NOTES TO THE NATIONS by Ernest G. Clemans


A Letter to Israel
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An open letter to Israel that urges its leaders to meditate deeply on the country’s holy mission.

In his debut, Clemans furnishes something rare, even for a more experienced writer: a mesmerizingly original, almost unclassifiable work. It’s addressed directly to the nation of Israel—an open letter that the author professes he was “compelled to write,” though he’s “neither a Jew nor an Israelite.” His message is both an admonition and a celebration of the historic purpose that he believes that God gave Israel. He provocatively considers the tension between the Jewish people’s “chosen” stature and the equality of all mankind. Although Israel biblically has a special relation to God, that designation is better understood as an obligation or mission, the author says, rather than a mark of privilege or superiority. The work is filled with timely reflections on the nature of biblical law, the relation between theology and evolutionary science, and the religious meaning of peace: “In spite of our past; in spite of what naysayers tell us today, and in spite of the uncertainties of tomorrow, world peace is possible to achieve,” Clemans writes. The book confronts head-on the challenge of modern Israel being surrounded by enemies, but Clemans exhorts the nation to respond with peace and love: “Acknowledge the hatred of those who hate you but do not stand against that hatred!” The book has a florid, sometimes poetic prose style that gives it a magnetic power but can also obscure the text’s overall clarity. And although the work is peppered with meticulously documented direct quotes from the Bible, its unsystematic consideration of the references’ contexts undermines its scholarly rigor. That said, the work remains a stirring appeal for Israel to ponder its role as a world leader as well as a reflection on the insuperable limitations of all worldly projects.

An often powerful work that offers a fresh, scripturally grounded assessment of Israel’s purpose.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2015


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