This debut by Elon, director of the Rabbinic Texts Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, is a haunting mixture of modes and voices. Originally published as a special issue of the Israeli journal Shdemot (run by a unique group of left-wing kibbutz members involved in Jewish textual study), Elon's work is the product of a complex background. He was raised in an Orthodox family but embraced secular Zionism as an adult. He served in the Israeli army during the Intifada. And he is involved in an ambitious revisionist study of traditional religious texts. Part memoir, part social criticism, part religious meditation, this work is united by one theme: the battle for the soul of Israel between the rigidly Orthodox and the secular (a designation that actually includes many holding strong religious but non-Orthodox convictions). In the first section, Elon mythologizes his abandonment of Orthodox Judaism as a ``mercy-killing'' of God. In the second section, in which he traces the evolution of Zionism in modern Israel, he sets out a dialectical battle between the datti'im (strictly Orthodox) and hilonim (allegedly secular), arguing that the Zionist movement ``must not be content with the liberation of [the Jewish] people from the gentile world, but must also strive for the internal liberation of the Jewish people.'' In the third section, Elon explores the very different attitudes toward holy texts taken by those absorbed in their study and by the ordinary Jew in the street. In the final section, a hypnotic recounting of his days on a rooftop observation post in the Gaza, Elon extends his meditations to encompass the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which he sees refracted through biblical and rabbinic texts. Often a difficult book, From Jerusalem is aided immeasurably by Frymer-Kensky's astute translation, introduction, and notes. By turns dazzling, frustrating, enchanting, and vivid, this is a formidable first work whose timeliness is only underlined by recent events in the Middle East.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8276-0525-0

Page Count: 220

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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