Only an Israeli could exude the passion and heartrending sensitivity of Israel’s controversial history. Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, is brutally honest in his depiction of Israel—from his perspective. In prose that often reads like a novel, he interchanges past and present with the elegance of a ballet dancer, telling the story of the country of his birth.
Shavit’s book has made the New York Time’s Bestseller list and received the Natan Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. It is an honest depiction of a tumultuous history, and is a book that is often difficult to read—not because of its semantics, but because of the raw emotion that leaks through the pages.
We meet Israel through Shavit’s great-grandfather, a Zionist who travels to (then) Palestine from Britain and beholds the land of his forefathers. The book goes on to introduce us to other key figures: a Jaffa orange farmer and survivors of the Holocaust who bring their families to Israel to recreate their lives and raise the future leaders of Israel. We also meet an engineer involved in Israel’s nuclear program and club crawlers in Tel Aviv’s nightclubs—the “everydayness” of Israel. But what appears normal and mundane is just a façade—Israel is rife with conflict, heartbreak and turmoil. Yet despite that, it is Israel—our Israel.
Shavit presented his book at the Merage Jewish Community Center’s One Book—Jewish OC Reads on November 23. Part of November’s OC Jewish Art’s Festival, the presentation was attended by a packed crowd and offered the sale of Shavit’s book to the public. Shavit is as articulate in person as he is on paper and held the audience captive with his explanation and reasoning for his bestselling book.
My Promised Land is a must-read for anyone hoping to understand the Israel of today. It will open your eyes to a history pulled from the heart of a Sabra and reminds us of why we hold so dearly to its claim. Yes, Israel is our country, but she has passed through the hearts, hands and minds of many before us. Israel is a survivor; she has been brought through neglect, abuse and violence—and like a survivor she has proven to be resilient and strong despite the adversity.
Dr. Lisa Grajewski is a psychologist working toward licensure. She is a therapist with Jewish Federation Family Services and is a psychological assistant for a private practice in Tustin. Dr. Grajewski has been writing for JLife Magazine since 2004.