The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -


THIS CEL­E­BRA­TORY BOOK, cov­er­ing events from the en­deav­ours of Herzl to the erec­tion of the sep­a­ra­tion bar­rier, is all of 64 pages long. Yet it is re­plete with maps, de­tach­able posters, il­lus­tra­tions and pull­out fac­sim­ile doc­u­ments. It tells the re­mark­able story of Is­rael’s 60 years — an a c hi e v e ment recog­nised in the Arab world and be­yond.

Sir Martin Gil­bert’s ex­per­tise in pro­duc­ing pop­u­lar books for the gen­eral reader is cer­tainly up to scratch in this stun­ning pub­li­ca­tion. It cer­tainly is a wor­thy teach­ing tool for schools. The pull-out im­i­ta­tion of Herzl’s diary would alone be in­ter­est­ing for stu­dents of the Ger­man lan­guage.

Gil­bert also in­cludes the last let­ter of 22-year-old, Bri­tish-born Es­ther Cailin­gold, writ­ten as she lay dy­ing in a Jor­da­nian field hospi­tal: “I have tasted hell, but it has been worth­while, be­cause I am con­vinced that the end will see a Jewish state and all our long­ings. I have lived my life fully, and very sweet it has been in our land.” Such were the ide­al­ism and hopes of 1948.

There is a spread de­voted to the Soviet Jewish ex­o­dus, de­pict­ing such he­roes as Natan Sha­ran­sky and Ida Nudel as well as a won­der­ful pho­to­graph of a 1970s re­fusenik demon­stra­tion in Moscow.

Sev­eral pages bring back the trauma of Yitzhak Rabin’s as­sas­si­na­tion, fol­low­ing a cam­paign of in­cite­ment by the far right. Con­trast­ing pho­to­graphs of the Peace Now demon­stra­tion be­fore the killing, the drawn faces of the as­sem­bled dig­ni­taries next to the cof­fin and or­di­nary cit­i­zens light­ing yahrzeit (me­mo­rial) can­dles bring home the ter­ri­bly poignant qual­ity of that time.

Lit­tle is said about the Pales­tini­ans. There are few black spots in this book. As Is­rael moves for­ward, Pales­tine has stood trag­i­cally still. Too many plans have been buried in the ceme­tery of good in­ten­tions and the con­flict con­tin­ues, un­abated.

Most Jews be­lieve Is­rael is at the fore­front of Jewish his­tory. Martin Gil­bert’s short work vividly en­cap­su­lates that be­lief. Colin Shindler’s His­tory of Mod­ern Is­rael has just been pub­lished by Cam­bridge Univer­sity Press

Fly­ing the flag with posters

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