The Invention of the Jewish People
By Shlomo Sand
Publisher’s Description: Leading Israeli historian evaluates the national myth of the Jewish exile from the promised land
All modern nation states have a story of their origins, passed down through both official and popular culture, and yet few of these accounts have proved as divisive and influential as the Israeli national myth. The well-known tale of Jewish exile at the hands of the Romans during the first century AD, and the assertion of both cultural and racial continuity through to the Jewish people of the present day, resonates far beyond Israel’s borders. Despite its use as a justification for Jewish settlement in Palestine and the project of a Greater Israel, there have been few scholarly investigations into the historical accuracy of the story as a whole.
In this bold and ambitious new book, Shlomo Sand shows that the Israeli national myth has its origins in the nineteenth century, rather than in biblical times – when Jewish historians, like scholars in many other cultures, reconstituted an imagined people in order to model a future nation. Sand forensically dissects the official story – and demonstrates the construction of a nationalist myth and the collective mystification that this requires.
A bestseller in Israel and France, Shlomo Sand’s book has sparked a widespread and lively debate. Should the Jewish people regard themselves as genetically distinct and identifiable across the millennia – or should that doctrine now be left behind and if the myth of the “Jewish state” is dismantled, could this open a path toward a more inclusive Israeli state, content within its borders?
Where Do Jews Come From? by Evan R. Goldstein – from The Wall Street Journal, news article that examines the book and the controversy it has created
Israeli wins French prize for book questioning origins of Jewish people – news article from Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper