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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel Hardcover – Nov 19 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Nov. 19 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385521707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385521703
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“This book will sweep you up in its narrative force and not let go of you until it is done. [Shavit’s] accomplishment is so unlikely, so total . . . that it makes you believe anything is possible, even, God help us, peace in the Middle East.”—Simon Schama, Financial Times
“[A] must-read book . . . Shavit celebrates the Zionist man-made miracle—from its start-ups to its gay bars—while remaining affectionate, critical, realistic and morally anchored. . . . His book is a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel and building a healthier relationship with it. Before their next ninety-minute phone call, both Barack and Bibi should read it.”—Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
“[An] important and powerful book . . . [Shavit] has an undoctrinaire mind. He comes not to praise or to blame, though along the way he does both, with erudition and with eloquence; he comes instead to observe and to reflect. This is the least tendentious book about Israel I have ever read. It is a Zionist book unblinkered by Zionism. It is about the entirety of the Israeli experience. Shavit is immersed in all of the history of his country.  While some of it offends him, none of it is alien to him. . . . The author of My Promised Land is a dreamer with an addiction to reality. He holds out for affirmation without illusion. Shavit’s book is an extended test of his own capacity to maintain his principles in full view of the brutality that surrounds them.”—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review 
“Spellbinding . . . In this divided, fought-over shard of land splintered from the Middle East barely seventy years ago, Mr. Shavit’s prophetic voice carries lessons that all sides need to hear.”The Economist
“One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years . . . [The] book’s real power: On an issue so prone to polemic, Mr. Shavit offers candor.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A tour de force.”—Jewish Journal

“Reads like a love story and a thriller at once.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[A] searingly honest, descriptively lush, painful and riveting story of the creation of Zionism in Israel and [Shavit’s] own personal voyage.”—The Washington Post
“Shavit is a master storyteller. [His] retelling of history jars us out of our familiar retrospections, reminds us (and we do need reminders) that there are historical reasons why Israel is a country on the edge. . . . Required reading for both the left and the right.”The Jewish Week
“The most extraordinary book that I’ve read on [Israel] since Amos Elon’s book called The Israelis, and that was published in the late sixties.”—David Remnick, on Charlie Rose
My Promised Land is an Israeli book like no other. Not since Amos Elon’s The Israelis, Amos Oz’s In the Land of Israel, and Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem has there been such a powerful and comprehensive book written about the Jewish State and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ari Shavit is one of Israel’s leading columnists and writers, and the story he tells describes with great empathy the Palestinian tragedy and the century-long struggle between Jews and Arabs over the Holy Land. While Shavit is being brutally honest regarding the Zionist enterprise, he is also insightful, sensitive, and attentive to the dramatic life-stories of his fascinating heroes and heroines. The result is a unique nonfiction book that has the qualities of fine literature. It brings to life epic history without being a conventional history book. It deepens contemporary political understanding without being a one-sided political polemic. It is painful and provocative, yet colorful, emotional, life-loving, and inspiring. My Promised Land is the ultimate personal odyssey of a humanist exploring the startling biography of his tormented homeland, which is at the very center of global interest.”—Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel
“With deeply engaging personal narratives and morally nuanced portraits, Ari Shavit takes us way beneath the headlines to the very heart of Israel’s dilemmas in his brilliant new work. His expertise as a reporter comes through in the interviews, while his lyricism brings the writing—and the people—to life. Shavit also challenges Israelis and Diaspora Jewry to be bold in imagining the next chapter for Israel, a challenge that will no doubt be informed by this important book.”—Rick Jacobs, president, Union for Reform Judaism

“This is the epic history that Israel deserves—beautifully written, dramatically rendered, full of moral complexity. Ari Shavit has made a storied career of explaining Israel to Israelis; now he shares his mind-blowing, trustworthy insights with the rest of us. It is the best book on the subject to arrive in many years.”—Franklin Foer, editor, The New Republic
“A beautiful, mesmerizing, morally serious, and vexing book. I’ve been waiting most of my adult life for an Israeli to plumb the deepest mysteries of his country’s existence and share his discoveries, and Ari Shavit does so brilliantly, writing simultaneously like a poet and a prophet. My Promised Land is a remarkable achievement.”—Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent, The Atlantic
“Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land is without question one of the most important books about Israel and Zionism that I have ever read. Both movingly inspiring and at times heartbreakingly painful, My Promised Land tells the story of the Jewish state as it has never been told before, capturing both the triumph and the torment of Israel’s experience and soul. This is the book that has the capacity to reinvent and reshape the long-overdue conversation about how Israel’s complex past ought to shape its still-uncertain future.”—Daniel Gordis, author of Saving Israel and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College, Jerusalem

“This book is vital reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the United States but of the world.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

About the Author

Ari Shavit is a leading Israeli journalist, a columnist for Haaretz, and a commentator on Israeli public television.

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
prior to reading "my promised land," i had just finished a detailed account of the life and times of the ancient greek philosopher, diogenes (yes, the same diogenes who lived in a tub and walked backwards with a lit torch during the day looking for an honest man). now diogenes was among the founding fathers of the philosophy known as cynicism, a major tenet of which is a belief in reason as the gods' greatest gift to mankind. not emotion. not passion. not faith. not divination. reason. and it is on account of its foundation in reason that i recommend and was impressed by ari shavit's account of israel's "triumph and tragedy." his analysis of israel's existential dilemma is well informed by a sense of history and a desire to weigh all arguments equally. as everyone knows, the subject of israel's right to exist, its history, its future is (to put it mildly) a tangled web without hiding the fact that he is a proud israeli, he does not conceal his sympathy for the displaced palestinians upon whose misfortune the state of israel partially rests, nor does he tamp down his sense of outrage at isralei acts of injustice and mayhem vis-a-vis the palestinians. by the time i finished this book, my sense of the complexity of the conflict (and perhaps even its hopelessness) was greatly enhanced, while at the same time i was left with great admiration for the writer, his literary skill, and his commitment to reason. diogenes would have been impressed.
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Everyone in North America seems to have an opinion about Israel, but very few understand it. This book, in very readable style, gives us that understanding. The moral and political complexities are laid out for us through personal witness and with frank and deep questioning. There are interviews with "movers and shakers" and ordinary people on all sides of the issues and a sincere effort to fathom their feelings and motives, while at the same time never hiding the author's own liberal, humanitarian viewpoint.
I give it five stars, but I can't really say "I love it." It was very painful for me to read. Thank you, Ari Shavit, for writing it.
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I am reading the book as if I was reading fiction even a mystery yarn, and in fact I am reading about my own life and history. I am sure most readers will not have my reaction as most did not live through some of the actual events, none the less I am positive that most readers will recognize the attempt made by Ari Shavit to wrestle with difficult reality and much needed illusion. I am at once saddened and grateful to him for shining a light onto a very difficult issue which often is looked upon from only one angle. The saddest fact is that we are not closer now to the end of the story than we were in 1948; the hope is that the majority on both sides is tired of witnessing their young die.
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The tragedy of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is recounted by a native Israeali who holds no punches when describing the atrocities engaged in by both Israelis and Palestinians.
The background of Fear of Annihilation on the part of the Jews, and of Suffering through being Oppressed on the part of the Palestinians is laid out. Neither nation can realize all their hopes. Can they agree to exist together with partial goals achieved by each? I have not finished the book - half-way through -- it is too depressing to read it all without a break. But I am hopeful this author or if not he, Secretary Kerry will point to a way out.
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What an excellent book! Ari Shavit is an Israeli in love with Israel who nevertheless can hold its discordant realities in his heart. He tries to hold the Palestinian realities in his heart, too. This is so rare and so beautiful when accomplished. Not that this is an easy book to read. It is emotionally very hard to hold. I had to put it down frequently, but it always pulled me back with its openness and integrity. This is writing which comes, not from the head, but from the soul.

On the practical level, this book is as readable as a novel. Shavit brings his material alive by introducing to us, in their own voices gleaned from interviews, a series of characters who played large and small parts in his story. These voices reach back to the founding events, and forward into the dance halls of the youth of Tel Aviv. These voices give the book immediacy authenticity and impact.

A theme which emerged for me was that of 'identity'. The surprising aspect of this is that it was an issue Zionists shared with many peoples in the late 1800s. Many national revolutionary movements were brewing, especially in Europe, at that time. The rejection of the past and single minded determination to create a new order which characterized the early kibbutz settlers reminded me forcefully of the Bolshevik revolutionary spirit. I felt, paradoxically, that the Zionist movement was very much a part of the society it was leaving. The early settlers brought their complex identities with them. It is our dilemma, too. How can we hold both the past and the present. How do we find an identity which is not made by rejecting something else? Who are we as we move farther and farther from our parents' home, our ethnic roots, our traditional alliances?

This book has given me a nuanced view of Israel and the Middle East situation, and has made me think big thoughts. For both, I thank Ari Shavit.
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