A lucid, valuable text about a homeland that may not yet be a light unto the nations but is surely unique.




The story of a unique nation as it grew from a dream to a world presence.

Brenner (Chair, Israel Studies/American Univ.; A Short History of the Jews, 2010, etc.) cogently sketches the unlikely achievements and unexpected trials of the State of Israel as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. At the First Zionist Congress, just 50 years before the Jewish state was established by the U.N., Theodor Herzl brought prayers of millennia down to Earth. As the author shows, there were certainly diverse places for a homeland to be (Africa, South America, Tasmania, as well as the Holy Land) and divergent paths it might take. Some favored autonomy after centuries of anti-Semitism, while others urged assimilation; labor had its proletarian views, and others stressed politics. Visionaries foresaw a land, different than any other, that would fulfill the ancient mission to be “a light unto the nations,” while some simply wanted a nation like any other. Unlike Herzl, some saw that displaced Arabs would not be pleased with the Jewish return to the biblical land of their fathers. The atrocities of the Holocaust clarified the urgency of a Jewish homeland, but who would be considered Jewish? Would it be a secular or religious land? An independent nation or a commonwealth? Brenner answers these questions and more in this concise text. The Six-Day War gave some Israelis the notion of a greater Israel, and religious settlers moved across the latest borders. The Yom Kippur War engendered an Arab summit’s adamant “three no’s”: no peace, no negotiation, no recognition. American evangelicals, anticipating the “end of days,” fell in love with Israel, and Russian immigrants and African lost tribes became Israelis. Startup technology and skyscrapers thrive in secular Tel Aviv, while world religions are at home among Jerusalem’s ancient stones; throughout the land, tourists mingle with soldiers on patrol.

A lucid, valuable text about a homeland that may not yet be a light unto the nations but is surely unique.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-17928-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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