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In Search of Israel

The History of an Idea

Michael Brenner

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Princeton University Pres
01 February 2018
A major new history of the century-long debate over what a Jewish state should be Many Zionists who advocated the creation of a Jewish state envisioned a nation like any other. Yet for Israel's founders, the state that emerged against all odds in 1948 was anything but ordinary. Born from the ashes of genocide and a long history of suffering, Israel was conceived to be unique, a model society and the heart of a prosperous new Middle East. It is this paradox, says historian Michael Brenner--the Jewish people's wish for a homeland both normal and exceptional-that shapes Israel's ongoing struggle to define itself and secure a place among nations. In Search of Israel is a major new history of this struggle from the late nineteenth century to our time.

When Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in 1897, no single solution to the problem of normalizing the Jewish people emerged. Herzl proposed a secular-liberal New Society that would be home to Jews and non-Jews alike. East European Zionists advocated the renewal of the Hebrew language and the creation of a distinct Jewish culture. Socialists imagined a society of workers' collectives and farm settlements. The Orthodox dreamt of a society based on the laws of Jewish scripture. The stage was set for a clash of Zionist dreams and Israeli realities that continues today.

Seventy years after its founding, Israel has achieved much, but for a state widely viewed as either a paragon or a pariah, Brenner argues, the goal of becoming a state like any other remains elusive. If the Jews were the archetypal other in history, ironically, Israel-which so much wanted to avoid the stamp of otherness-has become the Jew among the nations.
By:   Michael Brenner
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm, 
Weight:   624g
ISBN:   9780691179285
ISBN 10:   069117928X
Pages:   392
Publication Date:   01 February 2018
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Michael Brenner is the Seymour and Lilian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and director of the Center for Israel Studies at American University and Professor of Jewish History and Culture at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. His many books include A Short History of the Jews (Princeton).

Reviews for In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea

A timely and useful survey.---Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal It is a rare history that compels the reader to think constantly about the present and even about the future. But that is what the historian Michael Brenner has accomplished in this meticulous journey through the labyrinth of yearning that has led to the modern State of Israel.---David K. Shipler, Moment Magazine Sophisticated in exposition, drawing on wide-ranging literary sources, among others, and judicious in its treatment of vexatious issues, Brenner's book demonstrates that Israel today is neither a Garden of Eden nor another Albania.---Bernard Wasserstein, Literary Review

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