these developments are the most relevant to our understanding of recent Middle Eastern history. Still, readers will find here insight that will add nuance to the snippets they here on the evening news. An interview with one of Shavit's Palestinian friends is particularly interesting.

A remarkably well written, heroically scoped memoir/history recommended to readers who are willing to be open-minded and balanced in their approach to Israel and the Middle East. ( )
1 vote LancasterWays | Apr 3, 2015 |
Ari Shavit is a well known, left-leaning Israeli journalist and a columnist for Haaretz (Israel's oldest daily newspaper). This book is an apologia for his home land, but also an unsparing cri de coeur addressed to his fellow Israelis to make it better. Shavit relates the history of Israel from early Zionist days in the late 19th century to the present through examples of archetypical individuals. Although he personalizes the narrative, he also discusses the gnarly political and philosophical issues raised by the actions of, and even the very existence of, the Jewish state.

Shavit is torn between his love of his native land and the immense difficulty (as he sees it) of solving the problem of what to do about the millions of Muslim Arabs who live within or near its boundaries and who will not recognize its legitimacy. The problem is truly intractable: the Jews need a safe refuge from the persecution they have suffered since the Roman conquest in the first century C.E.; and the Arabs have a pretty legitimate claim to the land they inhabited almost exclusively for about 1300 years.

The early Zionists are typified by the author’s great-grandfather, the Right Honorable Herbert Bentwich, a prosperous English Jew. In 1897, Bentwich perceived that Judaism in Europe was in trouble in two ways. First, in Eastern Europe, Jews were the object of vicious pogroms that threatened their physical safety. Second, in Western Europe, Jews were assimilating with the rest of society and were attenuating, if not actually losing, their Jewish faith. In any event, Bentwich was wealthy enough to pull up stakes and establish his family in Palestine.

Shavit describes Bentwich as arriving in Palestine and seeing an empty country. In Shavit’s words, the Arabs living there “are hardly noticeable to a Victorian gentleman,” who as a “white man of the Victorian era, cannot see nonwhites as equals.” Shavit’s great-grandfather “does not see because he is motivated by the need not to see.” And in this respect, he was typical of the early Zionists. [Cf. also Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, by John B. Judis.] Shavit says that among the early Zionists only Israel Zangwill had a clear view of the Arab population of Palestine, and Zangwill asserted that the Zionists must “drive out by sword the tribes in possession, as our forefathers did.”

Prior to 1948, few Zionists would have admitted to agreeing with Zangwill. At the same time, few of them would have looked on their Arab neighbors as equals. Shavit describes the early Zionists as living in a state of denial about the Arabs. He states:

"An obstinate disregard [of the Arabs] was crucial for the success of Zionism in the first decades of the twentieth century, and a lack of awareness was crucial for the success of Israel in its first decade of existence. If Israel had acknowledged what had happened [to the Arabs] it would not have survived. If Israel had been kindly and compassionate, it would have collapsed. Denial was a life-or-death imperative for the… nation into which I was born.”

Many of Israel’s current problems can be traced to the after-effects of its overwhelming victory in the 1967 War. Shavit says, “The Israeli nation was drunk with victory, filled with euphoria, hubris, and messianic delusions of grandeur.” Accordingly, it undertook a “futile, anachronistic colonialist project,” i.e., the settlement of the Arab-occupied West Bank [Judea and Samaria, to many Israelis]. The settlements have entangled Israel in a predicament that cannot be untangled:

"The settlements have placed Israel’s neck in a noose. They created an untenable demographic, political, moral, and judicial reality.”

Shavit himself is very troubled by some of the tactics employed by his countrymen in controlling the Arabs, or as he says, “imprisoning an entire population.” Nevertheless, he cannot bring himself to protest too vigorously because of his belief in the necessity of a Jewish homeland. He observes:

"This is a phenomenon without parallel in the West. This is systematic brutality no democracy can endure. And I am a part of it all. I comply.”

Shavit is deeply pessimistic. He fervently desires peace and justice, but his Arab neighbors are some of the most xenophobic and religiously intolerant people on the planet. To Shavit, the fundamental flaw of the Israeli Left was that:

"…it had never distinguished between the issue of occupation and the issue of peace. Regarding the occupation, the Left was absolutely right. It realized that occupation was a moral, demographic, and political disaster. But regarding peace, the Left was somewhat naïve. It counted on a peace partner that was not really there. It assumed that because peace was needed, peace was feasible. But the history of the conflict and the geostrategy of the region implied that peace was not feasible. The correct moral position of the Left was compromised by an incorrect empirical assumption.”

Moreover, he sees the problem for Israel is even deeper and thornier than a resolution of the settlements in the West Bank. The problem goes back to the founding of the country in 1948:

"What is needed to make peace between the two peoples of this land is probably more than humans can summon. They [the Arabs] will not give up their demand for what they see as justice. We shall not give up our life. [Arabs and Jews] cannot really see each other and recognize each other and make peace.”

Uncomfortable as he is with the justice of the situation, Shavit quotes Moshe Dayan’s assessment in 1956 as “the most sincere words ever spoken about the conflict”:

"…without the steel helmet and the gun’s muzzle we will not be able to plant a tree and build a house. Let us not fear to look squarely at the hatred that consumes and fills the lives of hundreds of Arabs who live around us. Let us not drop our gaze, lest our arms weaken. That is the fate of our generation. This is our choice—to be ready and armed, tough and hard—or else the sword shall fall from our hands and our lives will be cut short.”

Shavit rightfully lauds the energy and achievements of his countrymen. He contrasts the thriving Israeli society and economy with its torpid and resentful Arab neighbors. He notes that for the past 40 years Israel’s possession of atomic weapons has helped make it safe from invasion by hostile Arab regimes, but he fears that nuclear monopoly may not be permanent.

Shavit is not always consistent in his assessment of the possibility of peace with the Arabs. Although early in the book he sees no real possibility of a solution, he is highly critical of the current Israeli government for not attempting more creative approaches out of its predicament. He fears that Israel’s secular Jewish majority will become a minority vis-à-vis Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who do not serve in the military and who tend not to be economically productive. He says:

"Secular Israelis are the ones working, producing, and paying taxes. Once they are outnumbered, Israel will be a backward nation that will not be able to meet the challenges of the third millennium….Fewer and fewer Israelis run faster and faster to carry along the Israelis who don’t run at all. A flawed political system guarantees the special interests of the ultra-Orthodox, the settlers, and the mega-rich. But the productive middle class has been abandoned by the state. That’s why this exhausted middle class is growing bitter. It feels the nation has betrayed it. It sees the Israel it loves disintegrating.”

Shavit is consistent, however, in describing his country’s treatment of the Arabs:

"The State of Israel . . . has not yet found a way to integrate properly one-fifth of its population. The Arabs who were not driven away in 1948 have been oppressed by Zionism for decades. The Jewish state confiscated much of their land, trampled many of their rights, and did not accord them real equality….To this day there is no definition of the commitments of the Jewish democratic state to its Arab minority.”

Shavit’s concluding paragraphs are wonderfully written. They summarize the tensions inherent in Israel’s precarious position in the world. They express his affection for his country, which he embraces enthusiastically, warts and all. A few of his pithier observations follow:

"We probably had to come. And when we came here, we performed wonders. For better or worse, we did the unimaginable….There will be no utopia here. Israel will never be the ideal nation it set out to be, nor will it be Europe-away-from-Europe….This free society is creative and passionate and frenzied….We respect no past and no future and no authority. We are irreverent. We are deeply anarchic.”

"There was hope for peace, but there will be no peace here. Not soon. There was hope for quiet, but there will be no quiet here. Not in this generation….So what we really have in this land is an ongoing adventure. An odyssey. The Jewish state does not resemble any other nation. What this nation has to offer is not security or well-being or peace of mind. What it has to offer is the intensity of life on the edge.”

Evaluation: I have quoted the author more extensively than is usual in book reviews. This is because he writes so passionately and so well. I greatly appreciated his analysis and his candor. This book has a message that is important for Americans, particularly American policymakers. By better understanding its history and current situation, we can be a loyal friend to Israel even though we recognize its shortcomings. And as a true friend, we should not simply rubber stamp the policies of a government that has [in Shavit’s words] “turned Israel into a semi-pariah state.” But we must also recognize the temperament of the Israeli people, who will not tolerate being dictated to by a country with its own interests, not Israel’s, at heart. Accordingly, we would do well to find common ground with the westernized secular middle class to which Shavit belongs, and gently prod their government in directions that serve our mutual interests. ( )
  nbmars | Mar 22, 2015 |
Shavit has a strong narrative voice and writes honestly about his own experience and observations. He speaks with many others - politicians, professors, engineers, soldiers, exiles - from different sides of various issues, and gives an overview of Israeli history from the first Zionist settlers through the present.

It seems as though the most major misstep Israel has made was the settlements and the occupation of Gaza (now withdrawn) and the West Bank. Even if withdrawing from the occupied territory does not directly lead to peace, it still seems to be a moral imperative.

A grammatical quibble: he shifts frequently between past and present tense. There may have been a reason for this (to bring stories from the past more immediacy?) but it is more jarring than effective.

Quotes

On the one hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is occupying another people. On the other hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened. Both occupation and intimidation make the Israeli condition unique....But the truth is that without incorporating both elements into one worldview, one cannot grasp Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (xii)

"Leaving God behind caused a terrible shock to us all. It destroyed the basis of our lives as Jews. This became the tragic contradiction of our new life. We had to start from scratch and build a civilization from the very foundation. Yet we had no foundation to build on." (Ein Harod pioneer, 44)

[Rehovot, 1936] There is a balance between the revolution of Zionism and the evolution with which it is carried out...There is no talk of taking the land by force....they all want Zionism to be a natural identity-building process. (65)

[1939] Well before a Jewish state was established, a well-organized Jewish army was raised. (78)

What [Shmaryahu] Gutman is doing in bringing this young, idealistic group to [Masada] is using the Hebrew past to give depth to the Hebrew present and enable it to face the Hebrew future. (86)

["Bulldozer"] recalls the eerie feeling of witnessing a living village become a ghost village in one night....He has a sudden, rare moment of understanding of what these few months of war have done to him, what a nightmare he is living. (Ein Zeitun, 112-113)

[1940s] There was no longer an option to buy land gradually, bring in well-trained immigrants gradually, and build the Jewish nation gradually, from the bottom up. There was a need for a different sort of action. War was inhuman, but it allowed one to do what one could not do in peace; it could solve problems that were unsolvable in peace. (118)

"The guys stopped being noble-minded," says Bulldozer. "They knew what had to be done and did it. And what they did was in accord with the decision made high up to take the people of Lydda and walk them beyond the border of the Jewish state." (125)

Forty-five years after Zionism came into the valley in the name of the homeless, it sent out of the Lydda Valley a column of homeless. (132)

People replace a name with a name, a tongue with a tongue, an identity with an identity. To survive, they cleanse themselves of the past....the denial of the Palestinian past, the denial of the Palestinian disaster, the denial of the Jewish past, and the denial of the Jewish catastrophe....It is highly likely that this multilevel denial was essential. Without it, it would have been impossible to function, to build, to live...If Israel had acknowledged what had happened it would not have survived. (162)

The expulsion of 1948 necessitated [nuclear facility] Dimona. Because of those dead villages it was clear that the Palestinians would always pursue us, that they would always want to flatten our own villages...We would not allow the Palestinian tragedy to jeopardize the monumental enterprise designed to end our own tragedy. (189)

I am driving to Ofra...to understand what the forces were that impelled late twentieth-century Israel to erect a futile, anachronistic colonialist project....What were the forces that brought Israel to build settlements in the territories it occupied in June 1967? (203)

[Pinchas Wallerstein] creates a new demographic-political reality that redefines Israel and changes the course of Zionism. (214)

Ofra's colonialism makes the world perceive Israel as a colonialist entity. But because in the twenty-first century there is no room for a colonialist entity, the West is gradually turning its back on Israel. That's why enlightened Jews in America and Europe are ashamed of Israel. That's why Israel is at odds with itself. Although the founders of Ofra wished to strengthen Israel, in practice they weakened it. (221)

So in Gaza there are no excuses...[it] is not even needed for our defense...it is not even a historically charged terrain...It is the epitome of the absurdity of occupation. It is futile occupation. It is brutal occupation. It corrodes our very existence and it erodes the legitimacy of our existence. ("On Gaza Beach," 235)

The tragedy ends one chapter and begins another, but the tragedy never ends. (236)

But after the Arab uprising of 1936, mainstream Zionism wanted more and more land, more and more power. It paid lip service to peace, it it was not willing to pay a real price for it. It saw immigration, settlement, and nation building as its main goals, and it did not consider peace to be an absolute value or a supreme cause. (240)

"Focusing on occupation was the right thing to do," [Yossi Sarid] says. "Occupation is the father of all sins. Occupation is the mother of atrocity....History is not a train station. Because even if you're stick at the most remote train station, you can be certain that if you missed the train, another will come....Not so history. In history, if you missed the train you were supposed to get on, there is no certainty that there will be another." (245)

The promise of peace was benign, but it was bogged down by a systematic denial of the brutal reality we live in. (253)

We wanted to believe there was no tragic decree at the heart of our existence. (253)

[The] fundamental flaw [of the Israeli Left] was that it had never distinguished between the issue of occupation and the issue of peace....It realized that occupation was a moral, demographic, and political disaster. But...it counted on a peace partner that was not really there. It assumed that because peace was needed, peace was feasible. (254)

We should have been sober enough to say that occupation must end even if the end of occupation did not end the conflict....We failed to say to the world and to our people that occupation must cease even if peace cannot be reached. (256-257)

A state designed for one population [Eastern European Jews] was populated by another ["Oriental" Jews]. A state based on one culture was overtaken by another. But Zionism did not....acknowledge the sea change that had taken place....The Israeli melting pot worked with brutal efficiency: it forged a nation, but it also scorched the identities and scalded the souls it was to have saved. (288)

"The idea of being a minority is alien to Islam - it suits Judaism, but it is alien to Islam. And when you look around you see that indeed we are not a minority. In this land there is a Jewish majority that is actually a minority, and an (Arab) minority that is actually a majority." -Mohammed Dahla (318)

But on its most basic level, Israel is not a normal nation. It is a Jewish state in an Arab world, and a Western state in an Islamic world, and a democracy in a region of tyranny. It is at odds with its surroundings. (Ha'aretz essay, 2006?, 332)

With every fiber of its being, Israel wished to be a modern-day Athens. But in this land and in this era there is no future for an Athens that doesn't have in it a grain of Sparta. (Ha'aretz essay, 333)

"Whereas in its first twenty-five years Israel grew rapidly while maintaining excellence, cohesion, and social justice, in the last twenty-five years it did the exact opposite....by 2030, Israel's shrinking secular Jewish majority will become a minority. Israel's cultural identity will change, and so will its socioeconomic profile. Secular Israelis are the ones working, producing, and paying taxes." -Stanley Fischer (357)

The secret of Israeli high-tech is bucking authority, ignoring conventional wisdom, and flouting the rules of the game. The weakness of the Israeli state is bucking authority, ignoring conventional wisdom, and flouting the rules of the game. (361)

Benign Western civilization destroys non-Orthodox Judaism. (386)

Given current trends, by 2025 the majority of the world's Jews will be Israelis. (387)

The act of concentrating the Jews in one place was essential but dangerous.(393)

A movement that got most things right in its early days has gotten almost everything wrong in recent decades. (394)

If present [demographic] trends persist, the future of Zion will be non-Zionist. (398) ( )
  JennyArch | Mar 4, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this book for several reasons. First, I learned a lot about the establishment of Israel that I wasn't aware of. The author takes us back to shortly after WWI and the early settlements. Second, the author recounts several stories about individuals who emigrated to Israel, bringing a very human perspective to the history of the country. Third, I think he is honest in his writing. Finally, I think he has explained the current issues facing Israel very well. I recommend this book highly. ( )
  LynnB | Mar 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
To my love, Timna
First words
Introduction: FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, I REMEMBER FEAR. EXISISTENTIAL FEAR.
Chapter One: On the night of April 15, 1897, a small, elegant steamer is en route from Egypt's Port Said to Jaffa.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
A groundbreaking, ambitious, and authoritative examination of Israel by one of the most influential columnists writing about the Middle East today

My Promised Land tells the story of Israel as it has never been told before. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Through revealing stories of significant events and of ordinary individuals—pioneers, immigrants, entrepreneurs, scientists, army generals, peaceniks, settlers, and Palestinians—Israeli journalist Ari Shavit illuminates many of the pivotal moments of the Zionist century that led Israel to where it is today. We meet the youth group leader who recognized the potential of Masada as a powerful symbol for Zionism; the young farmer who bought an orange grove from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s, and with the Jaffa orange helped to create a booming economy in Palestine; the engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program; the religious Zionists who started the settler movement. Over an illustrious career that has spanned almost thirty years, Shavit has had rare access to people from across the Israeli political, economic, and social spectrum, and in this ambitious work he tells a riveting story that is both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.

As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, My Promised Land asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? And can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, both internal and external, My Promised Land uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today’s global political landscape.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385521707, Hardcover)

A groundbreaking, ambitious, and authoritative examination of Israel by one of the most influential columnists writing about the Middle East today

My Promised Land tells the story of Israel as it has never been told before. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Through revealing stories of significant events and of ordinary individuals—pioneers, immigrants, entrepreneurs, scientists, army generals, peaceniks, settlers, and Palestinians—Israeli journalist Ari Shavit illuminates many of the pivotal moments of the Zionist century that led Israel to where it is today. We meet the youth group leader who recognized the potential of Masada as a powerful symbol for Zionism; the young farmer who bought an orange grove from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s, and with the Jaffa orange helped to create a booming economy in Palestine; the engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program; the religious Zionists who started the settler movement. Over an illustrious career that has spanned almost thirty years, Shavit has had rare access to people from across the Israeli political, economic, and social spectrum, and in this ambitious work he tells a riveting story that is both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.

As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, My Promised Land asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? And can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, both internal and external, My Promised Land uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today’s global political landscape.

Praise for My Promised Land
 
“With the heart of a storyteller and the mind of a historian, Ari Shavit has written a powerful and compelling book about the making of modern Israel. No country is more emotionally connected to the United States, and no country’s fate matters more to many Americans. And yet, until Shavit’s My Promised Land, it has been growing more difficult to sense the character of Israel through all the caricatures. This book is vital reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the United States but of the world.”—Jon Meacham
 
“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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:43 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents an examination of Israel that traces the events that led the country to its current state of conflict through the stories of everyday citizens to illuminate the importance of lesser-known historical events.

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
90 wanted2 pay4 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.31)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2
2.5
3 6
3.5 6
4 22
4.5 9
5 36

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alumn

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit was made available through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Sign up to possibly get pre-publication copies of books.

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 98,418,425 books! | Top bar: Always visible