11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2014
Like many (non-Jewish) people the situation in Israel is at times distressing but understanding its roots and drivers has been difficult unless you have the time and patience to wade through often verbose and thoroughly unreadable tomes. Ari Shavit tries as hard as he can to make the history of modern day Israel understandable. He pulls no punches when it comes to explaining the why things area as they are - but through the combination of personal history, candid interviews and highlighting the double sided nature of what has happened he finds a way of weaving a story that is (mostly) balanced and educational. For the first time, I understand much better the plight of the palestinians - from the beginning of the Zionist thrust post WW2 that stemmed from a need for a secure place to avoid further (Holocaust type) persecution through to the more recent settlements of the West Bank. I also think that because the book deals with the more recent (2013/14) situation vis a vis Iran, it offers a unique perspective looking forwards as to what might be in the pipeline to come. Rarely have I found a book (last one was Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond) that is impossible to put down.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2014
A very genuine and thorough look at Israel situation. It has no blind spot whatsoever. Ari Shavit sees the situation from everyone's point of view and does not possess rose tinted glasses. What Ari Shavit does not offer is a solution. In a sense, it flows from his ability to see everyone's point of view and refusal to take side. If every one is right or at least has a strong claim to righteousness then no-one's right. And where is the compromise? I have rarely read a book about Israel that was so clear headed. But where do we go from there?
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2014
This is a sobering and finally profoundly depressing book. For me, at any rate. As a child of refugees from the Nazi terror, who came to Israel believing in "old Zionism", I share Shavit's sense of bewildered disappointment. His constant echo of "where and why did we go wrong" resonates only too clearly. I only wish I could share his final summing up that somehow it will turn out all right. But I'm older than he is so perhaps I'm more cynical. This is a must read for anyone who wants to learn the many facets of a small country which occupies a disproportionate place in the politics of the world. I congratulate him.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2014
In the introduction to his book, Ari Shavat writes of " a personal odyssey.. exploring the wider narrative of his nation. Through family history, personnal history and in depth interviews... What has happened in my homeland for over a century that has brought us to where we are now? What was achieved here and what went wrong here, and where are we heading?"
His chapters focus on incidents with family, personal and historical significance that led from the (mainly) well intentioned,19th century Zionist dreams of a homeland in Palestine to the present unhappy situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. For example: the hopes and energy of the kibbutz movement; the growth of tit-for-tat terrorism; the ethnic cleansing of the 1948 war; and the relentless grind of occupation and repression in the remnant of Palestine that may one day form a homeland for the Palestinians. He writes about the twin problems that need to be faced: 'intimidation', felt by the Jewish Israelis who fear the Arab majority around them; and 'occupation', suffered by a disposessed Palestinian people, but also corrrupting the Israeli occupiers. Honest, with some glimmers of hope.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2014
Decided to buy this book after reading a review in The Economist. Couldn't put it down one started it. Gives very objective view of the origins and on going existence for the State of Israel. Well balanced views.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2014
excellent perspective on the origins and motivation 0f the israeli state. easy to read and quite captivating. i always admired much of what the israelis have done since post war but also believed that they have the onus of responsibility in resolving the palestinian problem. written by an israeli who sees both sides of the conflict and asks some serious questions of israel. i'd recommend the book particularly for the extremists on both sides of the argument.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2014
I have long felt the need to be more objectively critical of Israel's governance and found Ari Shavit's
guidance and explanation invaluable. Ari's coverage of the contemporary birth of the Israeli state is both accurate and compassionate.It lays an excellent understanding for helping people to make a better assessment of how to be critical of current Israeli government behaviour and policy whilst respecting the sacrifices made by thousands of Jewish people to build a just society which can give them a sense of security they have been long denied and mercilessly persecuted for.
Essential reading for non Jewish people and it would help if more bigotted members of the Jewish community read it too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2014
A VERY well-written, in-depth look inside Israel, and at all that surrounds it.
Whatever you think of how the nation was born, and how it has handled itself since, it's a fascinating, mostly dark story.
I hope the future - for Israel and its neighbours - is brighter, and there are some things here to give you hope, along with more things to make you worry.
How could a people who suffered so much then inflict suffering on others, and kick them off their land? Why in 70 years haven't all sides been able to sit down and talk, and why when it was attempted did one side or other refuse to listen?
What has the outside world done to help, and why has it helped one side at times, and the other side at times? There are a million questions, that a lot of very intelligent people over the years have been unable to answer.
Interesting, how secularism could alter everything, and how the Arab Spring has kept people otherwise engaged, or things could have reached a head already. Interesting, some critics' take on this book, how it is an exercise in liberal hand-wringing, concealing another agenda, an apologist's agenda. And interesting how passionately he can write on behalf of his non-Jewish friends, and see it from their perspective and agree, over and over, that the way Israel took land was wrong and still needs to be addressed.
It's a subject that splits us, and confuses outsiders from every side, but I think this book has great value for those of us too far away to properly grasp every single detail. I went to Tel Aviv once, found it fascinating but with an unmistakeable paranoia and a bit intimidating, too. I have seen parallels much closer to my home, with a lot of what happened in Northern Ireland and all of Ireland.
At least this book made me think about it all, and view it from new perspectives, and witness an Israeli who admits openly there have been plenty mistakes on both sides.
Clearly, a country that will be in the news for years to come. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all get along, settle historical differences and find a liveable solution for everyone? Sadly, it's unlikely. Meantime, Israel does have to protect itself, and Palestine does have to keep asking when they will get their land back. I wouldn't want to be the politician who is left to sort it all out.
Thank you, sir, a very interesting book.