My Promised Land


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About the Author

Ari Shavit is a leading Israeli columnist and writer. Born in Rehovot, Israel, Shavit served as a paratrooper in the IDF and studied philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the early 1990s he was Chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and in 1995 he joined Haaretz, where he serves on the editorial board. He is married, has a daughter and two sons, and lives in Kfar Shmaryahu.


'Spellbinding ... Mr Shavit is that rare person who can listen as intensely as he can think'

* The Economist *

'[Shavit's] accomplishment is so unlikely, so total - a history of Israel and Zionism written by an unapologetic and impassioned lover of his country who nonetheless fully registers the disasters inflicted on Palestinians - that it makes you believe anything is possible, even, God help us, peace in the Middle East ... His book is not just enthralling, but morally dignified ... by some light years, the best thing to have been written on the subject.'

-- Simon Schama * Financial Times *

'[An] immensely powerful book ... Shavit resists the binary simplicities that afflict so much discussion of Israel-Palestine. His book will provide ammunition both to those who despise Israel and those who revere it, telling of its darkest deeds as well as its shining triumphs. Propagandists for both sides, who resemble each other so closely, could cherry-pick favourite facts to buttress their view - but both will end up disappointed ... Shavit might be the first such voice from deep inside the Zionist mainstream to speak so directly of the events the Palestinians regard as the nakba, the catastrophe.'

-- Jonathan Freedland * The Guardian *

'This honest, searing analysis of Israel's position in the Middle East is an engrossing book. There is humanity and geopolitics in every chapter.'

-- David Miliband

'I can think of no better time for a good book about Israel - the real Israel, not the fantasy, do-no-wrong Israel peddled by its most besotted supporters or the do-no-right colonial monster portrayed by its most savage critics. Ari Shavit, the popular Haaretz columnist, has come out with just such a book ... The uniqueness of Shavit's book is that when you're done with it you can understand, respect or love Israel - but not in a dogmatic or unthinking way, and not a fake or contrived Israel. Shavit celebrates the Zionist man-made miracle - from its start-ups to its gay bars - while remaining affectionate, critical, realistic and morally anchored ... It's why his book is a real contribution to changing the conversation about Israel and building a healthier relationship with it. Before their next 90-minute phone call, both Barack and Bibi should read it.'

-- Thomas Friedman * New York Times *

'[A] gale of conversation, of feeling, of foreboding, of ratiocination ... takes a wide-angle and often personal view of Israel's past and present, and frequently reads like a love story and a thriller at once. That it ultimately becomes a book of lamentation, a moral cri de coeur and a ghost story tightens its hold on your imagination.'

-- Dwight Garner * The New York Times *

'Ari Shavit's My Promised Land is without question one of the most important books about Israel and Zionism that I have ever read. Both movingly inspiring and at times heartbreakingly painful, My Promised Land tells the story of the Jewish state as it has never been told before, capturing both the triumph and the torment of Israel's experience and soul. This is the book that has the capacity to reinvent and reshape the long-overdue conversation about how Israel's complex past ought to shape its still-uncertain future.'

-- Daniel Gordis, author of Saving Israel and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College, Jerusalem

'Israel is not a proposition, it is a country. Its facticity is one of the great accomplishments of the Jews' history ... It is one of the achievements of Ari Shavit's important and powerful book to recover [that] feeling.'

-- Leon Wieseltier * New York Times Book Review *

'Not since Amos Elon's The Israelis, Amos Oz's In the Land of Israel, and Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem has there been such a powerful and comprehensive book written about the Jewish State and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ari Shavit is one of Israel's leading columnists and writers, and the story he tells describes with great empathy the Palestinian tragedy and the century-long struggle between Jews and Arabs over the Holy Land. While Shavit is being brutally honest regarding the Zionist enterprise, he is also insightful, sensitive, and attentive to the dramatic life-stories of his fascinating heroes and heroines. The result is a unique nonfiction book that has the qualities of fine literature. My Promised Land is the ultimate personal odyssey of a humanist exploring the startling biography of his tormented homeland, which is at the very centre of global interest.'

-- Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel

'[O]ne 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.'

* Wall Street Journal *

'With the heart of a storyteller and the mind of a historian, Ari Shavit has written a powerful and compelling book about the making of modern Israel. No country is more emotionally connected to the United States, and no country's fate matters more to many Americans. And yet until Shavit's My Promised Land, it has been growing more difficult to sense the character of Israel through all the caricatures. This book is vital reading for Americans who care about the future, not only of the United States but of the world.'

-- Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

'This is the epic history that Israel deserves - beautifully written, dramatically rendered, full of moral complexity. Ari Shavit has made a storied career of explaining Israel to Israelis; now he shares his mind-blowing, trustworthy insights with the rest of us. It is the best book on the subject to arrive in many years.'

-- Franklin Foer, editor, The New Republic

'A beautiful, mesmerizing, morally serious, and vexing book. I've been waiting most of my adult life for an Israeli to plumb the deepest mysteries of his country's existence and share his discoveries, and Ari Shavit does so brilliantly, writing simultaneously like a poet and a prophet. My Promised Land is a remarkable achievement.'

-- Jeffrey Goldberg * The Atlantic *

'My Promised Land is a remarkable book, one of the best to come out of Israel, up there with Tom Segev's One Palestine, Complete, Susan Nathan's The Other Side of Israel, and the trenchant works of Jeff Halper and Ilan Pappe. Unflinching in its revelations, highly readable, it has been warmly received ... it is a memoir that breaches the parameters of the genre with a patient, detailed exposition of Israel's history.'

-- Sara Dowse * Inside Story *

'My Promised Land achieves a remarkable combination of lyricism and deep factual detail. The honesty with which the author expresses his own inner split it itself immensely attractive, a quivering thread that runs through this epic journey of personal and national discovery.'

-- Dominic Lawson * Sunday Times *

'My Promised Land is a passionate elegy to Israel and a pained, truthful and full acknowledgment of the brutal dispossession of the Palestinians. To be both is its outstanding achievement. It inspired me, depressed me, moved me, infuriated me, appalled me and instructed me. Page after page, it made me think and think again.'

-- Raimond Gaita

'With deeply engaging personal narratives and morally nuanced portraits, Ari Shavit takes us way beneath the headlines to the very heart of Israel's dilemmas in his brilliant new work. His expertise as a reporter comes through in the interviews, while his lyricism brings the writing - and the people - to life. Shavit also challenges Israelis and Diaspora Jewry to be bold in imagining the next chapter for Israel, a challenge that will no doubt be informed by this important book.'

-- Rick Jacobs, president, Union for Reform Judaism

'Personal and authoritative ... With a journalist's eye, a storyteller's heart and a historian's precision, Shavit examines Israel's complexities and contradictions.'

* Sunday Territorian *

'My Promised Land is a passionate yet fair-minded account of how the Israel of today came into being. Whether or not you agree with its premises and assumptions, you will find this book hard to put down for its sheer narrative force. Both lyrically personal and rigorously reported, Ari Shavit's book will undoubtedly shape for years to come the conversation about a country we all talk about but few of us know well.'

-- Daphne Merkin, author of Dreaming of Hitler and Enchantment

'My Promised Land is essential reading for anyone trying to understand how Israel came into being, from both sides of the argument. It is lyrical, moving and passionately argued. A beautiful book.'

-- Jonny Geller
Sunday Times 'Books that best explained the world in 2014'
Times Literary Supplement 'Best Books of the Year 2014'

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