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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  8,138 ratings  ·  1,007 reviews
A groundbreaking, ambitious, and authoritative examination of Israel by one of the most influential columnists writing about the Middle East today

My Promised Land tells the story of Israel as it has never been told before. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Through revealing stories of significant events
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2013)
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Cathy You're absolutely right. This book is an insult to all Palestinians and it is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has been following the situa…moreYou're absolutely right. This book is an insult to all Palestinians and it is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has been following the situation in Israel/Palestine over the past decades. Pure Zionist propoganda.
Jeremy Marshall I couldn't finish the book, not because it wasn't interesting but because of the author's weepy agenda. This is not an objective account of Israel by …moreI couldn't finish the book, not because it wasn't interesting but because of the author's weepy agenda. This is not an objective account of Israel by any means. I inferred that the author admits that a great wrong has been done to the Palestinian people, but hey, collateral damage, and things worked out for the best because the world now has Israel, and Shavit. (less)

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Average rating 4.22  · 
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Lisa Lieberman
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-interest
Where you’re standing makes a big difference in how you feel about Ari Shavit’s book. I started My Promised Land five months ago, during the tenuous cease-fire following last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. What struck me most forcefully, then, was the willful blindness of Zionist pioneers such as Shavit’s great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, who came to Palestine from Britain in the 1890s full of hope, intent on creating a sanctuary for Europe’s Jews regardless of the conseq ...more
Jan Rice
To begin my review of My Promised Land, I decided to talk some cognitive psychology:

It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern. Thinking, Fast and Slow, p. 87

Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather
Elyse  Walters
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of
existential crisis.
Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries,
and letters, as well as his own family story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the
Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both
personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.

It's clear Shavit, a secular leftist, loves his country, but is confli
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best book of non-ficion I've read this year, and certainly the one that brought me closest to understanding Israel, and along with it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What made this book different from all of the other books I've read about this subject so far is that unlike most other authors Shavit focuses on the micro rather than the macro. It tells the story of Israel and the Zionist utopian project that was the beginning of what we now know as Israel, by providing very li
Iris P
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris P by: Elyse

Excellent and comprehensive narrative that helps you understand the history of the establishment of the modern state of Israel and the background behind the conflict with the Palestinian people.
I am far from being an expert but after reading this fantastic non-fiction book, I am much more well-informed. Highly recommended if you're interested in the topic.
Elyse  Walters
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Old review Missing in Action ...
but there are many excellent reviews.

Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is not an ideological review. I chose this book not due to any special interest in Israel, but for my world books challenge. For those keeping score at home, my book from Palestine got 2 stars as well. I suspect this is not a coincidence, and that both books’ inflated averages result from ideological/emotional ratings interfering with honest evaluations of their merits.

My Promised Land is a long opinion piece, including a partial history of Israel and a smattering of memoir. Shavit makes n
Updated review: Just took off two stars after reading this article. Shame on you, Ari Shavit.

I still think it's a great book, but there's no way I'm giving five stars to a work that includes intellectually dishonest reporting. And if the seminal chapter on Lydda, often excerpted as proof of Israel's wrongdoings, was misleading, what might that mean about some of the other book's claims?

Earlier, more glowing review:

If you're searching for one word to capture the essence of Israel, that word migh
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of My Promised Land by Ari Shavit from Random House Publishing Group in return for which I agreed to write a review. The opinions expressed in my review are my own.

It was obvious to me from the very beginning of this fascinating and informative book that for Ari Shavit writing this history of those who developed and continue to nourish the state of Israel was a labor of love. The whole atmosphere of this reading experience was one of devotion to telling Israel's story from the
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What are readers to make of Ari Shavit’s beautifully rendered and often profound (and often profoundly depressing) new book? It isn’t exactly a history, though it considers a number of key moments in the history of Israel. Nor is it memoir, though Shavit folds his and his family’s experience seamlessly into the broader narrative. Creative non-fiction? That feels like a copout. Labels might not matter to some, but I settled in the end on a creative analytical meditation on the miraculous rise, st ...more
Shavit begins what he hopes is an international dialogue with this book. Such a dialogue has been long in coming. Perhaps the time is ripe. He can see that the Israeli position in the Middle East is dangerous and endangered. He uses interviews to illustrate various events that have shaped the nation and its now shifting worldview.

Shavit shows us how both the right and the left in Israel today have flaws in their grasp of where Israel is in relation to the Palestinians, the Arab world, indeed, e
Mal Warwick
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
If you care about Israel and its people, or if you’re simply concerned about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, you owe it to yourself to read Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. Fair warning, though: you won’t come away from reading this book feeling optimistic about Israel’s future. Though the author ends on a high note, celebrating the emergence of new, middle-class political forces in the 2013 Israeli elections, he dwells at such length on the strategic cul-de-sac that the country has du ...more
Jef Sneider
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ari Shavit tries to be fair to everyone. The first third of the book is heartbreaking as he reminds us of the horrors of the holocaust and the centuries of antisemitism that drove the Jewish people to want a homeland of their own while telling an honest story of the displaced Palestinians who lost their homes to the forces of history. He knows Palestinian history and acknowledges their displacement, and he knows Jewish history and acknowledges it in a very personal way, using his own family stor ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book presenting the triumph and tragedy of Israel, as promised in the book's subtitle.

The human experience.
The beautiful along with the ugly.
the good along with the bad.
the sexiness along with the uncouth.

I loved the fact that there was no whitewashing. The moral ambiguity along with the love of the land shines through in every page.

I grew up with mixed feelings about the state of Israel. I didn't come from a rabidly anti Zionist home, yet the stuff we were taught in school gave me
Rachelle Urist
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ari Shavit has written this landmark work with passion, courage, and vision. It is intensely personal. It is also a stunning overview of the rise of the modern state of Israel within the context of 20th century Jewish history. My Promised Land is like a letter, sent through time and space, to Jewish brethren round the world. It beseeches us all to open our eyes to the grim realities that beset our beloved state of Israel. The book reflects the author's sense of mission and purpose, and it testif ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shavit begins his history of Zionism and Israel honestly and that's what kept me reading, even though I fundamentally disagree with his thesis that because of the Holocaust, European Jewry had an inalienable right to create the State of Israel on the land that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had been living on for hundreds of years. But he was honest about the inability and/or unwillingness of early Zionists to see or acknowledge the indigenous people of Palestine and about the ethnic clea ...more
Thomas Deck
Sep 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was my Everest. Started and stopped reading it three different times. Took a global pandemic to finally get me to finish it. Ended up absolutely crushing it thought it took me 4 months on my 3rd and final attempt.

Turns out the history of Israel is straight up wild. From it's early settlers to pre and post WW2 and the modern day, it's a quite the journey and one I didn't fully appreciate. Ari provides a very balanced view and looks at the issues from all angles and by talking to all di
Ying Ying
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This non-fiction book is so good that it reads as fiction; I could not put the book down. The story is engrossing, and the author's analysis structured and clear. I've learned so much from this book, and I would like to read this again soon. ...more
Michael Griswold
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Books on Israel typically fall into two categories: heavily pro-Israel or heavily leaning towards the Palestinian cause. Ari Shavit as a reporter for one of Israel's leading daily newspaper falls into the pro-Israel category, so perhaps one would expect a cheerleading love letter about the glories of Israel. But the picture painted by Shavit is far more complex than Israel being an absolute good or bad.

Shavit takes the reader on a historical and biographical journey from the 1890's through prese
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I'll be honest. I have no idea who the author is. However, I'm more familiar with Zionism and Israel than the average American, but I try to avoid listening to the politics.

I was really surprised by this book after reading the description. I thought it would make me angry or shake my Zionist foundations or challenge my assumptions. It did those things, but not in the way I expected. In short, the book analyzes internal struggles of Israel, from settlements to racism (to both Arabs and non-Ashke
"I still highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Israel along with the dedication of the men and women who brought a dream of statehood to fruition. Shavit does an excellent job of presenting all sides of the issues Israel faced in the past and what they will have to face in the future if they want to remain a viable global entity. I wish I could give this book a rating higher than 5 Stars. It's worth at least a 10."

Daniel Sevitt
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding collection of essays and reflections that start with Shavit's great-grandfather arriving in 1897 and end with the aftermath of the 2013 elections.

Tremendously readable and unblinking look at the triumphs and disasters of Zionism's first century. Shavit is as sharp on the failures of the Left as he is on the excesses of the Right. Hard to imagine this changing anyone's mind, but it's bloody good all the same.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well researched history and analysis of Israel providing lots of food for thought.
“There was hope for peace, but there will be no peace here. Not soon. There was hope for quiet, but there will be no quiet here. Not in this generation. The foundations of the home we founded are somewhat shaky, and repeating earthquakes rattle it. So what we really have in this land is an ongoing adventure. An odyssey. The Jewish state does not resemble any other nation. What this nation has to offer is not security or well-being or peace of mind. What it has to offer is the intensity of life ...more
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit

“My Promised Land" is a fascinating, candid and heartfelt historical account of Israel. Leading Israeli columnist and writer Ari Shavit takes the reader on a mesmerizing journey that paints a thorough portrait of the contemporary Israeli experience. This powerful 464-page book includes the following seventeen chapters: 1. At First Sight, 1897; 2. Into the Valley, 1921; 3. Orange Grove, 1936; 4. Masada, 1942; 5. Lydda, 1948; 6. Hou
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is much learned about today's Israel in this remarkable book, but I must say one of the most startling things I learned -- which I may in fact have learned before but forgot -- was that the intelligence community in Washington faked a national security estimate (NSE) on information about the nuclear capability of Iran because experts thought George W. Bush would use the truth to start a war against Iran. I will have to check back to see if this is true. If it is, it means the man elected t ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction, vine
This book is a dense but thoroughly comprehensive history of a country unlike any other, a nation that has defied all odds just to exist. It is more than just a history lesson about Israel; it is an attempt to articulate its identity. Shavit uses individual experiences to narrate Israel's existence, highlighting different families during different eras to illustrate how a multitude of people have established themselves in the Promise Land. From his English great-grandfather settling in Palestine ...more
Nick Lloyd
The book was an honest and insightful look into the issues surrounding the Israeli state today. Shavit is at his best when discussing the history of Israel, from the orange groves of Jaffa, to the expulsion of Arabs from Rehovot during the '48 war, to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He is even handed, self-critical, and transparent about the reasons for each action and their consequences. Where he loses some ground is in the more contemporary chapters, ...more
John Devlin
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
The last chapter is superfluous and is painfully trying to evoke a sense of a Beethoven symphony.

Otherwise, Shavit's book is a great primer on trying to understand the Jewish/Israeli - Palestinian conflict.

Told through a chronological trip through people and events, Promised Land does a great job of presenting a balanced view of the clash of cultures both internal and external. There were many things I found interesting to note. Most strikingly was the secular nature of Zionism really all the wa
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best book I have read on of the modern state of Israel. The author is a liberal and secular (non religious) Israeli journalist whose book begins with the arrival of his great grandfather to Palestine in 1897. The author walks you through the growing pains of Israel. Theodore Herzl, the visionary, early immigration mostly from Europe followed by the Holocaust and the establishment of the state. He minces no words and describes the cleansing of Palestinian villages and the bruta ...more
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Israel education 7 66 Dec 15, 2014 06:01AM  

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