In this critically acclaimed book, Paul Johnson delves deep into the 4,000-year history of the Jews: a race of awe-inspiring endurance, steadfast homogeneity and loyalty and, above all, the belief that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny. With exacting precision and enthusiasm, Paul Johnson has mapped the lives of these people from their early ancestors in the House of David, through great periods of creativity and enterprise, alienation in the ghettos, Adolf Hitler's obsession to obliterate the race, up until the present day. This book is a powerful argument about the nature of Jewish genius, its strengths and contradictions, which brilliantly presents the entire Jewish phenomenon. It makes incisive though-provoking sense of the whole.
Nevertheless, the book is a valuable addition to the historical canvas. Some of it, such as the details of Jewish life during the Middle Ages, is so painful I had to put the book aside. The chapter on Israel is detailed, if perhaps more laudatory than it should be, especially in light of recent current events. I'm glad I read it. But I don't think I would read it again.
The manner in which I approached the book also made it a bit confusing at first, with references to Biblical characters, as I had not realized that the Old Testament is more historical than I had realized. It is also the history of a people, and not the history of a nation: it is not the history of Jerusalem and Israel, as I soon realized. Having said this, the one gripe that I do have about the book, is that he could have divided the chapters into sections, which would have made it easier to understand the flow of the story from continent to continent.
The approach is balanced, and this is something that I like. It would have been easy to adopt a somewhat biased and hysterical stance, especially considering what the Jews have endured. That he wrote the book in a balanced and somewhat detached manner is remarkable.
It is also sad to understand how, in the name of God, we persecute people, and initiate pogroms against them due to our own ignorance and blind faith. In that sense, it is as much of a history of human bigotry and cruelty.
I read the book, and came out at the end, with considerable admiration for the Jews, as a people.
This is a book that I highly recommend.