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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by Ari Shavit

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8385426,672 (4.24)78
History. Military. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND THE ECONOMIST
Winner of the Natan Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

An authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the State of Israel, by one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today
 
Not since Thomas L. Friedman’s groundbreaking From Beirut to Jerusalem has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as My Promised Land. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family’s story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.
 
We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.
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? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, 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
“This book will sweep you up in its narrative force and not let go of you until it is done. [Shavit’s] accomplishment is so unlikely, so total . . . that it makes you believe anything is possible, even, God help us, peace in the Middle East.”—Simon Schama, Financial Times
 
“[A] must-read book.”—Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
 
“Important and powerful . . . the least tendentious book about Israel I have ever read.”—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Spellbinding . . . Shavit’s prophetic voice carries lessons that all sides need to hear.”—The....
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» See also 78 mentions

English (53)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
There is much learned about today's Israel in this remarkable book, but I must say one of the most startling things I learned -- which I may in fact have learned before but forgot -- was that the intelligence community in Washington faked a national security estimate (NSE) on information about the nuclear capability of Iran because experts thought George W. Bush would use the truth to start a war against Iran. I will have to check back to see if this is true. If it is, it means the man elected to protect the USA was not trusted enough by his own staff to act responsibly on the ultimate questions of national security. In the case of Bush, there is some grounds to believe they made the right decision. But nobody elected them.

As for the past and present of Israel, this book is remarkable. It showed me how different Israel is today from the one I visited -- and worked on a kibbutz -- about 40 years ago. This much and more has happened:

"In less than 30 years, Israel has experienced seven different internal revolts: the settlers' revolt, the peace revolt, the liberal-judicial revolt, the oriental revolt, the ultra-Orthox revolt, the hedonist-individualist revolt, and the Palestinian Israeli's revolt."

So if the displaced Palestinians got the impression that they were the only ones displeased with Israeli intransigence, they shouldn't feel alone: it seems most Israelis are pretty annoyed, too.

This in addition to threats from neighbouring Arab regimes, worldwide Islam, and extremist Islamist groups.

But how much of this is unique to Israel and how much the nature of our times?

Let's compare Israel polity to my own Canadian:

We occupy a land that was forcibly taken from indigenous people. Check.

We marginalize minority groups based on ethnicity and possibly religious affiliation. Check.

Our leadership appears feckless and rudderless. Our democracy is immobilised by regional grievances and short-term thinking. Check.

The resource curse lures us to balance our budget with oil revenues instead of banking them and focussing on sustainable changes to the economy. Well, this is something Israel is about to find our about with newly discovered off-shore gas reserves.

Shavit interviews a great many people linked to the themes of dispossession and security. Odd how Shavit ignores interviewing anybody remotely concerned with environmental degredation. Yes, Israeli's made the desert bloom. What about salinization of the soil, or the impact of so much more garbage on the landscape. Well, at least they aren't overflowing in pig ordure like the American midwest.

This story also underlines another reason Israeli GDP is growing faster than the European economies, or Japan for that matter: sustained immigration over a long period of time, something Canada and the US excel at over their Western competitors.

Israel grew so fast -- and continues to grow -- that social planners are helplessly left in the dust. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Continuing on a quest to understand more about the Middle East and how we got to this point in history, Shavit's discourse on the history of Israel is so informative. From the late 1800s when the first Zionist movement began to establish communities in Palestine for Jewish settlers, to the explosion of violence before World War I, and up through the modern day sect-plagued Israeli politics, Shavit carefully explains the seeds of violence and hate playing out in the current news. Though an Israeli journalist, and descendant of early Zionists, Shavit is not afraid to divvy up blame where it belongs. If you think you know how Israel came to be, you probably don't have a clue.

highly Recommended!!!!!
5 bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Dec 26, 2023 |
The author is, among other things, a columnist for Haaretz. This is a personal, wide-ranging, sociological history of Israel, told as a series of life stories of the author's friends and acquaintances. His view is unusually well balanced and insightful. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Balanced, in-depth, lyrical account of Israel's history and current predicament. Each chapter presents a different face of Israel's modern past and present, and not necessarily the ones you would expect. Really enjoyed. ( )
  Robert_Musil | Dec 15, 2019 |
This was a disturbing and tiring book, in some ways, yet also encouraging. I finished it some time ago, but never got around to writing a review because it left me feeling so sad, and in a way just a bit hopeless. The levels of apathy, of resignation to what is rather than hope for what could be, and the histories of events I'd read from another point of view about twenty years ago, now seen very differently. All very sad, yet I also see the need to read and attempt to help build on the work of authors like Amos Oz, and to read him in the original modern Hebrew, to try harder to understand the full dynamics of what is pulling on the modern State of Israel from both within and without, and to see how that applies to (and to some extent comes from) our Jewish communities, my chosen community, the people of Israel in the diaspora.
I was struck by the near uprising of the Mizrachim and Sfardim, and my experience talking with a Sfardic friend in 1988, and how we have both changed over those years, sadly.
I remain hopeful, because I must.
Toward Peace for All Humanity,
Shira Destinie
7 February 12017 HE (Holocene Calendar)
11 Shevat 5777 (the Jewish Calendar) ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
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Dedication
To my love, Timna
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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.
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History. Military. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND THE ECONOMIST
Winner of the Natan Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

An authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the State of Israel, by one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today
 
Not since Thomas L. Friedman’s groundbreaking From Beirut to Jerusalem has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as My Promised Land. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family’s story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.
 
We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.
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? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, 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
“This book will sweep you up in its narrative force and not let go of you until it is done. [Shavit’s] accomplishment is so unlikely, so total . . . that it makes you believe anything is possible, even, God help us, peace in the Middle East.”—Simon Schama, Financial Times
 
“[A] must-read book.”—Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
 
“Important and powerful . . . the least tendentious book about Israel I have ever read.”—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Spellbinding . . . Shavit’s prophetic voice carries lessons that all sides need to hear.”—The....

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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.
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