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Israel Is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its Historyby Rich Cohen
Synopses & Reviews
“Its a great irony that Israel was more secure as an idea than its ever been as a nation with an army.”
In AD 70, when the Second Temple was destroyed, a handful of visionaries saved Judaism by reinventing itby taking what had been a national religion, identified with a particular place, and turning it into an idea. Jews no longer needed Jerusalem to be Jews. Whenever a Jew studiedwherever he washe would be in the holy city. In this way, a few rabbis turned a real city into a city of the mind; in this way, they turned the Temple into a book and preserved their faith. Though you can burn a city, you cannot sack an idea or kill a book. But in our own time, Zionists have turned the book back into a
temple. And unlike an idea, a temple can be destroyed. The creation of Israel has made Jews vulnerable in a way they have not been for two thousand years.
In Israel Is Real, Rich Cohens superb new history of the Zionist idea and the Jewish statethe history of a nation chronicled as if it were the biography of a personhe brings to life dozens of fascinating figures, each driven by the same impulse: to reach Jerusalem. From false messiahs such as David Alroy (Cohen calls him the first superhero, with his tallis as a cape) and Sabbatai Zevi, who led thousands on a mad spiritual journey, to the early Zionists (many of them failed journalists), to the iconic figures of modern Jewish Sparta, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon, Cohen shows how all these lives together form a single story, a single life. In this unique book, Cohen examines the myth of the wandering Jew, the paradox of Jewish power (how can you be both holy and nuclear?), and the triumph and tragedy of the Jewish statehow the creation of modern Israel has changed what it means to be a Jew anywhere.
Praised everywhere from The New York Times to The Jerusalem Post, Cohen returns with an irreverent, erudite, and wildly entertaining history of Zion through the ages that is unlike any on the subject.
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE
A SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE BESTSELLER
In AD 70, when the Second Temple was destroyed, a handful of visionaries saved Judaism by reinventing it, taking what had been a national religion and turning it into an idea. Whenever a Jew studied—wherever he was—he would be in the holy city, and his faith preserved. But in our own time, Zionists have turned the book back into a temple, and unlike an idea, a temple can be destroyed. With exuberance, humor, and real scholarship, Israel is Real offers "a serious attempt by a gifted storyteller to enliven and elucidate Jewish religious, cultural, and political history . . . A powerful narrative" (Los Angeles Times).
About the Author
RICH COHEN is the author of Sweet and Low (FSG, 2006), Tough Jews, The Avengers, The Record Men, and the memoir Lake Effect. His work has appeared in many major publications, and he is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. He lives with his family in Connecticut.
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History and Social Science » Middle East » General History