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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  2,966 ratings  ·  528 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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Lisa Lieberman
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
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
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
This book is a favorite because I learned and thought about what the author said many hours while reading it. I will interpret Zionism with less affect and more knowledge of its history and potential. That was all I asked from the book.

Highest Recommendation! Favorite!
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
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
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
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
Summer the bummer
Feb 04, 2015 Summer the bummer marked it as to-read
As a Palestinian, that synopsis disgusts me.
Mal Warwick
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
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
Rachelle Urist
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
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
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
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
Michael Griswold
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
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
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
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
In 1998 before I entered, Fr. Paul and I made a pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine. We were surprised at how secular the people we talked with in the Jewish State. This personal history book helped me put Israel into perspective. The author is a newspaper columnist/peace activist living with his family in Israel.
The book is laid out with a picture at the beginning of each chapter, each covering abut a decade. From the 1890's with wealthy Jews began buying Arab land, to the early and youthful citrus
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
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
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
Andrew Rogers
“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
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
I won this book from Goodreads.
This is a history we are all supposed to already know, but NEVER have I read a book like this one. It dramatizes history and makes it real, relatable, and memorable.
It begins in 1897 with an ancestor of the book's author. He travels to Israel, looking with hope at his future in the Holy Land.
Each chapter of "My Promised Land" appears to be well researched.
I liked that this book sometimes reads "somewhat" like a novel. One reads the history - but remembers it as a w
Bob Pearson
Written from the heart with intelligence, this book will be a classic. The life of Israelis is filled with irreconcilable contradictions, with choices imposed like a hand on the pin of a grenade, with generosity and with utter heartlessness, with vision and with no more thought for tomorrow than a bird in song. Shavit tells the story of his county from the time of his earliest ancestor who immigrated more than a century before, and he does it with the all-knowing eye of the camera for you to see ...more
Jarrod Scarbrough
A few friends had recommended this book to me, so I gave it a try. I'm glad I did! While the author did tend to jump around timelines a bit too much for my tastes, there was enough substance to keep you reading. This book isn't heavily biased toward either the Israeli or Palestinian side of the issue, rather what it does is tell you the tale of Zionism and the creation of the Israeli and Palestinian states, going back to the 1800's. He asserts that the cusp of tension between the Arabs and Jews ...more
Leah Schaeffer
This book invites you to be intimate with the stout founders, audacious schemers, and amazing leaders of the sometimes manic young nation Isreal.
This book takes you on a sentimental ride where you feel the sweat of the Jewish laborer breaking the soil for the very first time after centuries of absence. You smell their first crops and you taste their bittersweet accomplishments one by one as the author thoroughly takes you from year to year and from kibutz to kibutz on a trip of a lifetime.
Este monumental ensayo es indispensable para tener una justa visión de Israel. Esclarecedora y total. Tiene una cantidad de entrevistas importantes a los personajes irónicos.Con un buen sabor literario recorre todas las escalas de la composición social, desde 1897 hasta 2014.
Si quires tener una opinión y dar una opinión la recomendación es leerlo. Nunca imagine que tan importante fue recorrer todas estas páginas.
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“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
“That there is another people now occupying the land of his ancestors?” 0 likes
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