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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanderings, 15 Dec 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Wanderings: History of the Jews (Mass Market Paperback)
This is the most remarkable book. With enormous sensitivity, Potok traces the history of the Jews from 2000 BC till today. I virtually never read non-fiction - especially not history books - but I found myself flipping the pages like a novel. I seriously could not put it down. Probably one of the most enlightening books I have ever read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive historic account, 5 Jun 2008
In this work, Potok outlines the narrative of Jewish history against the canvas of world history. The Jewish people have influenced and been influenced by the world in equal measure.
Book One outlines the struggle of the Hebrew Nation, against the backdrop of ancient paganism. He discusses the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia, before introducing Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrew Nation, who migrated from Ur in southern Mesopotamia, to Canaan, as recorded in the Biblical narrative.
Each chapter explains the history of the dominant civilization of the time, in which the struggles and contributions of the Nation of Israel took place, before describing the role played by the Jews and their specific history. There are chapters on the struggles of the Jews under the Mesopotamian , Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman and Islamic Empires, and the long exile of a large portion of the Jewish people in Christian Europe.
There is other ancient documentation, as sources for the ancient history of Israel, describing how the word 'Hapiru' was first used in Egyptian records during the reign of Amenhotep II, who ruled Egypt from about 1440 to 1415 BCE.
Much of this epic account deals with the unique contribution of the Jewish people to world civilization. Hence we discover that the Biblical recognition of a slave as an individual with rights, though he still lacks the status of a free man, has no parallel in the laws of Mesopotamia or any other ancient civilization, and was indeed a Judaic initiative.
Egyptian accounts record the presence of the Israelites in Canaan, around the year 1220 BCE.
The town of Shechem (now called Nablus by the Arabs) is nowhere claimed to have been conquered by the Israelites under Joshuah, and was most likely a Hebrew enclave all through the centuries of the enslavement in Egypt.

One's attitude to the Jews and Israel is a very good litmus test for the character of people, entities and nations.
In some instances, their general actions have preceded their actions against the Jews, and in other instances what has begun with the Jews has not ended with them.
A foretaste of the cultural genoicide of the Moslem Arabs, against the cultures of lands they invaded, was the burning of the ancient libararies of Alexandria, Egypt by Arab Moslem invaders in 647 CE, described by the author.
The Land of Israel retained a Jewish majority long after the destruction of the Second Temple, by the Romans in 70 CE, and probabely until the Arab invasion of the Land of Israel in 634 CE. Like all the lands that came under the Arab Moslem domination, attempts were made by the Arab Moslem invaders to eradicate all presence of the indigenous cultures.
Hence on the site of the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism, the Moslems erected the Dome of the Golden Rock, in 691 CE.
The author explains the roots of Christian and Islamic anti-semitism, and the massacres that took place against Jews, during the crusades, across Europe through the ages, the horrific genocide of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, by the marauding Cossacks of Bogdan Chmielnicki, in 1648 and the Kishinev massacre of Jews in 1905.
The Chmielnicki massacre is recounted by a letter written during that period about the capture of some Jewish towns by the Cossacks: "They slaughtered eight hundred noblemen, together with their wives and children as well as seven hundred Jews, also with their wives and children. Some were cut into pieces, others were ordered to dig graves into which Jewish women and children were thrown and buried alive. Jews were given rifles and ordered to kill each other."
The author also discusses the numerous repeated blood libels and accusation of host desecration: "Mystery plays depicted the Jews as Christ killers, demonic allies of Satan, and blood-sucking moneylenders".-libels being repeated under new guises in the early 21st century, in the climate of the new anti-semitism-vicious anti-Israel hate and hysteria.

The book details the life of Jews in exile in mediaeval Spain, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe. We learn about great Jewish thinkers and writers like Judah HaLevi, Abraham Ibn Ezra, Ben of Tudela, and the great religious influences of such luminaries as the Baal Shem Tov the Vilna Gaon, and Moses Mendehlson.
The final chapter deals with the blight of Secularism on the Jewish people. The author aptly describes secular humanism (or modern paganism) as thus:"
It is probabely the most creative, the most liberated, the wealthiest, most dehumanizing and most murdeous civilization in the history of our species. Among those who suffered the most from it's excesses is the Jew. Ironically Jews helped to mould this civilization"
Most secular humanists today display the most breathtaking hypocrisy on issues such as human rights, especially under it's offshoot-the cult of political correctness.
Under the enlightenment a new form of anti-semitism came into being, shaped by the likes of Voltaire and Karl Marx-the mother of the new anti-semitism of today, prevalent at university campuses , media houses and leftist NGOs.
Finally the author writes about the founders of modern Zionism the return of Jews to the Land of Israel, and the struggle for the rebirth of a Jewish State.
It is inpiring to read of Herzl's journey to the Land of Israel in 1898: "Beneath the hot Medittaranean sun he was greeted by Jews who established the new settlements in the land. He saw tanned Jewish children, and men at ease on galloping horses. He saw groves of trees and new houses and grass on sand dunes..."
Potok deals too briefly with the subjects of the Holocaust and the rebirth of the Jewish Nation, with the refoundation of the State of Israel.
But he succeeds in putting across how Israel is a warmth for Jews, everywhere , how we fear for her, tremble when her people are hurt and support her.
The world lost a third of it's Jewish population during the Holocaust, and now almost half of world Jewry live in Israel (including hundreds of thousands of the descendants of holocaust survivors). The survival of Israel is the survival of the Jewish people.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, sensitive work. Also, beautiful pictures., 28 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Wanderings: History of the Jews (Mass Market Paperback)
Potok is a graceful writer who knows and loves his subject. This is a good book. The final chapter is something the reader will not soon forget.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed historic of the jewish people, 1 Sep 2009
Darren Simons (Middlesex, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wanderings: History of the Jews (Mass Market Paperback)
In a quite spectacularly detailed book, Chaim Potok has attempted to write the history of an entire people through the biblical historic, middle ages, and modern times.

The book is well written, trying hard to distinguish from when something is historic fact to author opinion and for this I must credit the author. The only slight irritation I had was repeated little phrases which got on my nerves... "Who was king? Who was not king?"

I found the historic aspect of the biblical times particularly interesting as Potok has tried hard to explain biblical writings against the historic fact. Much of it is open to conjecture of course but again I think Potok has done his best to be open about this.

Definitely a very interesting book although given the topic quite hard to read cover to cover.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lost worlds and the dangerous relationship, 14 Jan 2013
Cole Davis (London) - See all my reviews
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Potok makes a point of putting the history of Jews within the context of the countries within which they have lived. This means that you get to read a lot about several other cultures. His coverage of the lost world of Sumer and Akkad was enlightening. His insights into the mixed rationality and irrationality of ancient Greece provided food for thought.

There were so many things to learn. His discussion of the Chmielnicki uprising shone new light on the relationship between Cossacks and others, and between Ukraine and Poland. The book as a whole raises a host of questions about the treatment of minorities, the limits to social engineering and of course the nature of religion.

However I was surprised to find that many of the author's paragraphs tended to be poorly constructed, leading to ambiguous emphases. My suspicions of a lack of editorial influence were confirmed when I reached the clearly important final chapter. I accept the point that histories are at their least effective when the contemporary world of the writer hoves into view, but this final chapter was baggy, patchy and, surprisingly for such a novelist, poorly written. This piece of self-indulgence is the reason why the book has been downgraded from a 5 star; it is still a valuable book and to be recommended.
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Wanderings: History of the Jews
Wanderings: History of the Jews by Chaim Potok (Mass Market Paperback - 4 Dec 2003)
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