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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  5,272 Ratings  ·  749 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
...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published November 19th 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2013)
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Simona Atias You're joking, right? This book is perfectly balanced on both sides. You want to talk about massacres? How about the massacres that could have been…moreYou're joking, right? This book is perfectly balanced on both sides. You want to talk about massacres? How about the massacres that could have been avoided had the Jordanians "Palestinians" decided to continue living in peace with the Jews instead of trying to expel them like the rest of the ME has in the 20's as a result of the rise of The Muslim Brotherhood? Jews were being massacred too. They were victims too. But the point is that they don't remain in a perpetual state of victimhood in order to spread hateful and harmful ideologies.

Your comment undermines everything this author has tried to convey in an unbiased report. Take your Pallywood propaganda out of here and read a book with an open mind or else stop pretending you're trying to take in new information when you're solely here to spread your hate with information not grounded in any facts. (less)
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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lisa Lieberman
Sep 17, 2014 Lisa Lieberman 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
Elyse
Sep 09, 2015 Elyse 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
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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
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Jenny
Sep 20, 2013 Jenny 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
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Iris P
Sep 16, 2015 Iris P 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
Sep 26, 2014 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Old review Missing in Action ...
but there are many excellent reviews.

Clif
Feb 17, 2014 Clif rated it liked it
A problem of humanity is "specialness".

The problem for Jews, historically, has not been that they have thought themselves special, what group doesn't? It was that non-Jews thought of Jews as special in a negative way - as targets for abuse. Christianity made a habit of this and National Socialism made it a top priority.

Zionism created a mirror image: Jews would now be privileged instead of abused, but specialness would remain. In Zionist eyes, having been targets, Jews were now entitled to targe
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Gabby
May 13, 2013 Gabby 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
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K
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
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jordan
Aug 13, 2013 jordan 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
Trish
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
...more
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 no
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Mal Warwick
Feb 10, 2014 Mal Warwick 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
Summer
Feb 04, 2015 Summer marked it as to-read
As a Palestinian, that synopsis disgusts me.
Rachelle Urist
Jan 02, 2014 Rachelle Urist 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
Jeffrey
Feb 10, 2014 Jeffrey 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
Hannah
Jan 19, 2014 Hannah 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
...more
Skylar
Apr 04, 2013 Skylar 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
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Michael Griswold
May 16, 2013 Michael Griswold 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
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Julie
Mar 29, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
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
Annie
Oct 20, 2016 Annie rated it it was amazing
It is a beautifully written, honest effort to fairly examine the extraordinary existence of Israel as a political, historical, and social entity. It delves deeply into the inherent paradoxes of Israel, the seemingly impossible circumstances it inherited and itself created. But it also offers a moving explanation for its own necessity. Shavit can articulate so perfectly the complexities and conundrums and convictions of his people. His story is moving, fascinating, and one of the most important o ...more
Judie
Jun 27, 2013 Judie rated it really liked it
MY PROMISED LAND relates Israel’s history since 1897 when a group of twenty one Zionist pilgrims traveled from England to Jaffa. Their leader was the Right Honorable Herbert Bentwich. It was the first journey of upper middle-class British Jews to make the journey and Bentwich realized that to ensure the future of the Jewish people, Jews must return to their historical home.
Ari Shavit, Bentwich’s great-grandson, was born in Rehovet. He writes the two constants of his life as an Israeli were fea
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Andrew Rogers
May 02, 2013 Andrew Rogers rated it it was amazing
“Triumph and Tragedy” may be something of a cliché in book-titling (at least it seems that way to me), but “My Promised Land” is one book where that descriptor is really deserved. Author Ari Shavit does an excellent, and moving, job describing how, as he sees it, the triumphant accomplishments of Zionism and early Israeli independence have been squandered by Israel’s tragic turn to becoming an occupationist, imperial state. The “anyone who...” endorsement may be equally clichéd, but I believe an ...more
Myles
Feb 12, 2014 Myles 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
Cathy Gulkin
Jan 19, 2016 Cathy Gulkin 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
Josh Friedlander
Jul 18, 2014 Josh Friedlander rated it really liked it
An excellent, unputdownable personal and ethnic history that never feels dreary or apologetic. Shavit distills the focal points of Zionist history into thematic chains, interrogating the traditionally accepted Zionist narratives of "Shoah to uprising" and "making the desert bloom", while acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishments of the early state in so many fields (unlike more curmudgeonly leftists of the ilk of, say, Uri Avnery). Going through his family's past in the country, beginnin ...more
John Devlin
Apr 03, 2016 John Devlin 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
...more
Mike
Nov 26, 2013 Mike 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
Ed
Mar 14, 2015 Ed rated it it was amazing
An extraordinarily effective explanation of the history and politics of Israel from the original late 19th century founding efforts through 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and so on to the present day. It is told as a series of chapters each centered on a specific year and group of people/topic. The later years include interviews with those involved. By this method he cuts deep into the very varied and often conflicting elements in the Israeli psyche, focused on the world through Israeli eyes but never l ...more
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“returned to sow the valley. In the communal dining hall, they sing joyfully. They dance through the night, into the light of dawn.” 1 likes
“Only a few years ago did it suddenly dawn on me that my existential fear regarding my nation’s future and my moral outrage regarding my nation’s occupation policy are not unconnected. On the one hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is occupying another people. On the other hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened. Both occupation and intimidation make the Israeli condition unique. Intimidation and occupation have become the two pillars of our condition.” 1 likes
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