A Diverse Collection of Peoples

Daniel Lazare

  • BuyThe Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand
    Verso, 344 pp, £9.99, June 2010, ISBN 978 1 84467 623 1
  • BuyThe Invention of the Land of Israel: From Holy Land to Homeland by Shlomo Sand
    Verso, 295 pp, £16.99, January 2013, ISBN 978 1 84467 946 1

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

So says the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, issued in Tel Aviv on 14 May 1948. Shlomo Sand’s last two books have questioned the document’s assumptions: were the Jews ‘forcibly exiled’ or did they go abroad in search of new opportunities? If they ‘never ceased to pray and hope for their return’, why did so few bother to visit their homeland for centuries on end? How do we know that the people who ‘kept faith’ throughout the Diaspora were the same as the ones who headed out to begin with? Did they share the same genes? Or were they as far removed from the original Jews as, say, Polish Galicians are from the Galicians of Spain?

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