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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israelby Ari Shavit
Synopses & Reviews
WINNER OF THE NATAN 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 Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family’s story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is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.
“With the heart of a storyteller and the mind of a historian, Ari Shavit has written a powerful and compelling book about the making of modern Israel. No country is more emotionally connected to the United States, and no country’s fate matters more to many Americans. And yet, until Shavit’s My Promised Land, it has been growing more difficult to sense the character of Israel through all the caricatures. This book is vital reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the United States but of the world.” Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“A beautiful, mesmerizing, morally serious, and vexing book. I’ve been waiting most of my adult life for an Israeli to plumb the deepest mysteries of his country’s existence and share his discoveries, and Ari Shavit does so brilliantly, writing simultaneously like a poet and a prophet. My Promised Land is a remarkable achievement.” Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent, The Atlantic
“[A] must-read book...[My Promised Land] is a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel and building a healthier relationship with it. Before their next 90-minute phone call, both Barack and Bibi should read it.” Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
“Israel is not a proposition, it is a country. Its facticity is one of the great accomplishments of the Jews’ history....It is one of the achievements of Ari Shavit’s important and powerful book to recover [that] feeling.” Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review
“One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years....[The] book’s real power: On an issue so prone to polemic, Mr. Shavit offers candor.” The Wall Street Journal
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.
About the Author
Ari Shavit is a leading Israeli columnist and writer. Born in Rehovot, Israel, Shavit served as a paratrooper in the IDF and studied philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the 1980s he wrote for the progressive weekly Koteret Rashit, in the early 1990s he was Chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and in 1995 he joined Haaretz, where he serves on the editorial board. Shavit is also a leading commentator on Israeli public television. He is married, has a daughter and two sons, and lives in Kfar Shmariahu.
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