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 Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family's story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is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)
The book is excellent - the arguments are cogent and make good sense.
NO NO NO - Why the fake accent? It isn't even good.
PLEASE don't do fake accents - find an Israeli actor who can narrate this book. But definitely not someone who can't "do" an Israeli accent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Say something about yourself!
It is a great class in history and politics of a nation very hard to explain.
Still some things are left unexplained but this clears a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions.
Not a NOVEL
A good read
NOT A NOVEL
Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.
“My Promised Land” is a masterpiece of modern history, a story of Israel told by an Israeli.
Ari Shavit reveals intertwined truths about Israel and its place in the world. He explores a one-state and two-state solution for peace in the Middle East. Shavit acknowledges Israeli’ ambivalence about Jewish settlement, occupation, and Palestinian ghettoization; Shavit explains how Jewish experience in WWII pervades Israeli’ consciousness. It binds the country together and tears it apart. The binding together comes from the holocaust’s common ancestral experience. The tearing apart comes from Jewish empathy for uprooting and isolating indigenous Palestinians.
"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.
"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.
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