13 The Best Books on Israel – Five Books Expert Recommendations mới nhất

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His first book, The Old-New-Land by Theodor Herzl, is said to have changed the face of the Middle East. how is that?

This is probably not herzl’s most important writing. It is not a political thing or a polemic. but, it is this idea that he imagined how wonderful it would be when the Jews were reestablished in their ancient homeland. it was written shortly before his death in 1904.

You are reading: Best books on history of israel

the reason i chose this and all the books i selected is that when i was writing my book, emancipation, what i quickly came to see is that each stage of the integration of this marginalized community into european society has produced backsliding of a minority of Jew-haters on the other side. the vast middle didn’t care about one side or the other.

before herzl there was moses hess who had also theorized about zionism. he was one of the original leftist thinkers in europe who introduced the term communism to karl marx. Marx called him the communist rabbi. There was a lot of talk at the time about what it takes to make a nation. The entire nineteenth century for the Jews and the other smaller groups in Europe was the history of nationalism. what hess, and later herzl, decided was that the jews were in fact a nation in exile and could not hope to have the respect of other peoples until they had reestablished themselves in their nation. that is what lies at the core of Zionism.

so herzl started raising money. he went to the sultan in istanbul and said: ‘look, let me buy some land in palestine province’, and that’s how zionism began. and what he was doing on the old-new-earth was trying to imagine just a few decades ahead what this new state would be like. he writes about things like women would have the right to vote and there would be ultra-modern infrastructure. he even imagines a mass transportation system going from one end of palestine to the other and a tunnel from the dead sea to the mediterranean so that all the fabulous mineral wealth of the dead sea can be extracted and put on a conveyor belt to the mediterranean.

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The book was very influential because in it I imagined this utopian state. and the reason I chose this book is because, however unlikely a scenario for the future, it still tells you what the founding spirit of Zionism was. at one point he even says that Arabs and Jews will get along like brothers. if you think about this through today’s lens, you think, yeah right! but the idea was that the Arabs would embrace the Zionists because the Jews would bring all their trading skills to the region. everyone’s ship rises above the current of prosperity.

at the time, his next book, Exodus, was the biggest international bestseller since

Gone with the wind.

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yes, it was. this is a breeding ground that romanticizes the birth of the state of israel. Leon Uris had more writing power than Dan Brown. he was a weaver who wrote in the shadow of the holocaust. It was a time, particularly in the West, when people thought that Israel was the least that could be done for the Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust.

the book was structured in such a way that it dealt with the holocaust and the politics of the establishment of israel. he tried to show the interests of the local Arab population that was not yet called Palestinian. They were just Arabs. it showed the friendships between the Jews and the Arabs. It was even rumored that the hero played by Paul Newman in the film was inspired by Ariel Sharon when he was young. The main thing about this book is that when you read columns by neocon Likudniks, you’re reading an analysis shaped first by their teenage reading of the exodus.

In the book, the hero’s father left Russia, fought against the Turks, was tortured, still survived and is a mountain of a man. he looks down at his son and says, “He’s not a ghetto Jew.” and i think all of this plays into a massive fantasy about what israel means. shaped American Jewry’s view of Israel. It has nothing to do with Israel and much more to do with a post-Holocaust fantasy.

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there is the idea that next time we are going to fight. you really can’t imagine how popular the book was. the film’s theme song was the number one album in the late ’60s for weeks. and all of this fueled this wish that it would never happen again and that there would be a world of Jews who were tough and resilient.

your next book, one palestine, completed by tom segev, is also about that period, although it was written later.

yes, this is a proper factual account of what really happened.

Is this a good read?

I rate tom segev very, very highly. he’s a moody thinker and I don’t always agree with him, but if you think English is his second language, he’s an extremely good writer and this book looks at the Arab community with a very empathic open-minded and intellectual attitude. Both groups in Palestine had an important bone to discuss with the colonial power: Great Britain. and there was a fair amount of terrorism from both camps. British soldiers and diplomats were killed at that time. the 1930s were as bloody as the intifadas; it’s just that it was against the English.

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segev is a good historian who analyzes history. and his family have been in palestine for generations. he writes exceptionally well and plays a very direct bat.

your next book, amos oz is a story of love and darkness, it takes us from history to something much more personal.

I have to tell you, this is a spectacularly good book. I could have chosen any number of Oz novels, but I prefer this recent memoir for its depiction of the documentary reality of growing up in Israel in the early days of the Jewish state. It is set in Palestine just after the war against the Jewish state. his book makes the place seem real. very little reality of israel and palestine is absorbed. it is always filtered through expectation and prejudice. And that includes the people who visit every day, the diasporas from both communities. it is one of the reasons why it is an unsolvable problem because the diaspora communities are unable to see the situation through any kind of real or truthful perception.

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so, with this book, here is this world of jerusalem and tel aviv in the 40s and 50s. that same kind of knee-jerk reaction that people had to say exists today, particularly with people in europe. everything israel does is wrong and it would be helpful for everyone to read this book and soak up the reality and see what israel is like as a real place.

what about your latest book, open closed open by yehuda amichai?

well, there were so many books I could have chosen. But I chose this one because a friend of mine, the brilliant young novelist Nathan Englander, introduced me to this poet when I visited him in Jerusalem a couple of years ago. they are the poems of an old man, about love and death and all those things that poets usually do. but it has bits about the mad struggle for israel’s existence and the story that led to its founding. Let me take it off the shelf and read you something. this is the first line of his poem called ‘the amen stone’.

On my desk there is a stone with the word amen on it.

a triangular fragment of stone from the Jewish cemetery destroyed many generations ago.

The poem continues from there and describes the chaos and what happens to the stone. and then returns to the fact that the stone is on his desk and quietly says amen. he talks about raising the dead through the mosaic puzzle. the book enters and leaves israel and at the same time has all the humanity and prophetic disposition of word and image that is among the best poetry, that’s why i recommend it.

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