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Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  270 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter examines the true history of the discord between Israel and Palestine with surprising results
Though the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict have traditionally been traced to the British Mandate (1920-1948) that ended with the creation of the Israeli state, a new generation of scholars has taken the investigation further back, to the Ott
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Elliot Ratzman
Until 1919, Israel-Palestine was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Jerusalem was a multicultural city where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived, for the last time, in neighborliness and harmony. This short book, by an award-winning journalist, paints an unfamiliar picture of Jewish-Arab cooperation and culture in pre-Mandate Palestine. We get a glimpse of pre-Zionist Jewish communities in Israel, the worldly and educated Palestinian elite, and the growing tensions with the Zionist movement ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disappointment
The writing is good and evocative (which is no less than one would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winner) but there is very little substance.

The book is (as I found out much much later) part of a series in the format "CityName Year" which deals with momentous events localized in time and space (like "Vienna 1814"). But in this case, there is no such event, no matter how hard Ms. Marcus tries to make the case for one.

There's just no there (there were some murky clandestine negotiations in the epo
Tim P
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Israel/Palestine argument so often gets obscured by people who are completely ignorant of the history of the region prior to the 1940s (as I was prior to reading this book). Jerusalem 1913 provides a detailed account of life in the waning hours of the Ottoman Empire through the major thrust of Zionism and the Arab Nationalist movement. An absolute must read for people who want to form an informed opinion regarding the state of the current conflict. Challenged a large number of my previously ...more
Justin Tapp
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, israel
Along with this book, in the last couple years I have reviewed this book along with others on Israel's origins and history (see list as the bottom). This book fails to live up to its promise on the book's cover of being "the first popular account of this key era" of Zionist migration during the late Ottoman empire. A survey of books written in the late 19th and early 20th century on uncovers some looking specifically at the Ottoman empire's weakening and the potential for Zionism ( ...more
Mar 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because the premise intrigued me: what if there was a moment, a turn in history, when things could have gone another way and there could have been peace in the Middle East? What if that peace was just another causality of World War 1, run into the sand and blood by Balkan separatists, marauding Turks and Lawrence of Arabia.

Sadly, you won't find that here. I'll save you the trouble: Marcus' argument, such as it is, that there was a chance for peace, as long as Jews, Arabs and oth
Mark Reynolds
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good picture of Jerusalem and Palestine from a point of view that we don't see any more. Before WWI, lots of people - Arabs, Jews, Christians, Turks - all lived somewhat peacefully together in Jerusalem. Marcus looks at the rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire and the forces which hardened into the Arab-Israeli conflict of today. The bottom line was the lack of willingness to compromise - on anything - that has led to "two states" with no mixing. The religious fanaticism - on both sides - ...more
Jeff Johnson
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised -- perhaps I shouldn't have been -- at my own level of ignorance about the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It also surprises me, now that I have read this book, how rarely, if ever, the Ottoman era comes up in discussions of the history of this conflict in the U.S. media. Perhaps it seems simply so long ago to some, and yet it only ended less than a century ago. In the U.S., we still feel psychologically effected by things that happened much further back in our own country' ...more
Al Berry
An interesting look at the Zionist movement, immediately prior to the First World War, the conflict between the arabs and Israelis especially over Jewish immigration and land purchases, Theodore Hertzel's meeting with the Kaiser in Jerusalem, the tragic fate of his children. Anyone who doesn't think unchecked immigration can undermine a country, at this time in Palestine there were 80,000 Jews and 450,000 arabs, Immigration created the modern state of Israel.
John Willis
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deals a lot with Jerusalem in the Ottoman empire era. Well worth the read and details that the author presents.
Oct 29, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: palestine-arabia
This is an especially beguiling liberal Zionist fairy tale. Yet despite all its nuance and sophistication, it has all the hallmarks of the usual propaganda:
- beginning heavily with foregrounding of anecdotes and stories that suggest the author speaks from a place of universal values of human rights, but without naming those values specifically or explicitly and - therefore - not being able to be held accountable to them later on (such as emphases on coexistence, without really saying what that m
Amy Dockser Marcus has brought a journalists eye to a city she admits great affection for in this almost 4 star book. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for Beat Reporting brings those skills to this story in a readable and captivating way. That this is not journalism specifically but a historical tale cheats the work of what a bit more depth and detail could have added.

The beginning of the turmoil that is the late 20th early 21st century middle east she encapsulates in stories from a pivotal if not
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the basis of her 2007 study Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Amy Dockser Marcus, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was invited to be a consultant on the PBS Special “Roots of Conflict” that premiered June 30 of this year. After reviewing the PBS Special, I felt obligated to read Marcus’ book, and am glad that I did.

Marcus’ thesis in Jerusalem 1913, which is echoed in the PBS documentary, is that Arabs, Jews, and Christians lived in relative harmony in Jerusalem in
Oct 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ilps
I like Marcus' look back at an often-ignored period in Israeli and Palestinian history, a crisp and tragic moment in the steady collapse of relationships between the two (three) groups. I found her descriptions of the loss of common space and identity poignant but overly nostalgic, and she doesn't convince me that 1913 was a key landmark year from which events could have unfolded differently (as she asserts); rather, 1913 describes how the forces and trends that have led to today were already re ...more
Could not put it down. A must read for anyone trying to gain a broader understanding of the Palestine issue.

It amazed and shocked me how little of the story is ever told. There were parts and pieces of the story that of course any good student of history knows but you never mange to connect all the dots. The fall Ottoman Empire, The rise of the Young Turks, WW1, the financial strain on the French government, the German Militarization, the commitment of Zionist movement... really a great book.

A very interesting and relatively non-biased take on a deep and troubling conflict. I have not read much about the Arab-Israeli conflict in part because I had a difficult time finding books that didn't take sides. Marcus not only seems to give a fair account but looks back to the early part of the 20th century for the origins of the conflict. Her thesis is that during this period choices were made by both Arabs and Israelis that put distance between the communities and sought to create completel ...more
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting review of this author's thoughts on the turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Found the discussion of the main players to be very interesting and was surprised that people like David Bengurion and Chaim Weitzmann were not more prevalent in this book. I am not sure I entirely agree that 1913 was the year which was most important in this conflict, nor that Jerusalem was the most important area, but fascinating nonetheless.

She does spend a good deal of time setting up the sc
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clearly-written, detailed and yet simple explanation for the origins of the modern conflicts in Israel and Palestine. By illustrating the feelings on both sides, it becomes clear that Zionism was not universally accepted by Jews in its early years, but increasing tensions and a desire for a sanctuary and spiritual homeland led to many Jews to embrace it either ideologically or out of necessity.

And likewise, the growing Arab nationalism in the face of Ottoman and British suppression gave stren
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and interesting, and with lots of good information about a crucial time for Palestine at the end of hundreds of years of Ottoman rule. The book nostalgically portrays a lost time when the Christian, Jewish and Islamic elites in Jerusalem found their class similarities more important than their religious differences. However, World War I, the growth of Arab nationalism, continued Jewish immigration and the Zionist state-building agenda all joined to end the possibility of a peaceful, ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started out loving this book and what I learned about the history of the 'Israel vs Palestine question' but it sort of fizzled near the end. And became skewed. The author is married to an Israeli and is Jewish herself- I was wondering if she could maintain her reporter's non-bias but it turns out she couldn't. She did start out with a very empathetic description of the Palestinian response to the Jewish zionist 'occupation' which I appreciated, however. In the end, I learned something... Is it ...more
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author traces the lives of prominent Jews and Arabs in late-Ottoman Jerusalem with a romanticism that makes the reader suspicious. In the intro she suggests that the early 20th Century was a time that Jerusalem's current inhabitants could learn from: despite their differences, the parties lived in peace. She then writes for 200 pages about how the growing and increasingly organized Jewish population and the local Arabs who had been largely subjugated by the Ottomans didn't like each other so ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many people are not aware of the Israeli-Palestinian history, which is really a shame, because it is one of the most important things to learn in this present climate and time. So far, this book has been informative and unbiased (trust me, when you do extensive research about the birth of Israel, you rejoice when you find a whole book full of unbiased information). A definite read, for this history is beyond important. However, if you wish to focus primarily on the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, this bo ...more
Marcus adds some flavor to the book through an emphasis on descriptive detail. At times, the detail is at the expense of the context of the book itself. The book does, however, have a sense of time that prevents the reader from getting the sequence of events misshaped (as some historical books tend to do). All-in-all, Jerusalem 1913 is an interesting enough read that reveals the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with, more often than not, eloquence.
Oct 13, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not real in depth but a good overview of some of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Interesting to read about some of the historical figures that always came up in my Hebrew school classes and actually understand who they are. The more I read (and I haven't read much) the more I understand the complexities of this conflict, while at the same time not understanding what we're fighting about at all.
Oct 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and compassionate, Marcus explains how, between 1898 and 1934, Arabs & Jews came to the conflict they have today. Marcus argues that 1913 was the pivotal year in Arab/Jew relations, when another path could have been chosen and wasn't. It's hard to say whether she's right. This was, however, a good introduction to the time and place. Marcus looks at the events in Europe that led to Jewish settlement in Palestine as well as Arab and Ottoman responses.
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title caught my eye, because I wanted to learn more about the history of the conflict. I was hoping for something that was not too political or biased, and I was happy to see if it was written in an informative way. Nice writing style made the book a pleasure to read. I also liked how the author described some of her experiences in Jerusalem. She clearly loves the city.

I am glad I accidentally found this book.
Fred Kohn
Apr 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
An intriguing little book. I was introduced to many key figures that I was unaware of. Emphasis was put on the relationship of the Jews and Arabs to the Ottoman empire. What made this book unique for me was the emphasis on feelings rather than ideas. So although I already had a pretty good notion of the ideas of Theodor Herzl, his character came more real to me because of this approach.
AJ Calhoun
"The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict" is terribly overconfident, I would have subtitled this "Some sordid and frustratingly diverted thoughts on jerusalem and some other places, tangentially" ... I'm quite interested in this topic and I've traveled within both countries working with the peace process, its just that Marcus does not do the topic justice.
Mike Moskos
Jul 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This audiobook has roughly 55 minutes of introduction. I can't help wonder why the author felt she needed so much explaining. Is it an attempt to mollify those who might shout down any historical examination that doesn't strictly follow the party line?

Nevertheless, it is a nice look at the events of 1913 in Palestine which has set the path for today's reality of a divided, apartheid state.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely insightful, and a pleasure to read, I very much enjoyed reading this book. I finished it feeling much more educated about Arab-Jewish relationships during and just after the reign of the Ottoman Empire and about the pivotal events that occurred in Palestine around 1913. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be smarter about the situation in the Middle East.
A very insightful and fascinating book which I just couldn't seem to put down. It was very refreshing to read a book about a highly sensitive subject such as the Arab/Israeli conflict which was unbiased and gave a clear overview of key events which spread out over more than a century.
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