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The Invention of the Jewish People

Bestselling new analysis of Jewish history by a leading Israeli historian.

A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In this iconoclastic work, which spent nineteen weeks on the Israeli bestseller list and won the coveted Aujourd'hui Award in France, Sand provides the intellectual foundations for a new vision of Israel’s future.

Reviews

  • “Sand's questions about how Israel's democracy can be liberalized and stabilized are thought-provoking and deserve serious discussion.”
  • “Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don't change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.”
  • “[Sand's] quiet earthquake of a book is shaking historical faith in the link between Judaism and Israel.”
  • “Anyone interested in understanding the contemporary Middle East should read this book.”
  • “Extravagantly denounced and praised.”
  • “No discussion of the region any longer seems complete without acknowledgement of this book.”
  • “A radical dismantling of a national myth.”
  • “Almost too baseless to debunk.”

Blog

  • Christian Salmon: Marine Le Pen, the symbolic father

    On Tuesday, Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front National, announced the formation of a far-right bloc in the European Parliament, bringing together 36 lawmakers from seven countries. Christian Salmon examines the symbolic play that has earned Le Pen her particular brand of reasonableness, including her relationship with her "comic devil" father, founder of the Front National. Translated by David Broder; visit Libération to read the article in French. 

    French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and her father, the party’s founder and honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Image

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  • The horrifying reality of living in the West Bank for Palestinian families



    What follows is an extract from Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

    Laith Al-Hlou

    Farmer, day laborer, 32
    Born in Bethlehem, West Bank
    Interviewed in the West Bank

    [Editors] The first thing we notice as we drive to Laith Al-Hlou’s home southeast of Bethlehem is the challenge presented by the roads. Some roads are almost too steep to climb, and others almost too muddy or rocky to navigate. The bottom of our car crunches and scrapes as we creep along toward his village. Eventually we reach the compound where Laith lives with his family. Laith’s house, the family’s olive trees, and two other houses belonging to his extended family are surrounded by a short rock wall topped with barbed wire. When we pull up in our car, a dozen or more kids come spilling out to greet us—Laith’s children and nieces and nephews. Some wear cracked plastic shoes, some wear no shoes at all.  Laith is a skinny thirty-two-year-old with a wife and five young kids. The seven of them sleep in a twelve-foot by twelve-foot room that includes a wardrobe, a crib for the baby, and twin bunk beds piled with blankets. This is the main room of the family’s living space. They also have a small kitchen and toilet, all of which is on the second floor, above a chicken coop.

    After a tour of his house, we sit with Laith on plastic chairs outside, and he tells us about the ways his community has changed since 1996, when Israeli settlers first moved near his home. His wife stays close by, and even though she is hard of hearing, she interjects periodically with her own stories. Laith is one of up to 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C—the roughly 60 percent of the West Bank that is still under full military and administrative control of Israel following the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993.1 Area C also contains many of the West Bank’s Israeli settlements, a collection of villages established by Israeli citizens following the occupation of the region in 1967. Today, there are 400,000–500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank outside of Jerusalem. The guard tower of a nearby settlement looms above Laith’s property as we sit and talk. He tears up as he tells us that pressure from the settlements may force him to someday relocate his family.

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  • Return: A Prologue


    Ghada Karmi and Ellen Siegel, 1973

    By Ghada Karmi in Return: A Palestinian Memoir


    As I sat at my father’s bedside, listening to his irregular breathing and the sound of the pulse monitor attached to his finger, I thought how frightening it was to be brought up sharp against the awareness of one’s own mortality. I feared death equally as much as I knew my father did. He was a very old man, but age had not dimmed his ardour for life and I imagined I would be the same. Like most people, I did not like to contemplate my dying and avoided thinking about it, but it was always there, waiting in the background to be attended to. An elderly doctor I knew once told me, ‘I believe that people must prepare for death. Avoidance and denial are foolish. If we face up fair and square to the inevitability of death it will lose its terrors.’

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Other books by Shlomo Sand Translated by Yael Lotan