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Further Reading about Jews and Power

Recommended Reading

Exodus 14:5–15:27; 17:8–15; 34:11–16; Deuteronomy 20; Judges 4

The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel
Robert Alter
The story of David is the greatest single narrative representation in antiquity of a human life evolving by slow stages through time, shaped by the pressures of political life, family, the impulses of body and spirit, and the eventual sad decay of the flesh. In its main character, it provides the first full-length portrait of a Machiavellian prince in Western literature.. "The beautiful, musical David, loved by all, resourceful slayer of Goliath, is revealed through his life to be a calculating political animal. To advance his own cause, he becomes a collaborator with the archenemies of Israel, the Philistines. Later he commits adultery with Bathsheba, and compounds the betrayal with murder. But through the author's empathy and skill, David also emerges as a fully realized character, a man of passion and intelligence who navigates the ambiguities of belief, loyalty, ambition, temptation, and circumstance with uneven success.

The Life of David
Robert Pinsky
Poet, warrior, and king, David has loomed large in myth and legend through the centuries, and he continues to haunt our collective imagination, his flaws and inconsistencies making him the most approachable of biblical heroes. Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate of the United States, plumbs the depths of David’s life: his triumphs and his failures, his charm and his cruelty, his divine destiny and his human humiliations. Drawing on the biblical chronicle of David’s life as well as on the later commentaries and the Psalms--traditionally considered to be David’s own words--Pinsky teases apart the many strands of David’s story and reweaves them into a glorious narrative.

The Jewish Political Tradition, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Michael Walzer
A landmark four-volume collaborative work exploring the political thought of the Jewish people from biblical times to the present.

Power and Powerlessness
David Biale
In this radical reinterpretation of Jewish history, David Biale tackles the myth of Jewish political passivity between the fall of an independent Jewish Commonwealth in 70 C.E. and the rebirth of the state of Israel in 1948. He argues that Jews throughout history demonstrated a savvy understanding of political life; they were neither as powerless as the memory of the Holocaust years would suggest nor as powerful as the contemporary state of Israel would imply.

King of the Jews
Leslie Epstein
Epstein's novel focuses on how one Jewish community ruled itself under Nazi domination. I.C. Trumpelman, a man who appears mysteriously in the Polish community before World War II and sets himself up as a doctor, becomes the designated Elder of the ghetto. He and the other Judenrat leaders make an uneasy bargain with the Nazis, determining the fate of their fellow Jews.

Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, The First Complete Edition
Hannah Senesh
Hannah Senesh, poet and Israel's national heroine, has come to be seen as a symbol of Jewish heroism. Safe in Palestine during World War II, she volunteered for a mission to help rescue fellow Jews in her native Hungary. She was captured by the Nazis, endured imprisonment and torture, and was finally executed at the age of twenty-three. Like Anne Frank, she kept a diary from the time she was thirteen. This new edition brings together not only the widely read and cherished diary, but many of Hannah's poems and letters, memoirs written by Hannah's mother, accounts by parachutists who accompanied Hannah on her fateful mission, and insightful material not previously published in English. Described by a fellow parachutist as a "spiritual girl guided almost by mysticism," Hannah's life has something of value to teach everyone. Now the subject of a feature-length documentary, Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, Hannah's words and actions will inspire people from each generation to follow their own inner voices, just as she followed hers.

The Wicked Son
David Mamet
As might be expected from this fiercely provocative writer, David Mamet’s interest in anti-Semitism is not limited to the modern face of an ancient hatred but encompasses as well the ways in which many Jews have themselves internalized that hatred. Using the metaphor of the Wicked Son at the Passover seder–the child who asks, “What does this story mean to you?”–Mamet confronts what he sees as an insidious predilection among some Jews to seek truth and meaning anywhere–in other religions, in political movements, in mindless entertainment–but in Judaism itself. At the same time, he explores the ways in which the Jewish tradition has long been and still remains the Wicked Son in the eyes of the world.

Barney Ross
Douglas Century
Born Dov-Ber Rasofsky to Eastern European immigrant parents, Barney Ross grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood and witnessed his father's murder, his mother's nervous breakdown, and the dispatching of his three younger siblings to an orphanage, all before he turned fourteen. To make enough money to reunite the family, Ross became a petty thief, a gambler, a messenger boy for Al Capone, and, eventually, an amateur boxer. Turning professional at nineteen, he would capture the lightweight, junior welterweight, and welterweight titles over the course of a ten-year career. Ross began his career as the scrappy "Jew kid," ended it as an American sports icon, and went on to become a hero during World War II, earning a Silver Star for his heroic actions at Guadalcanal. While recovering from war wounds and malaria he became addicted to morphine, but with fierce effort he ultimately kicked his habit and then campaigned fervently against drug abuse. And the fighter who brought his father's religious books to training camp also retained powerful ties to the world from which he came. Ross worked for the creation of a Jewish state, running guns to Palestine and offering to lead a brigade of Jewish American war veterans. This first biography of one of the most colorful boxers of the twentieth century is a galvanizing account of an emblematic life: a revelation of both an extraordinary athlete and a remarkable man.

Theodore Herzl
Old New land, or Altneuland, is a novel written in the early 20th century by Zionism founder, Theodor Herzl. In this utopian novel, Herzl outlines his vision for a Jewish state in the land of Israel. As one of the most important texts in the establishment of Zionistic beliefs, Old New Land is considered to be one of the key texts in its founding. Old New Land is highly recommended for those who are interested in Zionist history and for those who enjoy the writings of Theodor Herzl.

Six Days of War
Michael Oren
Though it lasted for only six tense days in June, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war never really ended. Every crisis that has ripped through this region in the ensuing decades, from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to the ongoing intifada, is a direct consequence of those six days of fighting. Michael B. Oren’s magnificent Six Days of War, an internationally acclaimed bestseller, is the first comprehensive account of this epoch-making event. Writing with a novelist’s command of narrative and a historian’s grasp of fact and motive, Oren reconstructs both the lightning-fast action on the battlefields and the political shocks that electrified the world. Extraordinary personalities—Moshe Dayan and Gamal Abdul Nasser, Lyndon Johnson and Alexei Kosygin—rose and toppled from power as a result of this war; borders were redrawn; daring strategies brilliantly succeeded or disastrously failed in a matter of hours. And the balance of power changed—in the Middle East and in the world. A towering work of history and an enthralling human narrative, Six Days of War is the most important book on the Middle East conflict to appear in a generation.

The Zionist Idea
Arthur Hertzberg
The Zionist Idea, a clasic since its initial publication in 1959, is an anthology drawn from the writings of 37 of the leading thinkers of the Zionist movement, including Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha-Am, Martin Buber, Louis Brandeis, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Judah Magnes, Max Nordau, Ludwig Lewisohn, Solomon Schechter, Mordecai Kaplan, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Chaim Weizmann, and David Ben-Gurion.

Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide
Jeffrey Goldberg
They met in 1990 during the first Palestinian uprising—one was an American Jew who served as a prison guard in the largest prison in Israel, the other, his prisoner, Rafiq, a rising leader in the PLO. Despite their fears and prejudices, they began a dialogue there that grew into a remarkable friendship—and now a remarkable book. It is a book that confronts head-on the issues dividing the Middle East, but one that also shines a ray of hope on that dark, embattled region. A riveting, deeply affecting book: spare, impassioned, energetic, and unstinting in its candor about the truths that lie buried within the animosities of the Middle East.

The Case for Israel
Alan Dershowitz
The Case for Israel is an ardent defense of Israel's rights, supported by indisputable evidence. * Presents a passionate look at what Israel's accusers and detractors are saying about this war-torn country. * Dershowitz accuses those who attack Israel of international bigotry and backs up his argument with hard facts. * Widely respected as a civil libertarian, legal educator, and defense attorney extraordinaire, Alan Dershowitz has also been a passionate though not uncritical supporter of Israel.

Company C
Haim Watzman
When American-born Haim Watzman immigrated to Israel, he was drafted into the army and, after eighteen months of compulsory service, assigned to Company C, the reserve infantry unit that would define the next twenty years of his life. From 1984 until 2002, for at least a month a year, Watzman, who had never aspired to military adventure, was a soldier. Watzman was a soldier as he adjusted to a new country, married, raised his children, and pursued a career as a writer and translator. At times he defended his adopted country's borders; at other times he patrolled beyond them, or in that gray area, the occupied territories. A religiously observant Jew who opposed Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he served in uniform in conflicts that he demonstrated against in civilian clothes. Throughout, he developed a deep and abiding bond with the diverse men of Company C--a fellowship that cemented his commitment to reserve service even as he questioned the occupation he was enforcing. In this engrossing account of the first Intifada, the period of the Oslo Accords, and Israel's reoccupation of the West Bank as lived by citizen-soldiers in the field, Watzman examines our obligations to country, friends, family, and God-and our duty to protect our institutions even as we fight to reform them.

The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege
Kenneth Levin
In the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel embraced Yasser Arafat as its "peace partner." It then installed him in Gaza and the West Bank as head of a nascent Palestinian government, allowed him to bring with him some 7,000 of his loyalist gunmen, and provided the gunmen with weapons, even as Arafat continued to support terrorist attacks on Israelis and to assure Palestinians and other Arabs his goal remained Israel's destruction. Why did Israel pursue the path of Oslo? Why did it persist on that path when, in the wake of the initial Oslo agreements, the Palestinians unleashed an unprecedented wave of anti-Israel terror? Palestinian leaders also routinely called for holy war against Israel and compared Oslo to the Treaty of Hudaibiya, which Mohammed had signed in 628 and abandoned when his forces became strong enough to overwhelm his adversaries. Arafat and his subordinates told Arab audiences that Oslo was a step in the PLO's 1974 "plan of phases," a strategy of acquiring whatever land could be won by negotiations and using that territory as a base for pursuing Israel's annihilation. Yet Israel responded with additional concessions. This case study in the psychology of a community under chronic attack takes on broader significance at a time when even traditionally safe and secure societies such as the United States are confronting the psychological challenges posed by terrorist assaults.

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