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A Brief History of Israel

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Explores the past of Israel and its lengthy Jewish history with an emphasis on the period since Israel's independence in 1948. It is a complex story of a people and their modern state, established thousands of years after the destruction of the old one.


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Explores the past of Israel and its lengthy Jewish history with an emphasis on the period since Israel's independence in 1948. It is a complex story of a people and their modern state, established thousands of years after the destruction of the old one.

30 review for A Brief History of Israel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    A concise but informative history of Israel with a strong emphasis on recent decades.It essentially serves as a refresher cause to those who have studied Israel's history and covered recent events, and a beginners guide to Israel history for those who have not. detail the the 2000 years of longing of Jews to return to their ancient land after the expulsion of most of Israel's Jews by the Romans. The first chapter on the history of Israel from the biblical times to the Ottoman Period could have bee A concise but informative history of Israel with a strong emphasis on recent decades.It essentially serves as a refresher cause to those who have studied Israel's history and covered recent events, and a beginners guide to Israel history for those who have not. detail the the 2000 years of longing of Jews to return to their ancient land after the expulsion of most of Israel's Jews by the Romans. The first chapter on the history of Israel from the biblical times to the Ottoman Period could have been more detailed since it covers the roots of the Jews in the Land of Israel.Two vital things I really liked in the chapter was the map of David's Kingdom in 970 BCE of which the current border of Israel cover less than a quarter. The author does, to his credit explain the derivative of the word 'Jew' from the Hebrew word Yehudi meaning 'man of Judah'. How ironic and unjust therefore that it is judged by the world community as 'illegal' or even 'a war crime' for Jews to live in their own ancient cradle of origin. The Second Chapter the Prehistory of the State of Israel' covers the return of Jews to their ancient land, from 1880 (known as the 'modern Zionist movement')until the re-establishment of statehood of the Jewish state in 1948, including the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and how as a result of Arab pogroms against Jewish communities in the 1020's and 30's led to the British turning their backs on the promises to the Jewish people and trying to stop Jewish immigration into the Holy Land and the attack by five Arab armies on the fledgling state of Israel, after the United Nations voted for partition in 1948, and the war that was long and costly for Israel. While the author does date the fact that in the first four months of independence in May, 1948, 50 000 immigrants, almost all Holocaust survivors settled in Israel (only to find themselves attacked by people who were determined to destroy them) and that by 1951, over 300 000 Jews had arrived from Arab states, he deflates their numbers (the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were closer to 700 000) and does not cover the fact that they were refugees expelled, amidst pogroms and genocide, from the Arab lands they had lived in for many centuries. In the third chapter 'Political, Economic and Military Consolidation' the author outlines the achievements of building up a sustainable economic infrastructure, absorbing hundreds of thousands of Jews, building up an excitingly vibrant multi-party democracy (much of the book covers Israel's interesting party political developments and the elections to Israel Knesset (Parliament) from 1948 to 2006.An interesting side box discusses Israel's programme of aid and training to newly independent developing states in Africa, Asia and Latin America from the 1950's. 60's and early 70's until, under Arab pressure, most African countries, under Arab pressure, cut ties with Israel in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This chapter covers the Suez War of how incessant terrorist Fedayeen raids on Israel from Egypt, organized by Nasser, and the closing of the Straits of Tiran against international law lead to Israel's participation with Britain and France against Nasser. Chapter 4 describes how Arab threats of Israel's destruction and the genocide of it's people, the surrounding of Israel's borders of Arab armies ready fro war from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, ready to act, and the final spark, Nasser's blocking of the Straights of Tiran, constituting an act of war led to Israel reacting to the Arab's warlike activities and preemptive striking in the Six Day War. The book go's on to cover Arab terrorist activity, the Egyptian War of Attrition against Israel (1969-1970_ and the cowardly Arab attack of the Yom Kippur War by several Arab armies against Israel in 1973, the political earthquake that swept Menachem Begin and his Likud Party to power in the 1977 election after 30 years of Labour domination and the 1982 Lebanon War, when Israel struck at the PLO in Lebanon after years of being attacked from Lebanon, and the political fallout from this war. But most of the book covers events in the 90s and first decade of the 21st century from the Oslo Peace Accords, to Arafat's launching of the Five Year Palestinian Terror War of Israel's civilian population and Israel's reaction (the author wrongly gives the terror war legitimacy by referring it incorrectly as the 'Al Aqsa Intifada', the word used by the terrorists and their supporters and propagandists. In an attempt to be neutral the author underplays Arab aggression and how Israel has sacrificed it's own rights and security for 62 years in order to try to bring about peace with the Arabs who (with the exception of Sadat in 1978 and King Hussein of Jordan in 1994 as well as the more moderate Gulf states and Morocco) have been completely uninterested. He certainly underplays the horror of the Arab terror on Israel civilian population in the 2000-2005 Palestinian Terror War. He does however stick to the facts and it is a factual and concise history of the period, helpful to recapping the events of the conflict. It go's on to cover the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and forced expulsion of Gaza's Jewish inhabitants, the 2006 Second Lebanon War in which Israel reacted to Hezbollah terror and aggression and subsequent political development up to early 2008, including Hezbollah leader Hannan Narallah's February 2008 threats against Israel and President George W Bush's rcommitment to US support for Israel in early 2008

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Garner

    The found the information to be lacking in helpful overview of some of the basics - timelines, the parliament systems, etc - yet too detailed in other areas. Facts were presented with little linking to the "whys" behind the events that occurred. No pictures, even of the figures featured, and a pet peeve of mine, biographies of famous figures were introduced too early, so by reading the biography you find out what happens in the timeline before the history text itself reaches that point. I feel l The found the information to be lacking in helpful overview of some of the basics - timelines, the parliament systems, etc - yet too detailed in other areas. Facts were presented with little linking to the "whys" behind the events that occurred. No pictures, even of the figures featured, and a pet peeve of mine, biographies of famous figures were introduced too early, so by reading the biography you find out what happens in the timeline before the history text itself reaches that point. I feel like there must be better overviews out there.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristopher Swinson

    At first a whirlwind review of ancient history, and then bogged down primarily in political matters (almost more internally than in world affairs), this achieves a balanced view on the history of Israel. It is not a text (pretext) about “Palestine.” Appropriately demonstrated is a strong Jewish presence through every rule and mandate of the region's history. I was going to say that, regardless, Reich isn’t slow to cite instances of recurring belligerence from neighboring nations—but that stands o At first a whirlwind review of ancient history, and then bogged down primarily in political matters (almost more internally than in world affairs), this achieves a balanced view on the history of Israel. It is not a text (pretext) about “Palestine.” Appropriately demonstrated is a strong Jewish presence through every rule and mandate of the region's history. I was going to say that, regardless, Reich isn’t slow to cite instances of recurring belligerence from neighboring nations—but that stands on solid historical ground. In fact, he actually glosses over (36-37) the desperation to reach Israel during the dark days of the 1930s and 1940s, but he also failed to properly call Deir Yassin a massacre of Arab civilians (39), which some would say is comparable to My Lai. In striking his objective recounting, he doesn’t hold back the shame of the Lavon Affair in international relations (65). Reich places Zionism in context (18, 106) rather than feeding us the usual drivel (supplied by the Arab League statement on 51). I was relieved to finally learn about the overturning of UN Resolution 3379 (106). There isn’t so much as a hint of bias in these cold, hard facts (83): In June 1967, Israel was surrounded by Arab states dedicated to its eradication. The objective was referred to as “politicide,” the destruction of a state. Between 1949 and 1967, many Israelis had been hopeful that peace with the Arab states could be established based on the 1949 armistice agreements. Now, the crisis of 1967 convinced many Israelis that politicide was the goal of the Arab world. Egypt was ruled by Nasser, a nationalist whose army was the strongest in the Arab Middle East. Syria was governed by the radical Baathist Party, constantly issuing threats to push Israel into the sea. The PLO focused on replacing Israel with Palestine. None of this is assisted by the controlled media—with a worse spin than in the United States ;)—in Arab nations (for instance, 87), which in its reporting of military conflict reminds one of German broadcasts during WWII. Elie Wiesel spoke in full consistency with his Nobel Peace Prize in stating, “Meanwhile the enemy was openly preparing to attack. . . . In Arab capitals delirious mobs seethed with excitement and acclaimed the future heroes of the holy war, the total war. Orators invited Jewish women to make themselves beautiful in order to welcome the conquerors, who had clear and simple orders: burn the cities, raze the kibbutzim, slaughter all combatants, and drown the people of hope in an ocean of blood and fire. Words? Yes, words. Words which evoke laughter and fear. Words which haunt the cemeteries of Europe" (A Beggar in Jerusalem [New York: Random House, 1970], 110). And again, when he wrote, “That verbal threats can be dangerous and must be taken seriously, I myself have known for years; I know it even better now that I have seen the planes and tanks in the Sinai, the cannons and rockets, and the soldiers getting ready to use them according to plans—which I have also seen—drawn up by their general staffs. The immediate objective? To drive the Jews back into the sea. Their leaders have said it and written it, and you will never convince me they did not mean it. You see, I belong to a generation sensitized to the extreme, trained to attach more significance to threats than to promises” (One Generation After [New York: Random House, 1970], 134-135). One does not need exposure to very many such threats to sense the documented duplicity of Arafat and his ilk (and I choose this source because it contains so many in a short space): On May 15, 1948, the very first day in the life of the Jewish state, Azzam Pasha, secretary-general of the Arab League, said at a press conference in Cairo: [Our war against the Jewish state:] will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades. On April 11, 1954, the Cairo newspaper Al Misri quoted Dr. Mohammed Salah ed-Din, the former Egyptian Foreign Minister, as having said: It is neither right nor honorable for Arab statesmen to continue to hide behind those diplomatic answers that they cannot consider peace with Israel until it implements UN resolutions. The truth is that we will by no means be satisfied by the implementation of the UN resolutions. These resolutions may provide Arab statesmen with clever means of getting out of trouble at the UN or in press interviews, but the Arab peoples are not afraid to disclose that they will not be satisfied by anything less than the obliteration of Israel from the map of the Middle East. In October, 1956, a unified Arab army command was created. Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer, the Egyptian military leader who was to take his own life after the Six-day War of 1967, declared: The hour is coming close for the final battle for the destruction of Israel. On August 17, 1961, President Nasser announced: We will act to realize Arab solidarity and the closing of the ranks that will eventually put an end to Israel . . . . We will liquidate her. On October 30, 1964, Salah Jadid, commander-in-chief of Syria's armed forces, declared: Our army will be satisfied with nothing else than the disappearance of Israel. On May 25, 1965, Nasser and President Abdel Salam Aref of Iraq said: . . . the Arab national aim is the elimination of Israel. On May 12, 1966, Ahmed Suidani, then commander-in-chief of Syria's armed forces, boasted: "Fear and alarm will fill every house in Israel." On the eve of the Six-day War (June 1, 1967), Ahmed Shukairy, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stated to reporters in Amman that he expected war, that Jordan (which the Western world now considers the most "moderate" of the Arab states) might start that war, that the Arabs would win, and that none of the Jews of Israel would be left alive. "The Jews in Palestine," he said, "will have to leave. Any of the old Palestinian Jewish population who survive may stay, but it is my impression that none of them will survive." In a broadcast to his people just before the cease-fire of June, 1967, Jordan's “moderate” ruler cried: "Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your hands, with your nails and teeth." (Jacob A. Rubin, True/False about Israel [New York: Herzl Press, 1972], 79-80) The horrible Nazi song “Wenn Judenblut vom Messer spritzt, Dann geht es nochmal so gut!” is paralleled today in the Arab world with the popularity of tunes like “We buy paradise with the blood of the Jews.” This documents Israel’s remarkable restraint, first, in not responding to Saddam Hussein’s Scud attacks (160, 164)—by American request (a perspective radically altered by itself coming under terrorist attack, 265)—and secondly, in not taking out Arafat. Reich merely paints the unfolding drama, but virtually any reader can discern the truthfulness to the psychology that many Israelis felt there was no reliable Palestinian presence with which to even negotiate. We try to hold out hope even for the PLO, when they appear to make reasonable conciliatory efforts (81, 156), but this is dashed soon enough (221). We learn only too late WHY the Palestinian Authority couldn’t contain the cycle of violence (231-232). This also doesn’t tiptoe around the actual threat Saddam Hussein was to the civilized world (160-161, 252-253; see 163 for the Palestinian support of Hussein). It’s encouraging to see Jordan turn against the PLO elements within its borders (91), as well as Israel’s eventual decision to treat Yassir Arafat as an irrelevant entity for peace in December 2001 (229, 256-257, versus the still politic 262) . . . to say nothing of what they soon discovered about his persistent terrorist incitement (225 offers a good description). (One of my relatives apparently participated in Operation Defensive Shield’s restriction of Arafat to his quarters in the Ramallah compound, 234.) One year before the tide turned against Arafat, I corresponded with a girl who informed me she just thought the Middle East was a case of the wicked smiting the wicked, and that Israel had no right to statehood. Such a naive view to my mind ignores the fact that there’s no moral ambiguity (even in a wicked man) for defending one’s family from attack, let alone the fact that one recurring theme in world history is the wicked smiting the righteous, and the occasionally justifiable instances of the righteous smiting the wicked upon certain conditions. I certainly stated my views about what an “affront” it was that a wicked criminal like Arafat would be appointed to represent his impoverished people, and that the Jewish people, who had wandered, like Jesus, with nowhere to lay their head for almost two millennia should still be denied such a small area of land, over which nearly the entire Islamic world was suddenly obsessed. The book also addresses that most problematic matter of Palestinian refugees (260), not always viewed with Israeli compassion, but more so than by the Arab nations who have left them in that condition on purpose in order to fill their arsenal for debate in world councils. Ultimately, it is “Hamas and like-minded groups” that are “the primary obstacle” to peace in the Middle East (256, 263), however much fun the pundits have at Israel’s expense, as if it’s not enough for them to be attacked by all surrounding nations. By the way, you really will find that this book recounts current events much more calmly and disinterestedly (?) than I have.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This book generally lives up to its name, and is a worthwhile book if one wants to read an insider's perspective of the history of Israel as an independent nation.  Admittedly, my interest in Israeli political history, which is really at the heart of this book, is limited to the extent that I support Likud and tend to take a dim view of socialist/leftist politics in general, and so I was pleased that the author was able to explain the origins of the Likud/Labor divide and where it began and what This book generally lives up to its name, and is a worthwhile book if one wants to read an insider's perspective of the history of Israel as an independent nation.  Admittedly, my interest in Israeli political history, which is really at the heart of this book, is limited to the extent that I support Likud and tend to take a dim view of socialist/leftist politics in general, and so I was pleased that the author was able to explain the origins of the Likud/Labor divide and where it began and what factors changed the political balance of Israel internally over time.  I found, personally, the discussion of various waves of immigration and he importance of the conservative Middle Eastern wave of Jews to the viability of conservative politics to oppose the leftist former Soviet and Eastern European Jews to be deeply interesting, and the author did a good job at showing the electoral politics behind Israeli military efforts throughout its brief and so far violent history as well.  Given that war and politics are among the most fundamental aspects of history for a nation, not least one like Israel, the author's solid work in these elements makes for a good history overall. This book of almost 300 pages is divided into eleven chapters that show a clear chronological bias for the 20th century history of the nation of Israel.  The book begins with a list of illustrations, maps, tables, abbreviations and acronyms, as well as a preface, acknowledgements and an introduction.  After that the author spends one chapter talking about the entire period between biblical times and the Ottoman period (1) and then another chapter of the prehistory of the Israeli state after the rise of Zionism in Europe (2).  After that the author discusses the political, economic, and military consolidation between independence and the Six Day War (3) as well as the period from the Six Day War to the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath (4).  This leads to a discussion of the peace with Egypt and the rise of Likud (5) as well as the period from peace with Egypt to the end of the first Intifada (6).  After that the author discusses the Persian Gulf War and the abortive Oslo accords (7) as well as the Netanyahu and Barak governments up to 2000 (8).  The book then ends with a discussion of the second Intifada (9) as well as a new perspective on security (10), and a conclusion (11) as well as appendices that include election results to the Knesset, basic facts about Israel, a glossary of political parties, a chronology, a bibliography, suggestions for future reading, and then an index. To be sure, this book would have been better had it been less brief.  A less brief history would have found the space to write about the context of the Jewish experience between the Hasmonean period and the re-establishment of an independent Jewish state that demonstrated the vulnerability that Jews faced as a minority people in Christian and Muslim realms.  This context would have also allowed the author to provide some of the context that makes Israel's behavior far easier to understand (to say nothing of justification) given the hostility that the Jewish people endured for many centuries of powerlessness.  As it is, this book does a good job at discussing the political and military context of Israel's existence, with the fragmentation of politics into a variety of ethnic, political, and religious parties that require coalitions to rule and compromises that have ensured a healthy tension between synagogue and state so far in Israel's history.  The author clearly has a perspective of his own, but manages to avoid making it too offensive to the reader who is interested in viewing the picture of war and peace, of political dealing and of the struggle to defend Israel's borders and represent the nation before a candid world that Israel has faced so far in its history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chad Manske

    A fair and balanced treatment of the brief history of Israel from biblical times through early 2011, author Reich takes readers on a mostly political and military journey. A very readable book, and part of the National War College Israel/Jordan regional studies curriculum!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Emery

    Books like this are why people find history boring.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    6 million out of the 16 million Jews were massacred during the holocaust. The resulting international sympathy allowed the establishment of Israel, and Palestinians were misplaced as a result. Israel has always struggled to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors, since it was created in 1948. Originally, all of Israel's neighbors called for its complete destruction. Following the 6-Day War in 1967, and Israel's subsequent expansions into East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, the West Bank, a 6 million out of the 16 million Jews were massacred during the holocaust. The resulting international sympathy allowed the establishment of Israel, and Palestinians were misplaced as a result. Israel has always struggled to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors, since it was created in 1948. Originally, all of Israel's neighbors called for its complete destruction. Following the 6-Day War in 1967, and Israel's subsequent expansions into East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, its Arab neighbors have called for Israel to return to its pre-1967 boundaries for peace. Israel has since given back some of the areas, developed more peaceful relations with many of its neighbors, and many Arab states even recognize its existence. Still, the peace process has a long ways to go. Israel is a very complicated subject, and this book gives a good summary of the Jewish state.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Louis Lapides

    This book is a must read for a quick overview of the modern history of Israel. Reich is very helpful for those who want to read something that provides enough information to enable to the reader to carry on an intelligent conversation about the Middle East crisis. I highly recommend reading this book especially the last two chapters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book is well written.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to know about Israel.  The book starts in ancient times and continues up until 2005.  The book has a good index which makes it easy if you want to look up any information.  It contains maps and pictures which are interesting.  The book also has several useful appendices including  a chronology and facts about Israel.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brian Morin

    Well,written, but a little slow. I got much more out of some documentaries.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Yu Mao

    Really good and short material for someone who want to know more about Israel

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joe England

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phil

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ilya Plotkin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nedelchev

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Vest

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tabsira Archives

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Vogel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Breza

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Lewis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob Peatman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeannette

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  29. 5 out of 5

    BoBandy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Dees

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