Book Review: Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis

Ever since Theodore Herzl had the vision to re-establish a Jewish State, Israel became a prominent player on the world stage. To put it in perspective, this country is one-tenth the size of the state of Texas and has a population one-third of Texas. Yet, it plays a far more central role in world affairs than its tiny size might normally dictates. A book recently published explores Israel’s history, and how it succeeded in the face of insurmountable odds.

Daniel Gordis in his book Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn speaks of the founding of Israel as “a fairy tale. Israel is a story of a homeless people that kept a dream alive, of a people’s redemption from the edge of the abyss, of a nation forging a future when none seemed possible.” While he recounts its history, readers begin to understand that Israel has become a blending of democracy and tradition with far more prosperity than anyone expected from it.

He stated, “I wanted to show of the many countries that were created in the twentieth century, Israel is one of the very few that was founded as a democracy that has remained democratic. This would be impressive in its own right, but it is even more astonishing when we consider the fact that the vast majority of Jews who immigrated to Israel, from Russia, Arab countries, etc, came from countries without a democratic tradition. There was this unwavering determination of Israel’s founding generation to be part of the Western world.”

The book opens with a quote by Mark Twain that summarizes Anti-Semitism throughout the centuries. What Gordis does well is show how Israel sprang from the effort to ensure the safety and flourishing of the Jewish people. It appears that Anti-Semitism in Europe is never ending. In the late 1800s Theodore Herzl came up with the idea of a Jewish state to shelter the Jewish people from the European abhorrence. This hatred culminated in the Holocaust. Fast-forward to today where Jews are once again fleeing Europe. Gordis noted, “In 2016, about 70 years after the end of the Holocaust, the world is much less changed than we had hoped. And Israel is the only country in the world that as a matter of law guarantees Jews on the run both refuge and citizenship. The State of Israel was created first and foremost to ensure the safety and flourishing of the Jewish people.”

But what role has American Jews played over the years? Many were ambivalent about supporting a Jewish state. Gordis explains, “American Jews feared that if they supported the idea of a Jewish state they would be accused of having dual loyalties.”

A further wedge in the relationship between Israel and American Jews occurred with the capture of Adolf Eichmann who was the Nazi in charge of the death camps. Gordis told American Thinker that it was David Ben-Gurion, the father of modern Israel, who best summarized the conflict, “Now I see it argued, by Jews among others, that Israel is legally entitled to try Eichmann but ethically should not do so because Eichmann’s crime, in its enormity, was against humanity and the conscience of humanity rather than against Jews as such. Only a Jew with an inferiority complex could say that; only one who does not realize that a Jew is a human being.”

Gordis recounts how American college students are conflicted over the issue with Palestinians. “American Jews often appear paralyzed, ostrich-like, intimidated, or otherwise ill-equipped to make Israel’s case beyond simple clichés. Some American students asked, aren’t Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, to blame for the conflict? I asked if they knew what year the occupation started, or the circumstances in which it did. I figured we should quickly review the history, which is one reason I wrote the book.”

Gordis shows how Israel has battled the odds for decades. He feels that a quote from the book after the Six Day War can apply today. “The Jewish state had more than survived. Betrayed by the French, put off by the Americans, and rattled by the Russians, Israelis had been left entirely on their own. Gone are the days when Jews would cower in fear. Israel has triumphed over boycotts, attacks, threats, invasions, and isolation. People should be in awe of what has been accomplished, becoming a cultural, economic, and military powerhouse.”

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