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Israel: A History

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Israel is a small and relatively young country, but its turbulent history has placed it squarely at the centre of the world stage for most of this century. For two millennia the Jews, dispersed all over the world, prayed for a return to Zion. Until the nineteenth century, that dream seemed a fantasy, but then a secular Zionist movement was born and soon the initial trickle ...more
Paperback, 786 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Black Swan (first published 1998)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  685 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book after being verbally assaulted by a number of co-workers in a rather heated discussion on the Middle East. (Are there any other kinds?) Although I felt I had a reasonable sense of the historical context of Israel, well it seemed the prudent thing to do get us much information as possible. I could have bought any number of books but as Mr Gilbert seemed to have a soft spot for Churchill (as do I ) this seemed like a good choice, despite its size! It's well written and well r ...more
Nick Borrelli
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This was okay but unfortunately not what I was looking for. It spent too much time on meaningless minutiae and not enough on the events that I really wanted to find out about. I guess I will have to look elsewhere if I want to find a more satisfying history of Israel. This one didn't scratch my itch sadly. ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Martin Gilbert, in this comprehensive volume, chronicles the history of the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), from 1862 to 1997.
He describes the ancient attachment of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, through the millenia. Since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in CE 70, the Jews who were dispersed all over the Roman Empire, had prayed for a return to Zion.
'Next year' in Jerusalem, has always been the hope expressed at the end of every Passover meal, commemorating the exod
Johnny Gourami
Aug 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Like all Martin Gilberts book i found Israel:a history crammed full of historical documentary evidence without a bias or a salespitch. It is difficult to find a book on Israel which doesnt either try to justify the racism and brutality of Zionism and Israel war crime violations or spend the entire chapters of the book chronicleing only war crimes and UN violations. This book list some war crimes, false flag operations and immoral arms dealing as any factual book on Israel should.
Gilbert is no D
Michael Sump
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book while visiting Israel, and it was a tremendous help to enrich my understanding and enjoyment of this amazing country. By coincidence, I was there for both Israel’s “Memorial Day” and their “Day of Independence.”

The first is a day of mourning for the entire country, for everyone has incurred the loss of loved ones in the many wars and conflicts of the past 67 years. The following day, though, is a day of great joy as this Jewish nation celebrates the birth of their ho
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I doubt any book on Israel will ever will be considered to be objective. Better than total ignorance is an informed confusion, which this books lends itself to generating. Filled with detail from a time before major Jewish settlement of Palestine and the formation of the state of Israel, this book pulls few punches and makes for uneasy reading if you're British. My final assessment was one of sad bewilderment at rights and wrongs so entangled by repeated struggle that makes the Gordian knot look ...more
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I got a lot out of this book; it brought home to me the reality of the dangers Israelis face every day and the many ways the rest of the world has let them down. It was hard to get into; most of the first hundred or so pages seemed to be a list of the various settlements established in Israel after the early Zionist movement. I'm glad I kept with it, though; there was so much information in the book. I like Gilbert's style; he doesn't display a lot of emotion when he tells about the atrocities c ...more
Andy Bryant
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Enjoyed that but at times a bit tough going, especially the constant diversions in the first part of the book to document every single settlement as it's founded. I enjoyed the last 30% of the book the most, but suspect this was due to the fact it covered events (Lebanon War, the PLO, peace process) I remember from the news when growing up. One thing about the book is you need to have a pretty good understanding of the geography of Israel/Sinai, as much of the narrative deals with the ever fluct ...more
Land Murphy
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This history of Israel only takes the reader up to 1998. The first hundred pages is fairly dense prose, full of people and place names, which could cause one to put the book down. However, the history is compelling and readable for the next three or four hundred pages, taking the reader through the founding of the state of Israel and its wars. Unfortunately, the last one hundred pages demonstrates Gilbert's clear biases, reading more like a polemic than history. Gilbert is unable to be objective ...more
Paul Jacobson
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I wanted to learn more about the history of Israel and better understand my new home. Gilbert's book is a wonderful introduction to this land and its dynamics. Glad I read it. ...more
Simcha York
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martin Gilbert's Israel: A History offers a comprehensive account of the development and rise of the State of Israel from the development of political Zionism in the mid-1800s to the aftermath of the peace process following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. This 2008 edition also includes new chapters covering the period from 2000 to 2007 which, while they fall outside the book's primary historical arc, are still interesting and informative.

Gilbert takes something of a "Great Man" appr
Callum Soukup-Croy
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
There is no escaping the fact that this is a massive book but to deal with a topic as broad as Israel then it simply has to be. There are many accounts of Israeli history out there but the size of this book lends it a feature that I felt few others had, comprehensiveness. Gilbert starts off with the pre-Christianity history of Israeli lands (which helps put the claims to a Jewish state into context) before moving forward to the first Jewish settlers in the 19th century. The book then covers ever ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly researched, incredibly detailed account of Israel's short, but intense history. Martin Gilbert maintains a position of neutrality throughout the book and includes many first and second source quotes which adds both richness and poignancy to the text. The material is quite dense, and at times reads more like a text book. However, it was very informative and comprehensive. ...more
Phill Parker
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Israelis use rockets to protect their children. Palestinians use children to protect their rockets." ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
more like "A History of the Israeli Labour Party", but fine. ...more
Stijn De Smet
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had always been aware how ignorant I was about the history of Israel and felt an obligation to inform myself on the subject. I'd often read snippets about the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur war, peace talks, terror attacks and everything else that is unfortunately far too common in Israel, but I lacked the context to really understand their implications. Israel: a history by Martin Gilbert was an expertly written and thorough introduction to a complex and contentious history.

Martin Gilbert takes
Tom Glaser
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tom Glaser by: Ben S
I'm planning a first trip to Israel in 10 weeks and wanted to learn about Israel's modern history. A friend who is an academic and has lived and traveled extensively in the country gave me a reading list, and said this was the best book to start with. It begins in 1700 with the arrival of around 1000 Jews in Palestine, then under Ottoman control. It quickly jumps to the mid-19th century, when the Jewish population of Palestine had reached 10,000, concentrated mostly in Jerusalem. The book then d ...more
This author had a singularly impressive ability to make everything, including war, deathly boring. I also have no idea what was going on in this book regardless of being familiar with Israeli history. I guess it's kind of an old fashioned history book that doesn't try to be engaging but we got past that a long time ago in history. You can make it interesting, and still be a historian. He was also old fashioned in talking only about a few people, and then large battles and stuff. There was no men ...more
Nirmal Patel
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a while to read, but I'm glad I read it. What I was looking for in a book about the history of Israel was a book that would deliver me facts to consume and eventually lead me down my own further investigations through other readings.

Martin Gilbert does a good job of relaying facts without too much interceding. He communicates the scandals, the public opinion at the time, the Palestinian/Egyptian/Syrian/Lebanese/Jordanian arguments throughout the book. Of course the majority of
Oren Mizrahi
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
a sweeping history of 100 years of israeli history. detailed and analytic but not overly so. the brightness of the writing is akin to a pastel color: dull if you look from afar but brighter when you pay attention.

620 dense pages, lots of military history, demands commitment to get through but i learned a lot.
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read about half this book. For a history, it is well written and engaging, however I decided I didn’t want to slog through all the many, many incidents. For me it’s too detailed, and too much information, although it is very well done.
daniel r egan
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful. A must read for those wanting to know what Israelis have and continue to go through just to live in peace. I strongly recommend this book. It is very well researched as are all of Martin Gilbert's books. Thank you Martin Gilbert for your excellent writing. I hung on every written word. ...more
Christian J
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow!!! I feel well-versed in all things Israel!!!
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Israel is an amazing story. For

Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you didn't read this book, you are not allowed to have an opinion on anything related to Israel! ...more
Elisha Kelman
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Too political/war focused, not enough about culture
George Polansky
A comprehensive history. The inclusion of the voices of ordinary people caught in situations beyond their control intensifies the historical narrative.
Seth J. Vogelman
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Incredibly dissapointing with not a few errors. It was more like an instant history or something Gilbert gave an intern to write. Lacked depth, especially in the post-1948 section.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As many have said, the detail can get tedious at times but holds your attention. The book is like a chronological time piece. Lack of any apparent or overt political viewpoints helped me keep an open mind. Must say my view on the Palestinian situation did change as it did with many Israeli's. My wish is to visit Israel for an extended period, visit different cities and maybe do some bicycle touring. ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
First, let me say that the history of the nation of Israel is a fascinating story, but its hard to tell it from this journalistic scrap book cut and paste job telling of events with no attempt to integrate or explain.

From what I can tell (Gilbert doesn't help with this) the unsettled situation in Israel that has descended from occasional national wars to continual regional terrorism stems from some primary facts about Israel:

1. In 1948, after the nation was declared, there was a massive exchange
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The official biographer of Winston Churchill and a leading historian on the Twentieth Century, Sir Martin Gilbert was a scholar and an historian who, though his 88 books, has shown there is such a thing as “true history”

Born in London in 1936, Martin Gilbert was educated at Highgate School, and Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with First Class Honours. He was a Research Scholar at St Anthony's

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“The British offered Herzl a territory in Uganda, to be under the sovereignty of the British crown, into which a million Jews could immigrate and settle. The territory would be administered by the Jews and have a Jewish governor. When Nordau protested that Uganda was not Palestine, Herzl replied that, like Moses, he was leading the people to their goal via an apparent detour.” 0 likes
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