My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

by Ari Shavit

Book, 2013



Call number

827 SHA



New York, NY Spiegel & Grau, 2013


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.

Media reviews

User reviews

LibraryThing member TadAD
This is a fabulously immersive book chronicling what would become the State of Israel from the first Zionist expeditions at the dawn of the 20th century up until the present day. It's written from the inside out, a native-born Israeli's look at his own country in an honest attempt to cut through
Show More
the exaggerations, distortions and caricatures and capture what the country is and what it means.

There are a number of things I really liked about this book. First and foremost is that Ari Shavit is willing to tackle the tough issues and willing to let you know what he feels about them. There's no sense that this is a whitewash: he's a Left-leaning, Occupation-hating journalist who is convinced his country is headed on the path of possible self-destruction. At the same time, there's no sense that this is a rant by a chronically disaffected anti-Zionist: his conviction that Israel was and is necessary, and his belief that it is a unique social force in the world is all too evident.

Another thing that I liked was that, despite letting you know how he feels, he is willing to give the opposite bench equal time in the debate. He, the Ashkenazi descendant of the country's founders, lets you meet his friend, Gal Gabai, the dark-skinned, Moroccan Sephardic Jew who sits on the other side of the debate about whether Israel should be secular. And he introduces us to another friend, Mohammed Dahla, the first Palestinian to clerk in the Israeli Supreme Court and who now spends his time representing Palestinian terrorists on trial.

The result is that you understand twist a quote from the movie The American President..."Israel isn't easy. Israel is advanced citizenship." If there were easy answers, there are enough smart people over there who would have figured it out. But there aren't and, so, there is this nation of people who have done amazing things and terrible things, who have said, "Enough!" to the pogroms and the Holocaust, but who have committed their own pogroms and created their own ghettos.

Shavit is a born story teller. Despite being — largely — a history book, the stories suck you right in whether he's talking about the challenges of that first kibbutz at Ein Harod, about the reclamation of Masada, or about the nightclub mindset of today's young generation. With so much to like, is there anything I didn't? Well, I would have cut the last 30 pages. This book would have ended perfectly with his reflections on Israel's future in nuclear-powered Iran age. The final chapter, which was largely just a mental vacation drive across his country, was anticlimactic.

However, that still leaves 385 pages well worth reading.
Show Less
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
Ari Shavit is an Israeli journalist whose ancestors were among the founders of the Zionist enterprise that eventually brought about the creation of the State of Israel. He describes his early childhood, in the 1960's, as prosperous, exuberant, orderly, yet overshadowed by an existential fear that
Show More
some terrible catastrophe of mythic proportions waited to sweep his beloved homeland away. As he grew older, watched history unfold during the Six Day War and those that followed, and became a soldier himself, he came to understand that the source of this fear was the realization that his Israel, founded as a haven for a people long oppressed and cast out, existed only by occupying, dispossessing and oppressing another people.

My Promised Land is Shavit's personalized history of the State of Israel, based on interviews with hundreds of Israelis--Jews and Arabs, men and women, descendants of early immigrants, Holocaust survivors, displaced Palestinians, prosperous business leaders, authors, orange growers, fighter pilots. It is also a rational, frank and honest look at how that country came into being, what it cost and continues to cost both Israelis and Palestinians, and what it means to the larger world in the 21st century. It reads like a generational saga destined to become a sweeping mini-series of the caliber of John Adams or Shogun. Not once is the narrative flow blocked by a chunk of dry facts, and yet this book is loaded with facts. My ARC is dog-eared and page-pointed as though I expected to be comprehensively tested on its contents. The things I learned...they could fill a book. They do fill a book, a very fine book that is important, beautiful and profound. Shavit's love of his native land is not blind, but rather extremely insightful, accepting and forgiving her sins, but never trying to conceal them. He is eloquent in describing the seemingly insoluble problem, the tragedy of a clash between one very powerful, very convincing claim over this land, and another no less powerful, no less convincing claim. "I am haunted by the notion that we hold them by the balls and they hold us by the throat. We squeeze and they squeeze back. We are trapped by them and they are trapped by us. And every few years the conflict takes on a new form, ever more gruesome...The tragedy ends one chapter and begins another, but the tragedy never ends."

All history should be written this well. Highly recommended.
Show Less
LibraryThing member LancasterWays
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
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bowedbookshelf
Shavit begins what he hopes is an international dialogue with this book. Such a dialogue has been long in coming. Perhaps the time is ripe. He can see that the Israeli position in the Middle East is dangerous and endangered. He uses interviews to illustrate various events that have shaped the
Show More
nation and its now shifting worldview.

Shavit shows us how both the right and the left in Israel today have flaws in their grasp of where Israel is in relation to the Palestinians, the Arab world, indeed, even America. He is blunt, bruising, argumentative but illuminating as he cuts away at justifications of former and would-be leaders. The underpinnings of their stance are revealed in this way.

We know where Shavit stands:
”…the choice is clear: either reject Zionism because of (the expulsion of Palestinians from) Lydda, or accept Zionism along with Lydda. One thing is clear to me: the brigade commander and the military governor were right to get angry at the bleeding-heart Israeli liberals of later years who condemn what they did in Lydda but enjoy the fruits of their deed. I condemn Bulldozer. I reject the sniper. But I will not damn the brigade commander and the military governor and the training group boys. On the contrary. If need be, I’ll stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasn’t for them, the State of Israel would not have been born. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been born. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.” (p. 131)

The following passage was one of the most revealing and enlightening to me for it gave me a perspective I had not considered: ”Israel of the 1950s was a state on steroids: more and more people, more and more cities, more and more villages, more and more of everything. But although development was rampant, social gaps were narrow. The government was committed to full employment. There was a genuine effort to provide every person with housing, work, education, and health care. The newborn state was one of the most egalitarian democracies in the world. The Israel of the 1950s was a just social democracy. But it was also a nation of practicality that combined modernity, nationalism, and development in an aggressive manner. There was no time, and there was no peace of mind, and therefore there was no human sensitivity. As the state became everything, the individual was marginalized. As it marched toward the future, Israel erased the past. There was no place for the previous landscape, no place for previous identities. Everything was done en masse. Everything was imposed from above. There was an artificial quality to everything. Zionism was not an organic process anymore but a futuristic coup. For its outstanding economic, social, and engineering achievements, the new Israel paid a dear moral price. There was no notion of human rights, civil rights, due process, or laissez-faire. There was no equality for the Palestinian minority and no compassion for the Palestinian refugees. There was little respect for the Jewish Diaspora and little empathy for the survivors of the Holocaust. Ben Gurion’s statism and monolithic rule compelled the nation forward.”(p. 151)

Shavit seems to mourn, to regret, that the folks who were instrumental in setting up and continuing the success of the Israeli state seemed not to know what they were doing in terms of outcomes. The folks he is talking about were big, big in every way: in society, in influence, in action, and that they should have taken more care to think how their actions would affect the present and the future of Israel (and I would add, the world). But they were only men. Only human. They did the best they could at what they were best at. Most of us would be proud to have that written on our gravestones. But we now have to ask ourselves, “is this the best we can do?” The legacy of these folks is unacceptable.

Shavit begins with the historical underpinnings of the state of Israel, but by the end he admits the “binding historical narrative has fallen apart.” One almost wishes it were possible to begin again, starting back when land was actually purchased rather than stolen. Shavit acknowledges it is difficult to ignore the truth of displaced Palestinians. “What I see and hear here is an entire population of ours…imprisoning am entire population of theirs. This is a phenomenon without parallel in the West. This is systematic brutality no democracy can endure.” Whatever else Israel has succeeded in accomplishing must be paired with this bald fact.

But many in Israel are willing to live with this. Even Shavit claims it gives his people the edge (“quick, vital, creative”) that living under the “looming shadow of a smoking volcano” brings. Some “harbor in their heart a great belief in a great war, which will be their only salvation.” Well. (pause) Do I need to add that this does not seem much of a solution?

It was difficult for me to finish reading this book. My emotions roiled as I read the bulk of Shavit’s narrative, and at some point I exclaimed, “thank god for Shavit,” for he is willing to struggle with hard truths and face them like a leader. But I felt I was finished before I got to Shavit’s concluding chapter.

This exhaustive (and exhausting) catalog of personal histories, slights and wrongs, achievements and successes, thoughts and second thoughts about who really deserves to be in Israel and Palestine culminated in me wanting to say “just do it.” Now that everyone has had their say and we understand all…just fix it.

The contrast between Israel’s self-congratulation on one hand (we have so much talent, wealth, ambition, vision) and despair on the other (we have no friends, and so many enemies, we must actually bomb sovereign states to feel safe) is stark. But the state of Israel may be facing what every nation appears to be facing these days: a more divided electorate that hews to less moderate viewpoints, growing ever more radical and less tolerant by the year. While it is possible for me to feel empathy for individuals, it is difficult for me to feel sorry for a nation.

I did read the end of Shavit’s book. He is not optimistic. We all have reason for despair, but real leadership refuses to acknowledge the same boundaries that constrain the rest of us. It seems clear that we all want someone else to do the hard work of compromise and “leading” for us, and we wait for someone else to appear…when we really should all be thinking now, in this age of global warning and divided nations: What have we wrought?
Show Less
LibraryThing member Y2Ash
It has taken me awhile for me to write this review of Ari Shavit's My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. I'm pretty sure that this review will be adequate at best. I am not sure that I'll be able to express how much I really enjoyed this book.

Because I did.


Shavit takes the
Show More
reader in a journey from Israel's humble beginnings in 1897 being ""discovered"" and recolonized after their diaspora from Babylon to the 2000's dot-com revolution. Shavit is unflinching in his telling of his country's history. He talks about of the good: the Jewish people's tenancity and willings to survive nearly everything that was thrown at them. He recounts the mental anguish and toll the holocaust took on them.

Shavit discusses the bad as well. Such as their willingness to ignore the Arab prescence already living in Palestine and how they had to other facts or gloss them over in order to survive. He elaborates on how Israel has change with current climate. It has become more open. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the night club owner. Israel is slowly becoming more open about homosexuality. But it was also sad about the prevalent drug use among the young people. Just another way to survive.

There were other aspects and chapters that were incredibly interesting. I like the chapter on the nuclear power plant the best. It was intriguing as how the Israelies saw it as a means of protection but recognized it as a very dangerous weapon. Learning about Israel as a whole made me realized how much I didn't even know and never knew about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I hate when great books make me feel ignorant but I appreciated it.

Shavit's My Promised Land is the epitome of love. He is a left wing but was incredibly objective during his interviews. He got passionate but he listened and kept his anger in check. I believed his love and adoration for his country. He was inspired by Israel but aware of its shortcomings.
Show Less
LibraryThing member GabbyHayze
I received an ARC of My Promised Land by Ari Shavit as part of the Early Readers Group at Library Thing in return for which I agreed to write a review. The opinions expressed in my review are my own.

It was obvious to me from the very beginning of this fascinating and informative book that for Ari
Show More
Shavit writing this history of those who developed and continue to nourish the state of Israel was a labor of love. The whole atmosphere of this reading experience was one of devotion to telling Israel's story from the beginning of the state to the present time as well as hopes for the future. It was done as factually as possible by telling the story directly from as many people who were able to share what they experienced in the context of the time frame in which these events occurred. For each of the participants, in sharing their personal experience, the passion, courage, and attitude to never give up on the formation of the Israeli state is a constant. The dedication to forming a state as well as providing it with the continued devotion to having it remain relevant and viable as an entity to be reckoned with globally is an inspiration and testament to the strength of the human spirit.

As Shavit puts it, "Israel is a nation-state founded in the heart of the Arab world... A wide circle of 350 million Arabs surrounds the Zionist state and threatens its very existence." An inner circle of 10 million Palestinians also poses a threat to Israel's ability to survive. Given those numbers, Israel doesn't appear to have much going for it. Unless, of course, the sheer will power to exist as a free society is taken into account. Israel is continued proof that people with one specific goal in mind, the right and necessity to have and keep a homeland, is motivation enough to succeed no matter what the cost.

The subtitle to My Promised Land is 'The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel'. Shavit begins his story with the arrival in Jaffa of 30 passengers from London, England, among whom is is his great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich. It is Bentwich who believes that Jews must settle in their ancient homeland. Shavit follows the route his great-grandfather took upon arrival in Jaffa, and he continues throughout the book to visit all the areas in which early settlers were faced with challenge after challenge in learning how to live productively in places that were essentially undeveloped. He tells how these settlers learned to work the land. If technology did not exist to support their activity, they invented it themselves. The dedication of those people was awe inspiring. They had to be creative, practical, and find sources of income to support these new ideas in agriculture which led to more development in other areas of setting up a life style. Those early years were full of back breaking labor, but no matter what the challenge someone always came through with answers. As a result the orange industry grew in Jaffa which distributed the fruit throughout Europe.

There are many success stories throughout Israel's history many of which I was unaware. What stands out most about the story of the Jews who came to settle the Israeli state is those who survived the Holocaust. Before Shavit details that, he writes about Masada. For me, that is one of the most heart breaking, and yet inspiring, events in history. I was familiar with the Masada story, but I did not know about the events in the 20th century that led to the revisiting of Masada as a historical shrine. I found Shavit's retelling of the Masada story to be riveting.

There are times when Shavit makes very clear his opinions on certain events in Israel's history, particularly those decisions with which he does not agree. He holds strong opinions about Israel's development of nuclear weapons as well as the continuing struggle over Israel's Occupation of disputed Palestinian territory. I do not agree with some of the conclusions Shavit draws on those two subjects in particular. The Israeli people have been persecuted for thousands of years, and there was a well thought out plan to annihilate the entire Jewish population from the face of the earth. In view of that history, I believe Israel has every right to do what it needs to do to protect itself. There was no voice of reason dominant enough to stop the murder of over 6 million people. There were no effective "peaceniks" speaking out nor taking the measures necessary to stop the murder of so many innocent people. For me, that's a lesson learned. If Israel doesn't stick up for its own, no one else is going to do it for them. I think it's easy to sit back and take a moralistic attitude; it's much more difficult to live each day knowing the Arab world does not follow that same lofty position.

With that said, I still highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Israel along with the dedication of the men and women who brought a dream of statehood to fruition. Shavit does an excellent job of presenting all sides of the issues Israel faced in the past and what they will have to face in the future if they want to remain a viable global entity. I wish I could give this book a rating higher than 5 Stars. It's worth at least a 10.
Show Less
LibraryThing member .Monkey.
This was one of the most amazing books I've ever read, plain and simple. Shavit gives us a 115 year history that is objective and full of simple facts, and yet manages at the same time to be completely personal and passionate. This is not just another one-sided "pro-Israel" story, the reader is
Show More
given all the facts—with all the atrocities that went into making the State of Israel a reality—in a completely balanced account. Shavit stands up and boldly says yes, Israel made (and makes) mistakes, it has done terrible things, and I do not support those, or the occupation! and at the same time, he explains (without excusing) why there was no option but to do many of those things, if Israel was to exist and survive. Some of his very many interviews are with economists, which is where he leads us to thinking about the future of Israel and if its continued survival is possible. Simply fabulous.
Show Less
LibraryThing member boodgieman
For most Americans without personal ties to the Middle East, the events surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict are as baffling as they are distant. Ari Shavit, Israeli public television commentator and columnist for the left-leaning publication Haaretz, brings these events into focus. He takes the
Show More
reader on a historical tour of the founding of modern Israel and tries to predict the future of Israel by examining its past. Part travelogue, part personal history (Shavit's great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, was a British Zionist leader and early Jewish settler of Palestine; his story, which opens the book, is fascinating by itself), part collection of interviews with Israelis and Arabs both well-known (within Israel, anyway: no one here is a headline-maker in the West) and unknown, this book is as lucidly written an examination of the major issues shaping Israel's present and future as one is likely to find. Shavit does not shy away from asking tough questions but finds no easy answers. Shavit is an outspoken leftist and peace advocate, and his own political stance is never far from the surface; indeed, his opinions are often front and center. Nevertheless, he finds much to admire in those with whom he radically disagrees, and he presents their positions with respect; one of the strengths of the book is that Shavit lets his subjects talk at length, occasionally asking laser-sharp questions that keep the discussion and debate flowing. Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in modern Israel and Middle East history and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Show Less
LibraryThing member buildalife
I read Thomas L Friedman's book "From Beirut to Jerusalem" many years ago and had begun to search for something more recent that would help me unravel current headlines. Thus, I was grateful when "My Promised Land" arrived on my doorstep. It has been a wonderful immersion into the history and
Show More
culture of past and present Israel. While the author makes some assumptions about the basic understanding of the reader (a glossary and map would be helpful additions), the context provides clarity and the writing actually feels like a deep dive into a different world. I'm sure there will be controversy around the opinions expressed when this book is published. I look forward to following the writer (blog please). Mostly I appreciate the new perspective I have on Middle East issues and value this as a starting point for further reading.
Show Less
LibraryThing member rentie
Having lived in Israel I enjoyed reading this view of the land of Israel. It was fun and engaging and brought me back to my time there.
LibraryThing member davemac
This book is very useful in understanding some of the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Being a collection of various peoples' experiences, it helps a person like me - who has never even been to the Land - to understand some of what is happening there, and to realize that
Show More
simply choosing sides is both simplistic and detrimental to lasting solutions to the problems that region raises. Yet, precisely because it is this - first-person accounts told through the pen of an author with his own views and prejudices (about which he tries to be very open and up-front) it leaves me wondering what stories not told might offer even more insights into the past and future of that Land. In particular, I would have appreciated more from the point of view of those who believe the Hebrew Scriptures are an important if not essential key to understanding the right of a Jewish state to exist. Surely this is not limited to the "ultra-Orthodox" community. It seems to me that this is an even more fundamental issue than the right to return for the Palestinians or the right to settle for Jews. I believe that in many ways, the struggles that the Israelis - both Jew and Palestinian - are involved in represent the struggle of humanity itself, and that the world's future and the Land's future are inextricably linked together, and I appreciate the insights shared in this book. One suggestion I would have - include a map with the various regions and cities that figure into the various accounts.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mldavis2
From the pen of a Jewish Israeli author and journalist, this work follows the beginnings of the Zionist movement into Israel as Jews fled growing antisemitism in Europe and returned to the shores of the middle east seeking refuge and opportunity. It is a surprisingly objective historical account of
Show More
that exodus and outlines the Israel-Palestine conflict as seen in numerous interviews with persons of influence on both sides. Ultimately it takes the side of Zionists, but not before giving credit and blame where it is due. This is an excellent account of the current tensions in the region and should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the impasse that has developed among these peoples.

This was an Early Reviewer copy sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jennparm
I was looking forward to reading this book so I could possibly gain some insight into the situation in Israel and how it has changed over the years. I had hoped it would be informative and a good story, and unfortunately I was disappointed in one of those aspects. It was certainly informative, and
Show More
would serve as a good resource on the subject, but a good story it was not. However, if you go into this book with the purpose of gaining a better understanding of the land and people of Israel, you will not be disappointed. It is well-written and insightful.
Show Less
LibraryThing member zzshupinga
ARC provided by NetGalley

Ari Shavit draws not only on his family's own story, but interviews and other historical documents to tell the story of the Zionist movement and the creation of modern day Israel. Ari provides the reader with a deeply moving and and deeply personal story about Israel,
Show More
ranging from Ari's great-grandfather landing in Israel in 1887 to today's world with a booming club scene and foreign policies with Iran. Ari creates a tale that will give the reader greater insight into the world of Israel.

I recommend this book to history and foreign policy fans. 4 out of 5 stars.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Elliot1822
Ari Shavit has written a powerful book about the creation of the State of Israel. Our country is more connected to the country of Israel than any other country, and no country’s fate matters more to Americans. With Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, it is clear to see the true character of Israel
Show More
through all the character types mentioned in his wonderful book. This book is a important reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the our country but of the world in and outside of Israel. My Promised Land is a remarkable literary achievement and an must read for American Jews
Show Less
LibraryThing member RitaKay
I really enjoyed reading this book. I've always wanted to know the history of Israel. Shavit provides detailed information on the lives of several Jewish immigrants to Israel. I am amazed at the strength and determination of the young settlers that survived horrific early lives so that future
Show More
generations would hopefully live peaceful lives in the promised land. It is a long book, but every chapter moves along, making the reader eager to read the next chapter.
Show Less
LibraryThing member shadowofthewind
Ari Shavit tells the story of Israel as if he was there from its founding. He extracts the feeling of the very first Pilgrims in 1897 and continues with a people's history of the region. He doesn't spare the hardship of the Israelis, but just as importantly he tells the story of the Palestinians
Show More
that were displaced. This dual story is the black box of modern day Israel. He deftly covers the issues of the Right and the Left. Israel has gone from a righteous nation after the Holocaust to one unsure of itself. Its past efforts in displacing Palestine has come back to haunt it in the latter half do the century. At the beginning of the new Millennium, Israel must look itself in the mirror and find out what nation it will be.

Ari Shavit is a columnist and political Leftist but he provides a thorough even handed look at the modern day crisis in Israel. From the first Pilgrims in 1897 he has the ability to inhabit what it felt like to be one of them, often using first person accounts through an exhaustive interview process; he can trace history, the feeling, and the despair of the first years and the extreme difficulty in establishing a new state in an existing state. Shavit can draw the line recognizing the need for this new state but also knows where righteousness meets theft and how this displacement would haunt Israel. His book follows many books coming out that are covering the same topics such as We Look Like the Enemy: The Hidden Story of Israel's Jews from Arab Lands by Rachel Shabi (Shavit covers this in the J’accuse chapter) and the short story collection The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (which Avit captures in Gaza Beach and Sex, Drugs, and the Israeli Condition) and many from the Palestinian perspective such as I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity by Izzeldin Abuelaish.

In one book he is able to encompass the many crises of Israel, from first founding, to pushing out the Palestinians, the wars, occupation, military duty, and the change in Israeli culture. His fears are best summarized in the last chapter. His intent to bring up the topics in this book is for Israel to look at itself and prepare for the future. Will Israel continue 50 years on 100? How can they survive with this identity crisis along with this circle of hate that surrounds them? This thorough work will be eye-opening for any newcomer to Israeli history and an easy introduction, but Shavit is also able to deal with the more advanced issues in a readable and approachable manner. This is the book to read on modern day Israel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member skf
I am a pro-Israel, but not pro-everything-Israel-has-done, American who believes that the most painless way to teach is through stories, so I was excited to read this book which promised to be the history of modern Israeli written by an Israel peacenik through the story of his family, beginning
Show More
with his grandfather who came to Israel in 1897 as a scout for Zionism. Sadly, I found Ari Shavit couldn't help but put himself in the story way before his time, beginning in 1897. If a Reader's Digest editor got a hold of this book and shortened it by 1/3 he could make it much more readable without removing any of the vast information and interpretation of the facts contained in it.

There is much to learn and much to be said about Israel, and Ari Shavit succeeds in coming to the conclusion that it's complicated. There is no easy solution for the Holy Land. If you read this book you will learn much about the conflict and probably change your position several times, possibly not arriving at a conclusion.

If you are interested in the land that is today Israel, you will find much to ponder in this book, and I don't mind if you disagree with my feelings about Mr. Shavit's writing style.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Amusedbythis
The is a well-written engaging book that is very troubling. It is troubling not only because the author intends it to be so but also because of its seemingly intentional gaps.
The author portrays an account of the history of Israel that mixes fiction and non-fiction. He is the omniscient narrator
Show More
who is present when his great-grandfather arrives at the land that becomes Israel and portrays what he believes is seen and felt by the persons in his book.
During the course of the book, he tends to downplay or ignore the deaths of the Jews or Israelis at the hands of the Arabs or Palestinians. He portrays the displacement of the Arabs in the Galilee in 1948 but virtually ignores the deaths of the Jews throughout Israel during the War of Independence. He ignores the continual Jewish presence in Jerusalem from ancient times until 1948 and minimizes any ties to the land that was settled by the Jews.
Given that premise, it is difficult to evaluate the other aspects of the book. But it is clear from the lack of the portrayal of the infitadas that the perspective continues throughout.
The author clearly is tied to his country but given his perspective, it is difficult to understand why he stays there. His only excuse, is seemingly, that it is the only nation where Jews can thrive as Jews.
He almost has the perspective of Groucho Marx who stated that he would not want to belong to any club who would have him as a member. The author seems apologetic for his own existence.
This is a very readable book and has some value.
Show Less
LibraryThing member crystalovesya18
I was given an advance reader's edition of "My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel" by Ari Shavit through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

When I first found out that I was receiving this book to review, I was
Show More
very apprehensive. I am not interested in history and am not well versed in the current events of modern day. I just do not and can not bring myself to find these topics interesting. However, I am passionate about literature and decided to at least give this a try.

Let me just get to it: I got through the introduction and Chapter One "At First Sight, 1897" before I really knew that I could not possibly read a four hundred plus page book about such a topic. While I will commend Shavit for his passion and writing style, I just could not continue. Shavit's style is what got me past the introduction though. Without the writing being as good as it was, I would not have even set foot into chapter one.

I will be rating this book four stars because of the part that I read. The writing style, content, and Shavit's obvious love for his topic of text, make this a really great book... but only for people who are really into things like this. Do not read this if you are like me or are just thinking about trying something different. You will not enjoy this. Try something else. This book is great but only for a targeted audience.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jeoblivion
This is by far the best book of non-ficion I've read this year, and certainly the one that brought me closest to understanding Israel, and along with it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What made this book different from all of the other books I've read about this subject so far is that unlike most
Show More
other authors Shavit focuses on the micro rather than the macro. It tells the story of Israel and the Zionist utopian project that was the beginning of what we now know as Israel, by providing very little handy political facts. No chapter on the Yom Kippur War or on any of the other wars or Camp Davids that in most books about Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would define the face of the country portrayed. Instead Shavit zooms in. On people, on certain events and places. He makes the macro comprehensible by focusing in on the micro. And he does so with a deep passion for Israel and its people, and at the same time an astonishing ability to capture the state of moral ambiguity that Israel has been living in since day one.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Gittel
A tour through the history and land of Israel. Amazing book, I couldn't put it down. Helped me see and evaluate the history of the state of Israel in a whole new way. I've been to Israel many times, and thought I knew the history of the country very well, but Shavit personalizes and offers his
Show More
perspective in a whole new way. Should be the first book you read about Israel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member suesbooks
Very interesting history of Israel that I have never before read or been aware of. The information is very important to understanding the country of today. I feel there is some use of semantics and facts that I may question, but that is always the case in history. Unfortunately, I found this book
Show More
not very optimistic or hopeful regarding the future of Israel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member rivkat
An odd book, told mainly through biographies of various Israelis (and pre-Israelis), which argues among other things that Israel’s practice of having nuclear weapons but not acting as if its strategy depended on such weapons was highly successful for many years but has been destabilized by Iran
Show More
and by the settlements, which have destroyed any prospect for peace. Another depressing book, which suggests that Israel’s right-wing Orthodox groups have both opted out of protecting the state (both militarily and economically) and successfully prevented any withdrawal from settlements in the Occupied Territories. Shav argues that peace supporters also erred by promising land for peace; even if Israel now surrenders territory, there will be no peace; but at least some abuses and injustices would stop worsening.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Eye_Gee
What I wanted was what I got -- a well balanced booked that explained the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from the beginning to its current sorry state of affairs. Shavit, a journalist who has lived his whole life in Israel and been active in the peace movement, shares his perceptions along with the
Show More
those of many people who have been influential in the development of the country. He knows most of the major players on the right and left and lets them speak for themselves in interviews. I, for one, didn't know much about the Zionist political movement which brought secular Jews to Isreal as early as the late 1800's with the goal of setting up a socialist, agrarian community. Now I want to know more. One book on my list is A Peace to End All Peace, which explores the roles played by England, France, Germany and Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) in the Middle East prior to WWI and beyond.
Show Less

Original publication date



0385521707 / 9780385521703

Similar in this library

Page: 0.1944 seconds