THE SAND AND THE STARS: The Story of the Jewish People by Diana & Meir Gillon

THE SAND AND THE STARS: The Story of the Jewish People

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Inferior as a history to Josephine Kamm's Hebrew People (1968) and as a socio-ethical study to Gittelsohn's Meaning of Judaism (1970), this is a peculiar survey of the Jews' ups and downs -- ""At times they were to ride as high as the stars. But at other times they would sink as deep as the sand on the shore."" The story begins by parallelling the Bible in oddly secular terms that rob revelation of its numinous qualities: God does not speak to Abraham and Moses, for instance, but instead via ratiocination ""Moses had a vision that God was ordering him to return. . . ."" To misleading locutions add misstatements and misinterpretations (like the postulation of a body/soul dichotomy) and the misinformed speculation that ""If the Jews had not proselytized, would the world perhaps have left them alone?"" By the time ""Christianity Breaks Away"" and Islam represents ""The New Challenge,"" religion becomes a great game of one-upmanship: when the Jews rejected Mohammed, ""He took revenge. . . (and) discarded some of the Jewish customs in his new religion""; but ""As the victories continued, the Arabs realized that they could not go on slaughtering all the conquered peoples who refused to embrace Islam,"" and thus the Jews experienced a ""Golden Age"" under their dominion, which was to be followed by exiles and inquisitions, then a ""Sunrise in the West,"" a ""Sunset in the East,"" and another ""Setback."" Implications and new trends are far too briefly explored (Hassidism, Assimilation, Reform, and finally Zionism), although conventional arenas of Jewish success do emerge as the product of a particular limited set of opportunities. But the let-us-now-praise-famous-men section is as gratuitous as it sounds, while the Hitlerian persecution chapter is at once unbridled and insubstantial. Some slight sense of wonder, missing hitherto, is generated re Israel (the war record stops short, however), and the book ends with praise for America which gave ""succor to Jews in many. . . dark hours of their history."" So busily 'objective' as to be toneless this is also spineless, sounding for the most part neither convinced nor convincing; overly ambitious even in outline, it amounts to a haphazard highlighting of a heritage's lowest moments.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1971
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard