Winner of the Natan Book Award
An authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the State of Israel, by one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today.
Not since Thomas L. Friedman's groundbreaking From Beirut to Jerusalem has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as My Promised Land. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family's story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.
©2013 Random House Audio (P)2013 Ari Shavit
“Shavit's provocative book avoids the clichés typical of some works about the Middle East, and the audio version benefits from Paul Boehmer's superb presentation.” (AudioFile)
“One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years . . . [The] book’s real power: On an issue so prone to polemic, Mr. Shavit offers candor.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“The most extraordinary book that I’ve read on [Israel] since Amos Elon’s book called The Israelis, and that was published in the late sixties.” (David Remnick)
This audiobook was a privilege . The narrative and narrator were in total harmony. I have never had the privilege to learn of the sweep and complexity of Israel so clearly and fairly written .
"Candid, Critical, and Compassionate"
For years I have been deeply critical of Israel as I have slowly awoken to the plight of the Palestinian people. Knowing that my understanding of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was superficial, I welcomed Shavit's first hand account as an Israeli journalist affiliated with the Israeli peace movement.
Although Shavit's book is way too long and at times repetitive, I found his accounting to be remarkably candid and critical - while it was also engaging, insightful, and compassionate. He presents the historical context for Zionism (the persecution and annihilation of European Jews), but makes it clear that the Jews saved themselves at the expense of the Palestinians. His description of the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people is deeply touching and profoundly sad.
Shavit does an excellent job of illuminating the evolving nature of Zionism and the State of Israel over the decades and helps to explain why Israeli politics is so dysfunctional and Israeli society so polarized. Consider, for example, that the founders of Israel were Eastern European, largely secular, Jews, while successive waves of immigrants, who did not fight in the war that established Israel, came from countries with a very different historical and religious context ( e.g., in the 1950's Jews from Muslim majority countries or in the 1990's Jews from the former Soviet Union).
Shavit makes it clear that the settlements in the West Bank are another catastrophe and that the future of Israel, the Palestinians, and all who are allied with these two people (most of the world, that is) depends on a just resolution. He has no prescription for resolving this intractable mess, but he helps his readers to understand the mutually incompatible truths that these two ancient people hold that maintain the conflict.
For the life of me I can't understand why other reviews were critical of the narration. Boehmer did an excellent job.
"Too important to be ruined by its narration!"
I've withheld comment until I had a chance to listen to some samples of Paul Boehmer's narration of other works. In other contexts, he has a terrific voice and style. But this was a mistake - the faux-Israeli accent makes it almost unbearable to listen to, and undermines the content of this important book. As I was listening in my car, I almost had to pull over because I was laughing so hard at the pronunciation of "1936" - the "theerrty" so far back in the throat I thought he would choke. Over and over again. This during the "Arab Uprisings" - not the intended effect, I'm sure.
The irony is that the author himself speaks far better English than the narrator - a richly-intoned, articulate, British-inflected voice.
If all Israelis - and Palestinians - had a sensibility akin to Shavit, the two nations would surely find a way to coexist peacefully. He holds the remarkable achievement of the Jews in Palestine in perfect tension with its tragic impact on the Palestinian people. Essential reading on the history of this land.
See above. Really unfortunate. In that this is clearly a reaction many have had, the publisher should strongly consider re-doing the recording.
No, just a new recording - same narrator, sans accent. Please consider it - this book is too important to be ruined by its narration.
"Detailed history of Israel, leading to today"
I learned so much about the recent history of Israel, which gives perspective to modern events. The author covers the initial history period in such loving detail - I can taste the oranges, feel the heat, see the people's faces. The history is reviewed from personal perspectives, and includes rich details. As the book moves to current times, the author does live interviews, and is careful to explore right, left, and centrist ideals. For the most part, all are given respectful staging. At some points, the author seems to be lecturing people for ideas with which he does not agree, and the book, to me, starts to lean very leftwards. While the author does continue to respectfully present other views, his view is very clear by the end.
I love the book as audio, as the reader has an Israeli accent and the words are so richly pronounced. I find myself echoing the words after he reads them. It is lovely in audio format.
The personal stories of how different individuals came to and experienced Israel were varied and interesting, to hear the unique histories.
At times the author's politics are frustrating and I get angry - but perhaps this is what makes a book very good - that emotions are stirred. I enjoyed listening to this with my husband - we would often stop the telling to discuss it, and for me, that enriched the telling.
"Great book, but why the accent?"
Great book. Shavit puts into words everything I sense when I go to Israel.
Why does Audible have its narrators put on accents when reading books by feign language authors, or for that matter foreign authors? I do not need the Russian, Israeli, or English accents to appreciate books written by authors form those countries— I find it a distraction. The book is not written in dialect, so why should it be read that way. (At least this did not have the mispronunciations of Hebrew and Yiddish words I find in so many other audiobooks on Jewish or Israeli subjects. Lord knows how many other foreign words get mangled. Is it too much to ask the readers to research how to pronounce the foreign words they are reading?) Still, I was grateful for this audiobook because it allowed me to get through it quickly.
"Important book; unfortunate narration"
Many of the chapters are very powerful indeed. Shavit is an Israeli writer/commentator who deeply identifies with his country and is equally pained by the tragic problem resulting from the existence of sovereign State primarily for the Jewish People in the middle east. His description of his love and associated agony is important for we Israelis and important for intelligent, sober readers. To my taste, the opening chapters needed substantial editing.
At any number of points, I was on the verge of stopping to listen and to instead read the print/e-book edition, solely because of the narration. The book describes an epic drama, immediately asserted in the subtitle "Triumph and Tragedy", that is ongoing. The narrator, speaking in the highly accented English of a non-native (although Paul Boehmer seems to be US born and bred), reads the book as a melodrama. I also thought it was poorly acted. To my mind, it is an utterly wrong, inappropriate, and even damaging choice for delivery.
The book is great, but the narration was painful. As others have said, I found the faux-Israeli accent distracting and a bit insulting. I won't say it ruined the book for me, but it did make it very difficult to get through.
"A compelling and revelatory history."
The author has captured the emotions and conflicting moral ambiguities of nation building on land occupied by others. He covers with frankness the settlers' harsh treatment of the indigenous Arab population. In addition to telling the story of the early Jewish settlers, the author examines Israel's decision to build an atomic capacity and its short and long-term consequences. When he interviews some of the early participants in the program, he attempts to parse what is real from what is rationalization. I found the book neither anti nor pro either Israel or the Arabs. One gets the sense that he wanted write an honest history, if there can be such a genre about this area of the world. However well informed one might be about early and present day Israel, this book is highly revelatory.
Paul Boehmer's reading is superb. He reads with immediacy and emotion that makes you believe you are present when the events he is describing are taking place. He also captures both the author's moral outrage yet sense of resignation at certain of the Israelis' less attractive conduct toward the Arabs.
The human body is not equipped for such a task.
"Insightful; Thought-Provoking; A Bit Long"
I learned a lot about the history of the State of Israel and where the country is now from someone in his late 50s who has witnessed a lot and researched many aspects of Israel he did not personally experience.
Although Mr. Shavit candidly discusses Israel's shortcomings it is clear throughout the book that he loves Israel and wants it succeed - as do I. Although I understand Israel better than I did before I listened to the audiobook, the path forward for Israel remains foggy and hard to see. This is not the fault of the author, but it does in my opinion argue for a shorter, more tightly written book. Some of the book sounds like stream of consciousness.
The narrator has an accent similar to the accent of the author. I feel the accent made the audiobook harder to enjoy. I know the author is Israeli and don't need to reminded of that with every word narrated.
The book is too long to listen to all in one setting. The book is also in my opinion significantly longer than necessary. The book would have benefited from a good editor. For example, the discussion about the Tel Aviv night club is much longer than necessary. Yes, there is a lesson there but the club is one venue in a city with many night spots.
I am glad I listened to the book. It combines a love of Israel along with a rare and candid overview of the country's weaknesses.
"Incredible history, brilliant narration"
This is a great book for anyone wanting to dive deep into Israeli history and politics. The author does an inspired job of telling the Jewish state's story from it's true, existential beginnings. Not the 1920s or the 1940s, but the late 1800s, and even before that.
Shavit offers a very nuanced argument for Israeli's current malaise, one which provokes more thought than seeks to convince of anything. And such a thing is rare.
This is also a rare book which might be better as an audiobook than in paper format. Paul Boehmer's delivery and accent really bring this work to life.
Part oral history and part op ed piece, the author certainly offers some uncompromising positions on what he perceives as the enduring resiliency of Israel as well as its transgressions. Using the analogy of a grown up child having thrown off the yoke of its parents, Shavit argues that Israel is at a crossroads and that the values that once served Israel so well are now either in danger of being lost or corrupted by a failure to achieve a moral and practical solution to achieving security and a settlement with the Palestinians. Interesting stuff - if you buy his arguments. There is no real middle ground here and you will find yourself either totally agreeing or not.
Ostensibly a history of Israel, most key events are only given a cursory treatment. I was looking for something a little more in depth and didn't find it here. Shavit links the birth and growth of Israel with stories from his ancestors but I didn't really find this vey interesting or compelling.
There is only the authors voice. Some other reviews I read we're put off by the Israeli accent of the narrator but I thought this added a level of authenticity to what is essentially, an oral history.
Not really. Would still like to read a more in depth history of Israel that this book didn't satisfy.
"Unsettling and challenging critique of Israel"
An important book that deserves to be widely read and discussed.
The author, an Israeli journalist, structures his book around a series of key themes and explorations, each focused on individuals and their perspectives, set within the context of the unfolding political economy of Israel. We hear through this chronology about Zionism and the establishment of Israel, the aspirations and values, the challenges, and ultimately the different forms of violence perpetrated by early settlers against the Palestinian communities, the violence of surrounding Arab states against the fledgling state, and the violence of the settlers against a wide range of Palestinian communities.
This is a well structured, interesting but challenging book. It is unsettling and disconcerting. It throws up, time and again, dilemmas and decisions - taken between a so-called rock and a hard place. Decisions were made which allowed Israel to survive and in so doing undermined the rights and search for nationhood by the Palestinians. The rationale for Israel is presented against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the desire by Arab states to wage war, defeat and ultimately end the Jewish presence in the Middle East.
Chapters focus on a single issue explored from multiple perspectives - covering issues ranging from the Israeli Peace Movement and how it has been undermined to the Settlements and their ambitious and cunning establishment of a new locus of power and authority within Israel. We learn about the Israeli Palestinians and their dilemmas and desires, the Israeli nuclear capability, and the nightmares facing Israeli citizens playing a small part, each, in undermining the rights of Palestinian protestors and youth. We hear insights reflecting the views of key stakeholders - those engaged in establishing Israel's burgeoning economy which at different stages has flourished dramatically, the demise of the social contract and emergence of neoliberalism undermining the sense of community and social cohesion, the role of the nightclubs and sex and hedonism which is a tonic for the daily tensions and personal confrontations around the raison d'etre for Israel while its role in the occupation has torn at its values-base.
We learn about the ongoing challenges within the country and within the region, within the people and within its supporters. Shavit provides much food for thought, arguing in the final pages and along the way, that this past and the realities need to be recognised; that hard choices need to be made which represent an acknowledgement of the suffering of the Palestinians and agreed form(s) of compensation; the end to Occupation and Settlements; and the need to rekindle the human and collective values upon which the state was originally proposed; and the importance of a fair, modernised, transformed and reinstitutionalised democracy (my string of terms) in which all can live with their rights and entitlements intact.
"Excellent personal and political history"
The book includes interviews and anecdotes from some of the towering figures of Israel, past and present. The description of the explosion of Tel Aviv's clubbing scene, the changing opinions and lifestyles of young people and the consumerist nature of today's Israel all provide a perfect backdrop in understanding its current political situation.
I personally didn't mind the Hebrew accent, his pronunciation of various names and places was perfect and made the recording feel more authentic.
Beautiful book, nicely read.
One of the great tragedies of Human kind, will it ever stop..
"Israel's history, from a very balanced perspective"
Wonderfully narrated, balanced, gripping
no specific moment
Strong Israeli accent, but it is part of the picture. Can pronounce Israeli names correctly.
A stunning, honest and timely assessment of the state of Israel. Truly an education. He has put his heart and soul into it and though I didn't always agree with his assessment I found it hugely informative.
"All you needed to know about Israel"
If, like me, you are interested in the history of Israel and feel your opinions are divided by what you have read in the press or viewed on TV. This is the book for you.
The detail of history is well balanced between the Jewish story and the Arab story. The proxy war between America and Russia. The Arab confusion, Nazi Germany, expulsion from Europe. This book covers it all. A great read, well put together and enlightening.
"A memorable listen."
Only listened to the book, so can't say.
Has to be the chapter on Lod (or Lodda as pronounced by Mr Boehmer), vivid and horrific details of what it took to establish the State of Israel, totally engrossing.
Mr Boehmer's pronunciation was both addictive and annoying but perfect for this book.
Again, the chapter on Lod.
Superb book, the author's angle of approach is certainly engaging, producing story after story which draws the reader into a roller coaster ride through the life of Israel.
"A must read"
An excellent insight into the complexity of Israel. A critical dispassionate view which unfortunately predicts the events as they come to pass.
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