If you’ve ever wanted to try and get some understanding of the whole “Middle East situation”, as it particularly pertains to Israel, there is no better place to start than Gordis’s superb historical narrative Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.
Covering more than 3,000 years from before the time when Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem in the tenth century BC, this book delivers a wealth of historical information on the Jewish people and their subsequent 2,000 year exile after the Roman massacres in 66 CE.
In easily accessible fashion Gordis lays out all of the important “milestones” that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel. Significant events such as the rampant anti-Semitism across Europe that resulted in more than 2.5 million Jews departing Eastern Europe before WWI, the beginnings of the Zionist movement, the establishment of a Jewish National Fund to purchase and develop land in Palestine, the Balfour declaration and the horrors and Holocaust of WWII, after which one-third of the world’s Jews (six million) were killed, are all covered so as to provide some sort of appreciation as to why Israel is the state that it is today.
Gordis also provides an excellent outline of the numerous conflicts that have involved Israel in order to both achieve and retain its statehood including the Israeli War of Independence, Sinai War, Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War. Particular attention is also paid to the politics of the country as well as shedding light on how the Jewish religious political parties have increasingly paid a greater part in how the country is shaped.
As could reasonably be expected when history is retold from a Jewish perspective, there are biases that surface. However, Gordis manages to retain enough balance so that the main historical thrust is not warped. I've come away knowing a lot more about the history of this small but vitally important country. I've also come away with a grudging respect for the people who have managed to reestablish a home in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, like most people, I still have no idea about how the middle east/Palestinian problem might one day be solved.