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The Invention of the Jewish People

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,019 ratings  ·  120 reviews
A historical tour de force that demolishes the myths and taboos that have surrounded Jewish and Israeli history, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a new account of both that demands to be read and reckoned with. Was there really a forced exile in the first century, at the hands of the Romans? Should we regard the Jewish people, throughout two millennia, as both a d ...more
Hardcover, 332 pages
Published October 19th 2009 by Verso (first published 2008)
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Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Invention of the Jewish People" is one of the most original, honest and historically accurate books I’ve read to date. Professor Sand’s expels the myth of the Jewish "people" and the myth of the "exile" of these people from the land of “Israel”. The Jews were never expelled in large numbers from Palestine as it was called even then; there is simply no historical evidence to back this claim up. The evidence shows that the vast majority of Jews living in Palestine simply converted to Christia ...more
بثينة العيسى
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Arabs, Palestinians, and especially Jews
What a book!
This book exposes how fragile and vulnerable is the state of Israel, mainly because it is relying on biblical myths to construct its Zionist ideology and Jewish identity, rather than on actual history proven by archeological and biological research.

It is said that this book is another nail in the coffin of Zionism and I couldn't agree more. Unless the state of Israel starts acknowledging it's moral Schizophrenia and political hypocrisy, and it's discriminatory/ racist policies ( ..
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand

"The Invention of the Jewish People" is an interesting yet controversial scholarly book about Jewish history through the eyes of leading historian Shlomo Sand. What makes this book controversial is the fact that the author denies such a thing as a Jewish "race" that were descendents of the first exiles with everything that it entails. This 344-page book is composed of the following five major chapters: 1. Making Nations: Sovereignty and Equality,
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I have written reviews of many books here. If there is one above all the rest that I would like others to read it would be this one.

Regardless of the country you call home, it rests on a foundation of myths, stories of the distant past that unite the citizenry. Israel is no exception, yet the story of the historical Jews is one that more people in the United States are familiar with that that of any other people.

Shlomo Sand begins his book discussing definitions - what are a people? What is a na
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
While Shlomo Sand’s “Invention of the Jewish People” has attracted endless accolades from partisans with an axe to grind – though not always exactly the same axe as the author – any close scrutiny reveals the book to be little more than a collection of strawmen arguments forming a feeble foundation for a weak argument. Time and again, Sand rails against a scholarly consensus which seems to exist only in his mind and ignores the considerable primary source evidence that undermines his case.

Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a really excellent and brilliantly original book written about the origins of the 'Jewish people'. Shlomo Sand, who is an Israeli historian, shows that in fact European Jews were converts to the religion rather than being descendents of a Jewish 'race'. By the same token, he maintains and that the original Jews who stayed in their country of origin eventually converted to Islam and are today's or many Jews wish to hear though I gather it was a best seller in Israel. As a 'Jew' in name, b ...more
I attempted to read this book in preparation for a trip to Israel figuring that if I can't find objective sources at least I know the particular author's bias. I enjoyed the story-telling in the introduction of the book; however the discussion of nations and modern nationalism in the first chapter quickly showed me that bias would not be my biggest criticism. Sand focuses entirely on black-and-white thinking. He seemingly argues that the modern notion of the Nation (or nationalism or nation stat ...more
David M
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book that convincingly unpacks the myths of Zionism. Shlomo Sand shows himself conversant with ancient history, Biblical scholarship, theoretical innovations in the social sciences, and contemporary politics. His argument culminates in the case for a single, binational state of Israel/Palestine that belongs equally to all its citizens.

Given the patent bad faith of many who smear anti-Zionism as necessarily anti-semitic, this book has not had the impact it deserves. Nonetheless, for
Jun 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Professor Sand, who teaches film history and modern political French history, opines that the Jewish people is a construct invented some time in the 19th century. This book is his argument in support of his opinion. It's also, if unwittingly, Sand's argument in favor of writing about what one knows. Presumably, Sand knows film history and modern French political history. What this book makes clear is that Sand does NOT know ancient or medieval history, or Jewish history. The professor also seems ...more
Steve Cran
Forget about everything you may have learned in Hebrew school, this book is a myth buster. It is common knowledge that according to the Bible the Jewish people started with Abrahamin Mesopotamia and then went to Egypt to be slave and then was redeemed. After wandering the desert for forty years under the leadership of Moses they came to Canaan where Joshua the brilliant military commander drove out the Canaanites in a lightning fast victory. King David and his son Solomon would form man empire a ...more
Sep 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Even though it is a detailed academic study, it is a pleasure to read. The language is crisp (some of the plaudits here must go to the translator). But what I found particularly enjoyable was the progressive building of the argument, citing source after source, evaluating them as adding (or not) to the tower of knowledge he constructs.
What is a 'nation'? Is there (was there ever?) a Jewish nation? The constuction of myths cast as history, such as the invention of the exile of the Jews.There was
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who is concerned about the conflicted land of Palestine should read this book. It is not always an easy read, but this makes the nuggets of historical investigation even more surprising and revelatory when they appear. We need more books like this which show the way towards a sensible debate on the Middle East and how a people - the Palestinians - are being persecuted on the basis of a false claim that others have a stronger entitlement to the land that is theirs.
Frank Jacobs
Sep 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Few things can cause a bigger shitstorm than to question the foundations of the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews, by exposing the flawed nature of its ethnoreligious raison d'etre: zionism is built on the quicksand of 19th-century nationalism; and the Jews of today may be largely the descendents of converts, fighting the descendents of the Jews who didn't go into Diaspora... and converted to Islam; all in all a very academic, technical and unputdownable book. ...more
F V Mansour
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Clear and concise analysis of the idea of a Jewish state. The author is well researched and nd relies on empirical data for his analysis.
Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji
In this amazing book, Shlomo Sand a Jewish Emeritus professor of history at the university of Tel Aviv debunks myths, challenges misconceptions and exposes utter falsehoods surrounding the historiography of the Jewish people.

Chief among the ideas he challenges, is the myth that Jewish people around the world share a common ethnic origin. Apart from the mythological shared lineage of all the members of the Jewish diaspora, have nothing in common. They have different languages, histories, customs
Per the editorial blurb, this is a historical tour de force indeed.

The introduction tells Sand’s story and reason for writing. Noting that multiple women wanting to do aliyah were told no because of non-Jewish mothers, I thought that this issue itself could be a full chapter.

Around 150, he talks about Maccabean forcible conversion. I knew it well re the Idumeans, like Herod’s ancestors. Forgot about the Samaritans, and in grokking Josephus, don’t think I’d read about the Itureans in Galilee.

In c
Jul 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
Why is everyone so quick to jump on the bandwagon of the Khazar theory? It holds about as much truth as a vegetable drainer does water. Of course, it is a convenient theory for attack for anti-Zionists, but when really put under the microscope, the evidence for it is by far overwhelmingly outdone by the evidence against it. I am seeing so many posts about it just lately that I dare say the majority of those spreading these trendy posts haven't actually spent any significant time to study it from ...more
Mark Hebden
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics, science
Shlomo Sand is one of the academic writers that Israel loves to hate. He vigorously researches his work and turns up evidence of things that the Israeli leadership, and Zionist academia would rather keep hidden. The more evidence unearthed that disproves the fictitious historic claim to the land of Israel, the more grasping and ill-tempered these people get. This book is a wide ranging work detailing the early history of the Jewish people and their subsequent diaspora which came about largely as ...more
Keith Akers
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Many people think of today's Jews as descendants from ancient Israelites, in fact I probably vaguely believed in this myself for a long time, without thinking about it. This book attacks this idea in detail. If someone had said, "you know, a lot of Jews over history were converts, and Jews tend to resemble other people in whatever area they come from," I would have said, "hmmm, maybe you're right." In fact, I remember reading something like this before I encountered this book, so I know that thi ...more
Dec 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
Sand is a professor of French history and film history who wrote a book claiming that "the Jewish people" is a 19th-century invention, that modern-day Jews are largely descended from Hellenistic- and Roman-era converts, and Ashkenazi Jews may be descended from Khazar converts, and that all this has been suppressed in Zionist historiography. A British historian of ancient Rome says in The Times Literary Supplement that Sand is wrong about Roman history; an Israeli historian says in Haaretz that S ...more
Hank Pin
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
While Shlomo Sand's style is easy and accessible, I am afraid that this book relies on circumstantial historical evidence. While it is true that the Khazar royal family and the nobility converted to Judaism as a means to counterbalance Byzantine and Muslim influence within the Kingdom, there are no concrete evidence the the citizens of the kingdom followed through, let alone becoming the basis of the Ashkenazi Jewish population. Furthermore, given the troublesome requirements that converts are r ...more
Pinko Palest
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A marvellous account of how the state of Israel constructed itself, while airbrushing any ill-fitting facts out of the picture. What Sand makes clear though, especially in the introductory chapters, is that this is how all nations come about, with Israel being no exception. The introductory chapters are more heavy going because they are more theoretical, as they lay the foundation for what is to follow, as is customary in all academic literature. The rest of the book though is a breeze, and the ...more
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author confirms my understanding of the fragile claims the Jews have on a so-called "Israel" state and the land it occupies. He raises some significant issues on the rise of Zionism and its early rejections by European Jewish leadership. Zionism was viewed as an interruption to a Jew's relationship to God, and as we have seen, Israeli Zionism has become exactly that. ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Sand's critique of Zionist historiography, and the way it is both subservient to and reflected in ideology and politics, is lucid, humane, and completely fascinating. It starts with a difficult (due to an occasionally murky translation?) chapter on the concept of "nations", but persistence will be abundantly rewarded. ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Frankly the first two chapters of this book were mind-blowing. Best criticism of the notion of nationalism ever. So this is a very controversial book but brings up good questions. Thankfully the book is very well written so it makes the dense subject matter easy to digest and move through.
Scott Holstad
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religion
Very interesting. Likely controversial for a number of people. Still, thought provoking. Rather similar to another book I read a couple of years ago by two Jewish/Israeli academics were referring to and using new archeology digs, methods, techniques, etc., to completely turn the Jewish holy book/Christian Old Testament upside down in many ways. Food for thought. Recommended.
One of the great paradoxes of nations, and one of the things that gives them such emotional power, is the sense that they have always existed, that they represent and embody a people who have always been, much as they are now, a people. Equally, all nations gain their legitimacy from their citizenship – the terms they use to grant people legitimate membership of the nation. For many it is civic – the idea that we live in a place, fulfil certain residence criteria and on that basis become legitim ...more
matthew mcdonald
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
Controversial best-seller in Israel but not that interesting if you're not an Israeli?

The author's main point is that Israel treats its non-Jewish citizens unfairly. All the stuff about the history of the Jewish nation is really only included to make that point. Basically, he argues that historically Jews were a religious/cultural group - that in the 19th century they started to see themselves as an ethnic/national group - that their supposed ethnicity was used to justify the creation of Israel
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
"The Invention of the Jewish People" - with a title like that, one might assume that the author is a Holocaust denier, or something like that. No, however, he is himself Jewish (the son of a Jewish mother, at any rate), a professor of history at the University of Tel Aviv. Really, I would say that this book was a case study in nationalism, with modern day Israel as its subject. An interesting introduction to what historians do.

I think this book could have benefited greatly from the addition of s
Bob Groves
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book. Sand describes Jewish History as cultural or religious instead of racial or genetic. He thus undermines the claims of Zionists that they have a direct link to Israel. It turns out that Jews, like Frenchmen, Scotts, Germans, etc, etc, have an invented, mythical history. The history of the spread of the Jewish religion described here is complex and occurs on different fronts; through conversion by persuasion, convenience, political expediency and force.
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Shlomo Sand is professor of history at Tel Aviv University and author of the controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso Books, 2009). His main areas of teaching are nationalism, film as history and French intellectual history.

Sand was born to Polish Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. His parents had Communist and anti-imperialist views and refused to receive compensations from Ge

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“Dans chaque démocratie libérale s'est élaboré un imaginaire de citoyenneté au sein duquel la projection dans l'avenir est devenue plus significative que le poids du passé. Cet imaginaire s'est traduit par des normes juridiques, et a même pénétré par la suite à l'intérieur du système éducatif étatique.[...] La souffrance du passé justifie le prix exigé de la part des citoyens dans le présent. L'héroïsme des temps qui s'éloignent promet un avenir rayonnant pour l'individu, du moins sûrement pour la nation. L'idée nationale est devenue, avec l'aide des historiens, une idéologie optimiste par nature. De là, notamment, vient son succès.” 3 likes
“Peoples, populations, native populaces, tribes and religious communities are not nations, even though they are often spoken of as such.” 3 likes
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