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on 21 November 2013
'My Promised Land' by Ari Shavit is a personal and touching story about the State of Israel from the pen of author who is prominent Middle East journalist.

Using many documents, diaries and letters, but most importantly many conducted interviews, he made both an informative and captivating story about all those who gave their lives and love, and embed their ideals in building the State of Israel.

Shavit also used his own family's history in order to show the most important events in foundation and preserving of Jew state, starting from the time when state was established up to the present time and (good) hopes for its future.
He started his story with the arrival of thirty passengers from England to Jaffa, one of them being his great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich. He will follow his life story from the first days in Jaffa to all other areas in which Jew settlers went through a difficult periods and various challenges trying to establish life and live productively in places that were previously undeveloped.

He is speaking about agriculture, about insufficient technology they often had to upgrade themselves, but mostly he speaks about the commitment of those people, about their creativity and will to find new sources of revenue to be able to finance additional development which eventually led to the development of the fruit industry in Jaffa and orange distribution all across the Europe.

The story was done as factually as possible, though these personal views of individuals which participated in history events are the best part of the book. As much as someone can blame their objectivity, they certainly cannot blame their authenticity and knowing what they are talking about from the personal experience in the context of the time frame in which these events occurred.

The two sentences from the book are particularly memorable which explain a lot - "...Israel is a nation-state founded in the heart of the Arab world... A wide circle of 350 million Arabs surrounds the Zionist state and threatens its very existence..."

Although much can be disagreed on the way in which Israel carried with issues such as Palestine and nuclear weapons, it cannot be denied that life in such an environment is extremely difficult, and the uncertainty and danger to the survival of the state is constant.

Viewed in this way Israel is living proof that people which have one goal in their mind, the right and need to have their homeland, can be enough motivation to succeed in achieving that goal despite all the problems and challenges encountered during the time.

'My Promised Land' is book that can be recommend to all people interested in recent history, especially to those interested in Israel history but perhaps even more so for those who want to read fascinating story about things which can be done using enormous human will and great efforts, even if lot of things was or still is against you.
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on 11 June 2014
This is the best and most insightful study on the nature of the State of Israel I have read. It fully describes the contradictions of modern day life in Israel and how the various strands and groups react and thrive.

It is well worth reading by an avowed leftist who fully appreciates the motivations and fears of all sections of society and the limitations of everyone he interviews.

It is the story of the triumph of hope (Hatikvah) in a a world of harsh realities and the indomitable spirit of an ancient people triumphing in the modern world!
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on 7 June 2014
I've read very few books on Israel but read and heard much of both 'sides' of the noise around modern Israel and the Palestinians. This book gives a balanced and solid historical context from 1897 to 2013 into what and why the impetus of a desperate and persecuted generation created a unified and then realized vision of safety, strength and nationhood while utterly ignoring and deliberately destroying and displacing the indigenous inhabitants of the land and the consequences to Israel and it's people ever since.

An excellent read.
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on 29 March 2014
Lot's of things to learn for those who only see Israel through the media. Proof that there are Israelis who understand that Palestinians cannot be treated as inferior.
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on 18 May 2014
Shavit writes wonderful prose, with razor-sharp analysis combined with a heartfelt passion for his country. This is one of the most insightful biographies on Israel and its position in the Middle East. In spite of his acknowledged left-wing views on life, this is an extremely balanced and accurate biopsy of a country in precarious turmoil but written with a true yearning for compromise, peace and strength.
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on 19 April 2014
i loved the way Arie Shavit took us through the journey of Israels history using stories focussed in detail on certain characters, on Herbert Bentwich in the 1890s, on the kibbutz communist pioneers,on the orange growers of Rehovot.I liked the way Shavit was able to look at the darkness and the light with little judgement and ask the question..will Israel survive the risks and threats of the 21st century.
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on 5 August 2014
A truly, gripping, fascinating book that explore the triumphs and moral ambiguities of zionism though personal experience reflection and interviews. Shavit writes with an intensity, passion and deep insight that held my attention throughout, and explores the evolution of the Israeli state and state of mind through interviews and reflections upon a choice selection of historical events. However, whilst consistently referencing the injustices inflicted upon the Palestinian people, at the level of moral implications he fails to square the circle either personally or collectively. Rather sadly his personal position appears to reflect the myopic view point that he challenges in others, and he offers the reader no real insight into how he reconciles his observations of profound injustice either within himself or for a lasting political solution to Israeli/Palestinian tensions. For me personally this was perhaps the most depressing aspect of the book - that a leading left wing commentator and long time peace activist should continue to hold an ethnocentric position that sees but can't respond to injustice, offering little hope for a resolution to what he himself suggests has been the long overlooked core of the problem - not the occupation of Palestinian territories but the Nakbah itself. Despite all of this the book remains an excellent, highly thought-provoking read.
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on 11 April 2014
Ari Shavit's view of Israeli history is personal and yet enables the reader to see the perspectives of all concerned
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on 16 March 2014
Usuall do not agree with Shavit's columns in Haaretz, he starts off fine but often veers to the wrong conclusion. Here he's based a book on a number of article he already wrote and interviews with key people over the years. My disagreement was minor in most chapters and his conclusions frequently painfully accurate. Worth reading.
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on 17 July 2014
I felt, reading this book, that I finally understood that, for Jewish Israelis, there is an existential question that few of the rest of us can readily grasp. We have neither experienced centuries of persecution, nor an attempt at extermination which very nearly succeeded and which was one of the worst crimes against humanity ever committed. Nor do we live among neighbours who would prefer us not to exist. Ari Shavit is brilliant at conveying all that, through personal and family histories which are powerful and often heart breaking, without denying the wrongs done to the inhabitants who were displaced or destroyed to create the modern state of Israel. The book is both exhilarating and depressing: exhilarating because the story of Isreal is one of genius and courage and enterprise and depressing because of the cycles of suffering inflicted by one side on the other with no obvious prospect of resolution. This is probably not a book that will increase the knowledge (as opposed to understanding) of the expert but for the interested, cocnerend reader, it is an eye-opener and ahs amde me want to understand more. If I have one criticism, it is that it ebcomes obvious as you read that some chapters are rcycled newspaper articles: intersting in themselves but not always fitting the narrative.
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