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My Promised Land: A non-fiction book by Ari Shavit

Since ancient times, Middle East has never slept. Social unrest, political turmoil, riots, birth of new religion and war have characterized the area. The conflicts have been more intense after the establishment of a country named Israel in the middle of 20th century. None of us knows the future of a single country in the world. We can’t also predict the future and fate of a country since its establishment thanks to its complex dynamic. Chapters, stories and records in My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel provide historic accounts about Israel so far and give a glimpse for us to imagine the future of the country.

The book is written in form of personal narrative history of the state of Israel. It deals with the existing internal and external pressures in Israel which suggest that there are some existential crises within Israel. Consists of 17 chapters, the book is composed from interviews, historical facts, private diaries, letters, and also his own family’s history. From this book, we will be introduced to the life of Rt. Hon. Herbert Bentwich, a Zionist from London who happens to be the writer’s great grandfather.

Herbert Bentwich was not alone. Together with other passengers he believed that the Jews must settle again in their ancient homeland, Judea. Prior to Herzl’s idea in 1897, Jewish survival was guaranteed by two great G’s: God and Ghetto. Either their closeness to God or their detachment from the surrounding non-Jewish world has enabled Jewish people to maintain their identity and their civilization. Jews had no territory, no kingdom, no liberty and no sovereignty. What held them together as a people were religious belief, religious practice and a powerful religious narrative as well as the walls of isolation built by gentiles around them.

However, hundred years prior to 1897, God drifted away and the ghetto wall collapsed. Secularization and emancipation eroded the old formula of Jewish survival. There was nothing to maintain Jewish people as a people living among others. Thus, their ability to maintain a non-orthodox Jewish civilization in the Diaspora was now in question. There was a need of a revolution that transformed Jewish people from a people of the Diaspora to a people of sovereignty. In this sense, the Zionism that emerges in 1897 is a stroke of genius.

In modern world today, Israel is still facing serious existentialism problem. It is no longer Palestinian, but Iranian with its nuclear program. If Iran went nuclear, the Middle East would go nuclear and Israel will perish. Israeli people can no longer hope for America’s aid since it’s getting weaker following Arab’s Spring. What should happen next is the main concern of this book to think further either by Washington, Tel Aviv, or Tehran.

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