While there have been many histories of Israel written over the decades, Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea, published in 1959, remains a classic guide to the intellectual underpinnings of Zionism. It is now joined almost sixty years later by Michael Brenner’s excellent book, In Search of Israel: The history of an idea. Inspired by the seventieth anniversary of Israel’s establishment, the passage of time has allowed Brenner to do something different from Hertzberg in his retelling of the Zionist idea. He has written a book that uses the founding voices of Zionism to test whether their vision has been fulfilled. In this sense, In Search of Israel is a retrospective overview of Israel’s history, a kind of parlour game in which the reader gets to ask if so-and-so came back to life, would they recognise the state in its contemporary incarnation. This method of mixing vision with current reality can also be read as a counterfactual history, opening up questions about the paths not taken, or the options available in the Zionist armoury beyond military occupation. As Brenner writes of his project: ‘It is the story of the real and the imagined Israel, of Israel as a state and as an idea.’
Mark Baker reviews 'In Search of Israel: The history of an idea' by Michael Brenner
In Search of Israel: The history of an idea
by Michael Brenner
Princeton University Press (Footprint), $49.99 hb, 392 pp, 9780691179285
Mark Baker is the author of two memoirs, The Fiftieth Gate (1997) and Thirty Days (2017). He is Associate Professor...
Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.
If you are already a subscriber, click here, or on the ‘Log In’ tab in the top right hand corner of the screen, and enter your username and password to log in. If you have logged in but are still seeing this message your subscription to ABR Online may have expired. Please contact us or click here to renew your subscription to ABR Online. More information about ABR Online can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Leave a comment
Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.
NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to email@example.com. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.