Taking off from the 1975 UN resolution condemning Zionism as ""a form of racism and racial discrimination,"" Goldston traces the idea of ""the promised land"" from Abraham to Israeli independence, in effect explaining the three-thousand-year survival of the Jews. ""Only the Jews were able to carry with them their entire civilization, transferring it from country to country, reinterpreting it in many languages. . . ."" This is an ambitious undertaking, accomplished with great skill. The reader learns the meaning of the Talmud and the Cabala, the origin of Yiddish and the ""getto""; Maimonides, Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and other key figures are sharply delineated; and the recital of persecutions and revivals is clearly grounded in history. In modern times, with the emergence of the actual Zionist movement, the need to compress and simplify, and Goldston's compulsion to explain, result in facile pronouncements on such highly controversial issues as assimilation. Now that the Zionists appear to have been on the side of history, non-Zionists can be safely disparaged: ""Zionism, it appeared, was too radical, too positive, too committed a movement to long enlist the energies of those whose entire hearts, minds, and souls were not dedicated to its aims."" But this is incidental to an enormously informative, astutely ordered, and often pithy chronicle. Where else would you learn that John Adams said, in 1819, ""I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation""?