From My Bookshelf: ISRAEL-A HISTORY by Anita Shapira

About 18 months ago, I purchased a new book for my Kindle: Anita Shapira’s Israel: A History (translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris). But soon after that, I began attending a weekly seminar titled “Zionist Thought and Statesmanship”; that wonderful course came complete with its own considerable reading list. I put aside Shapira’s book for another time.

It’s not that I’m glad that it has taken me so long to return to the book, which I’m about halfway through right now (I’m reading slowly). But I can’t help feeling that approaching it with at least a little more knowledge of Israeli history already in my mind has enriched my reading experience. Similarly, what I’ve read so far in Shapira’s book has reinforced and complemented the readings from my earlier seminar very, very nicely.

I’m not quite prepared to write a review of my own, but I’ll point you to some reviews that piqued and sustained my interest in the book over time. In the meantime, I can assure you that this is a book very much worth reading.

  • In The Forward, Jerome Chanes wrote: “Anita Shapira ups the ante in her history, which recently won a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, offering a truly comprehensive narrative of Israel, from its genesis in the first stirrings of Zionism in the 19th century to present day’s unsettled Israeli society. Shapira is a historian who believes things actually happened in history and they deserve a good telling. But the author, who has had a distinguished academic career, is a superb analyst, as well.”
  • In the Jewish Review of Books, Allan Arkush noted: “Shapira, for one thing, has done away with all sorts of errors that have been passed through the years from one short history of Israel to another.”
  • In The Jewish Week, Francine Klagsburn wrote: “Unlike other histories that often tell Israel’s story by jumping from one war to the next, this one…captures the nation’s diversity and cultural richness along with its existential struggles.”
  • P.S. Yesterday came the tragic news about the three missing boys in Israel. It’s hard not to feel totally helpless and devastated at a time like this. But thinking of those boys and filled with the spirit of Jewish peoplehood, I will do something simple: continue my reading, mindful of my connections to Israel, and to those boys (one of whom is also connected through our common American citizenship).