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A history of Israel [Hardcover]

Howard Morley Sachar
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st ed., rev edition (1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394485645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394485645
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,205,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 28 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Professor Zachar's book commences with Napoleon meeting the French Jewish community's leaders,and ends with the death of Yitzhak Rabin."Comprehensive" is putting it mildly
The early chapters,which spell out the beginings of modern Zionism,mostly in eastern Europe,are great-I knew very little about this prior to reading the book.It then goes on to the begining of the Zionist settlements in the late 19th century and tells the story of both the Jewish and Palestinian communities very well from there onwards.
Two themes mark out Zachar's book from other histories.One is his stress on the role of circumstance,chance and luck in the intertwined histories of the Jews and Palestinians.The idea that there was (or is) some monolithic conspiracy dedicated to doing down either the Jews or the Palestinians is shown to be nonsense.Zachar shows that with just slight differences-slightly higher or lower Jewish immigartion,a more cohesive Palestinian leadership at crucial times,fewer Palestinians fleeing after 1948,a less pro-Israeli US Jewish leadership-it could all have turned out completely differently.
Another is that Zachar investigates and writes about the problems of Palestinians or Israeli Arabs or whatever they like to call themselves,who stayed in Israel after 1948.These people are usually conspicuous by their absence in standard histories of Israel.Zachar redresses the balance here.
Overall,very well written,accurate and(mostly)objective.Recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comprehensive Work 4 Jun 2008
Format:Paperback
It is very difficult to accurately and comprehensively analyse this work.

The fact is that Sachar go's out of his way to be even-handed, which leads to a dilemma in itself.

The truth is that one cannot be objective in a conflict where it is clear to any fair-minded and honest observer who the agressors are and always have been: The Jews peacefully returned to their ancient land, and for nearly a century the Arabs have been trying to drive them into the sea.

There are times when I am uncomfortable with the author's particularly unfair treatment of the Jewish freedom fighters- the Irgun and Lechi- whom he labels as 'terrorists'.

At the same time, he honestly appraises the history of the situation as he see's it, and does not like the malevolent 'new historians' and revisionists, like Chomsky, Finkelstein, Said, Lenni Brenner and Israel Shahak, go back and rewrite history to suit their own destructive and malicious agenda against Israel.

This is an honest appraisal, in which the author strives to be fair.

Though his commentary is not always to my liking, he sticks to the facts, except in cases like the so-called massacre of Deir Yassin, where he has accepted the 'official' version' of events, despite clear evidence that there had been no deliberate killing of Arab civillians by the Jews.

The author begins by outlining the beginnings of the Zionist movement, the work of pioneers such as Moshe Hess, Leo Pinsker, Moses Montefiore, Achad Ha'am, Theodore Herzl, Chaim Weizmann and Vladimir Jabotinsky. He describes their strugles to adapt to harsh terrain, in the land which had flourished two thousand years before, when their ancestors lived there.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Sachar's history of Israel. 2 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
What a magnificent work of scholarship. For people such as myself, who are only remotely familiar with the circumstances leading to the rise of the Zionist movement and to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, this is such rewarding book. Sachar's approach to his subject is quite astounding. Not only does he trace the political and social evolution of the country in a sober and even-handed way, but he provides a lucid exposition of the military conflicts and turbulent irruptions that have plagued the country since the early twentieth century. The duplicity and nervous diplomacy of the superpowers in dealing with Israel are also brought to light. Moreover, the rise of the PLO and PFLP are discussed, along with some of the other popular Arab movements, in a very incisive and fair manner. The writing style is quite eloquent, and the topics discussed are so diverse and interesting that the prose doesn't drag along, as one might expect from such a thick and heavy tome. The book is provided with a vast array of military, demographic and municipal maps, which make some of the historical incidents easier to follow. My only suggestion for any subsequent editions is that the book be provided with an insert of illustrations, depicting some of visual arts and archaeological sites that Sachar discusses, along with photographs of some of the important political figures mentioned in the text.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
74 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Sachar's history of Israel. 2 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What a magnificent work of scholarship. For people such as myself, who are only remotely familiar with the circumstances leading to the rise of the Zionist movement and to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, this is such rewarding book. Sachar's approach to his subject is quite astounding. Not only does he trace the political and social evolution of the country in a sober and even-handed way, but he provides a lucid exposition of the military conflicts and turbulent irruptions that have plagued the country since the early twentieth century. The duplicity and nervous diplomacy of the superpowers in dealing with Israel are also brought to light. Moreover, the rise of the PLO and PFLP are discussed, along with some of the other popular Arab movements, in a very incisive and fair manner. The writing style is quite eloquent, and the topics discussed are so diverse and interesting that the prose doesn't drag along, as one might expect from such a thick and heavy tome. The book is provided with a vast array of military, demographic and municipal maps, which make some of the historical incidents easier to follow. My only suggestion for any subsequent editions is that the book be provided with an insert of illustrations, depicting some of visual arts and archaeological sites that Sachar discusses, along with photographs of some of the important political figures mentioned in the text.
68 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extremely Comprehensive and Fairly Balanced History 3 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An exhaustive volume covering from the first aliyah in the 1880s through the murder of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Sachar adopts a moderate to liberal Israeli stance, admiring early Maipai and Labor leaders Ben-Gurion, Peres, and Rabin. On the other hand, he is unremittingly critical of Likud leadership as well as the influence of the Orthodox and charedim in Israeli society.
Readers should keep in mind that this tome is a history of Israel, and not of the conflict with the Arab States and Palestinians; while it does an excellent job revealing Israeli ideology regarding the conflict, it spends far less time discussing Arab thinking and motivation. Even so, it does not mince words in criticism of Israeli militarism, particularly that of current prime minister Ariel Sharon. An outstanding, extremely readable history of the Jewish state.
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reference 14 Feb 2005
By Jill Malter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book does a fine job of supplying a detailed history of Israel. It is over 1000 pages, not even counting the index or the huge bibliography.

Sachar's idea is to tell us what happened and why. That does not mean taking sides. It does not mean saying if the people involved were reasonable or moral in choosing the sides they did.

I can understand this approach. We all wish that we could always view relatively current events from the perspective of those who could see which side was being greedy, which side was simply immoral, or which side was being impractical. But we can't, so Sachar simply reports what happened as best he can. And I don't see how I can ask for more than this.

In addition, the simple retelling of what happened and why tells us plenty about how wise or moral decision-makers were. Let me give one example. Sachar has a hefty section on the response to the UN Partition Resolution of November, 1947. Britain refused to gradually transfer authority to a United Nations commission, explaining that this would result in "confusion and disorder." Britain did everything possible to avoid cooperating with those in the UN or the Jewish Agency. The six UN commission members were made unwelcome. They "were soon reduced to foraging for food and drink. They accomplished nothing."

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, simply regarded the Jews as enemies. As Sachar writes, Bevin claimed "that the whole Jewish 'pressure' was a gigantic racket run from America," that the Jews had stolen "half the place" (that is, half of the Mandate territory), and that "he would not be surprised if the Germans had learned their worst atrocities from the Jews." I think this ought to tell any perceptive reader plenty about Bevin.

On top of this, Sachar explains that Bevin and some important British officers were predicting an Arab military victory, and that the Arabs would have no difficulty taking over the whole country. Nowadays, some people appear to have forgotten all this and are pretending that everyone knew that the Arabs would be no match for the Jews, which is yet one more reason why we ought to read this book!

Sachar also tells us about the British swiping the entire contents of the Mandate treasury, to make sure the Jews got none of the money. At the same time, the British gave 300,000 pounds to the Supreme Moslem Council, an indirect subsidy of the Arab war effort. The British strictly enforced an embargo on Jewish immigration and Jewish weapons acquisition. Meanwhile, the British happily sold weapons to Iraq and Transjordan.

It is true that on April 1, 1948, the Jews decided to stop responding to Arab attacks in a purely defensive manner. With Jerusalem threatened, they did decide to take action to relieve the siege. But Sachar has already shown us that one reason the Jews were unable to try such a plan before then was that the British would have stopped them by force.

There is an enormous amount of information in this book. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in the topic, no matter what political views they may have.
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent historical tome and a very interesting read! 1 Feb 2003
By funkyman33 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sachar's tome A History of Israel is both complete and a great read. Not being a formal teacher or student of history (this is just a hobby), I wanted a complete book that presented the issues of the Middle East objectively and completely. Sachar's book does that very well.
Although some parts of it can be difficult to get through, particularly the economic issues, the book is simple to read and not overly convoluted. It presents the history of this important country in a very thorough manner, barely missing any important issues.
Perhaps my only criticism is that it is somewhat one-sided. It deals with Arab issues well, but since it is a history of Israel, it focuses more on the Israeli side of things. It certainly is not a book about the emotional trials of the refugees -- instead it is meant as an objective documentation of fact. People looking for an op/ed piece will not find it hear. It does, however, manage to present the major mistakes Israel has made as well as many of the shocking atrocities committed in the name of the Jewish state.
I was looking for a book to answer the question -- where did this conflict start? Where did Arabs and Jews go wrong in their relations that has led us to this point? A History of Israel answered this question and many, many more. It is by far the best book about Israel that I have read and I recommend it highly!
45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know the facts, then form an opinion 3 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
America has become increasingly involved in the tensions in the Middle East and American military and civilians are increasingly at risk of retaliation. I felt it important to understand the history of the region and the issues that led to the deadly conflict. The information provided these last 25 years by the American media seemed biased and I wanted to know both sides of the story. Although history books can be biased too, I found Howard Sachar's account to be thorough, verifiable and straightforward to read. In addition to providing historical information, he painted a clear picture of the people involved in the conflict and the role of the US in building and supporting Israel. Although by the end of the book it is possible to discern his dovish opinion, I feel that he succeeded in presenting a fair account of the events. Since our country has taken such an active role in the Middle East, it is our duty as Americans to understand the conflict, form educated opinions, and make our opinions known to our elected officials. Howard Sachar's book is a must read.
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