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Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,492 ratings  ·  203 reviews
Winner of the Jewish Book of the Year Award

The first comprehensive yet accessible history of the state of Israel from its inception to present day, from Daniel Gordis, "one of the most respected Israel analysts" (The Forward) living and writing in Jerusalem.

Israel is a tiny state, and yet it has captured the world’s attention, aroused its imagination, and lately, been the
ebook, 560 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Ecco
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Michael O'Brien
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was an informative, well written history of Israel. For the most part, I would characterize it as a political history of Israel primarily --- as opposed to some of the other books I've read of Israel-Palestinian histories which tend to focus more on the military aspects.

From reading this book, I did gain more an appreciation for how unlikely it is that a state like Israel ever came into existence in the first place. I think, perhaps, an analogy in American terms might be if some American In
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My life-long fascination and love of Israel was amplified by visiting in November. Anyone following along on my wall saw the pictures, poem and thoughts I expressed about the trip.

I remember crying for joy as a young teen when I heard about the Camp David Peace Accords. I was more devastated by the horrible assassination of Yitzhak Rabin than I was by the election of Donald Trump. Both events had frightening implications for the two countries I love the most.

But I am a J-Street Jew. I believe in
Adam Hummel
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wish I could give it 10 out of 5 stars. Cannot say enough good things about this book. Insightful, great history, meaningful, well-written. Incredible volume to add to the already amazing library out there of books on Israeli history. Another brilliant book by Daniel Gordis.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
After I read The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine late last year, I promised myself and any of my review-readers that I would read something more sympathetic to Israel, so that's why I read this. I'm very glad I did even though it really didn't help me to work my way through my feelings about the conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. I'm Jewish by the Nazi/Israel definition of the word and I think I undeniably would have supported the creation of the state of Israel when it b ...more
Scott  Hitchcock

Not being Jewish it's amazing how much of the history of Israel I actually knew and remembered. With all the focus in today's world on racism and equality it's a sad focal point that after thousands of years this group of people are still on the receiving end of so much outright hatred.
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Although I've long been a proponent of Israel and tried to keep up with its news, much has escaped me. Much of the history of its founding was also new to me (or forgotten if I knew it). This book (which I listened to rather than read) was an enormous aid in helping me fill in the gaps in my knowledge as well as to enlighten me on many of the issues currently facing the nation.

The publication date of the book, 2016, is also fortuitous for me since it, while mostly up to date, was written before
Noah Goats
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story of the foundation of modern Israel, from the first conception of Zionism by Theodor Herzl to the modern Jewish state, is a fascinating piece of history, and Daniel Gordis tells it very well. This is a great and highly readable book.

Gordis comes to the subject with a strong bias in favor of Israel, and he makes a good case for his point of view. (But then again, all my sympathies are with Israel to begin with.) Gordis doesn’t shy away from the mistakes and even atrocities that have bee
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-20
I started this book in preparation for a week-long trip to Israel -- it has ended up as one of my all-time favorite books. Gordis, the author, manages to convey Israel's highly complex history in an accessible, coherent, and dense reading that you cannot put away. By interjecting excerpts from contemporary poems, songs, speeches, and religious texts, he creates a vivid image of the zeitgeist at any given time. Every fact, every personality, and every event is well embedded in its historical cont ...more
Ameya Joshi
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you don't know too much about Israel - this is the perfect place to start without any doubt at all. As it says in the long title : it is a 'concise history' and although one may debate how long should something which is 'concise' be (at 500ish pages probably longer than what the word would lead you to believe) - it is breezy, brief and very readable.

The book is accessible even for absolute novices - I appreciated the effort to go back into the history of Judaism and why the land of Israel
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Danny Gordis is eloquent, polarizing, and weaves threads from Israel's complicated history in a coherent fashion. My uneducated admiration of the country comes from friends and family. After reading this book, I better understand the difference of opinion between European Jewry, American Jewry and the nation state of Israel. ...more
Rodney Harvill
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book covers the history of Israel from the beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 1890’s to 2016, when it was published. Even for a small nation like Israel, a century of history is a lot of ground to cover; hence the book is a high-level survey of the relevant history. A few high points I noticed include:

• The Zionist movement was prompted by rising anti-Semitism in Europe, especially in western Europe. As centuries-old restrictions on occupations were removed, Jews had been enterin
Boze Herrington
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Periodically I become fascinated by the question of how the Jewish people have managed to survive 2,500 years of near-constant persecution. Toward the end of his book “Israel: A Concise History,” Daniel Gordis, a Jewish reporter living in Israel, points out that the Jews are the only ancient people still living in their ancestral homeland, practicing their ancient religion and speaking the same language they spoke thousands of years ago. A Washington Post columnist once called it the greatest mi ...more
Glen Stott
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a long book, filled with information – way more than I could possibly pass along in a review. Gordis begins his History in the mid to late 1800s. He describes the birth of Zionism and what it stood for. He follows various movements to create a Jewish state, not all of them focused on the Middle East – Argentina, for example, was seriously considered. Gordis caries through the impact of the disastrous WWI & WWII, though the impact of WWII was significantly greater. He describes, in detai ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anyone wanting to voice an opinion on the situation in the Middle East would do well to read this book first. While I had always known that England, France, the US, and the UN had contributed to the royal mess that exists, I had no idea to what extent. Nor did I know how inhumane those nations and institutions could be. After WWII was over, and knowing full well what went on in the concentration camps, Britain's actions were deplorable when Jewish refugees sought to escape Europe and go to Pales ...more
Talia Carner
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
From near annihilation to resurrection. In the rich tapestry of Israel’s concise—yet dense and painful—history, Daniel Gordis weaves awe into the complexity of constructing a new kind of Jewish society. Out of a dream that would not die, the new nation is a self-reflective, spiritual and intellectual, yet one that has conquered swamps and dessert and taken arms time and again because there was never the option of turning back. “Israel” the book is an extraordinary reminder that “Israel” the cou ...more
Ken Hammond (kenzaz)
History of Israel interesting read. It read like a collection of biographies of different people one after the other. Then in parts like news bulletins. Some people and events I had never heard about others a little, this book for me filled in some gaps about Israel, so its very good book easy to follow and if it interests you go ahead have a go. Definately enlightened me on troubles facing people living in that part of the world and how complicated it is. Recommend it to anyone who is a student ...more
Steve Gross
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably the best one volume history of Israel. On the plus side, the writing is generally clear and politics-free. The bits of poetry are welcome. On the negative side, the outlook is a little to the left of center but not obnoxiously so.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
While the word 'concise' in the title may be a marketing ploy, Gordis touches all the necessary basis in a very readable style and easy to follow format, which means this the perfect book for an overview of the founding and first seven decades of Israel's existence. ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to understand the situation in Israel better and this book was great. It's a great history of the area, well written and very easy to read. ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Nice mixture of history and many references to the poems, books and writers
who voiced the dreams and debacles of the Jewish people during their struggle for
a homeland.
Igor Putina
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Easy to listen, interesting and well written!
Alexander Curran
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“The story of the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland became, in short, one of the great dramas in the history of humankind.”

A very precise and detailed history of the Jewish people and the rebirth/creation of the Jewish state Israel. Gordis takes us through history, as seen in 2 SOME SPOT OF A NATIVE LAND: "When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed."—Psalm 126
Giordis gives us the story of the Israelites, being trapped in Egypt by Pharaoh, who
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
To cover such a complex, contested, and long history in a concise format (yes, 560 pages is concise, given the topic) is a remarkable achievement. I learned a lot.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever wanted to try and get some understanding of the whole “Middle East situation”, as it particularly pertains to Israel, there is no better place to start than Gordis’s superb historical narrative Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.

Covering more than 3,000 years from before the time when Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BC, this book delivers a wealth of historical information on the Jewish people and their subsequent 2,000 year exile after
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting book showing the birth pains this rebirth of the nation has gone through. So many things that are quite amazing like the immigration of huge numbers of people.

It also shows the damed if you do damed if you don't situation that Israelis find themselves in. Wanting peace with their neighbors and if they give in not finding it. Giving up west bank only to find new war and terrorism coming down on them. The Oslo accord is an example of this that utterly failed from Israeli perspective.

Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I took this book with me on my trip to Israel. While our secular Jewish guide drove us back to the cruise ship, I was able to ask him intelligent questions based on the book. I learned about the aliyahs, what the Orthodox Jews are truly like (I had no idea the men do not work and live off the government). I came to understand Zionism, the history of the wars and the land very well through this book and then it was all capped off being there. The author is not a very religious Jewish man, but I w ...more
Patrick Hackett
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
There's so much about Israel that I didn't know prior to reading this book. I honestly only had a vague notion that the United Nations didn't just come together in 1948 and carve the boundaries of Israel like, "really sorry about the Holocaust and all of that antisemitism, here's a random spot in the Middle East for you!" That is very obviously not the case, but every time Israel/Palestine came up in the news or in conversation I felt super uneducated about the topic.

I really liked the beginnin
Ashe Magalhaes
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Overall this was a great "concise history" read because it offered a chronological narrative on the founding of Israel alongside interesting facts (eg Albert Einstein was anti-zionist, Golda Meir visited King Abdullah I disguised as a peasant, Post WWII 1/10 of the British empire's army was stationed in Palestine!). I'd recommend this to anyone looking for an accessible history of Jewish peoples, Zionism, and Israel.

There are two points here that stopped me from giving 5 stars:

1. I would have
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
well that was depressing. a summary can be as follows:

*international community comes up with a rational starting point for diving land after wwi, giving jews a tiny amount and arabs a huge amount*
jews: *writes poems* yes we will take it, we can't go anywhere else
jews: *writes more poems about how bad they feel about being involved in a war*
Mike Elliott
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable and insightful look at the history of Israel, which makes a compelling argument for a more balanced view of the nation than you might typically find in some corners of the political spectrum.

The author does not try to hide his personal bias towards his nation, but for the most part that bias does not detract from the narrative he creates, and Gordis does a reasonable job of looking at both sides fairly.

My only major complaint with the book was that it was disappointingly light on
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17 likes · 8 comments
“Some of Ben-Gurion’s generals wanted to take the West Bank of the Jordan River, frustrated that Israel had forfeited an opportunity to establish a secure natural frontier, but Ben-Gurion demurred. He had several reasons. The last thing Israel needed, he believed, was to control an even greater number of Arab civilians. As it was, Ben-Gurion was worried about those Arabs who remained in Israel. They were Israeli, because they had stayed inside the state, but the only thing that distinguished them at that point from Israel’s enemies on the other side of the line was that they had not fled, while their family members had. Ben-Gurion did not dare imagine that they yet had any loyalty to the new state. Ben-Gurion was also concerned that the Americans would look askance on Israel taking more territory. No less important, Ben-Gurion chose not to conquer the West Bank because his mind had moved on to other challenges. He was, as Anita Shapira notes, “already immersed in the vital mission of bringing in masses of new immigrants and absorbing them.”48 THE” 3 likes
“The story of the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland became, in short, one of the great dramas in the history of humankind.” 2 likes
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