Israel, the Impossible Land

Israel, the Impossible Land

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What has the land of Israel meant for the Jewish imagination? This book provides a lively and readable answer, covering Biblical times to the present. Its aim is to pierce the mystery of the images of Israel, to grasp their meaning and function, to trace their origins and history, and to resituate in historical terms the fertile mythology that has peopled and continues to people the Jewish imagination, interposing a screen between a people and their land. Describing the real, however, is not sufficient to disqualify the myths. The authors believe, with the famous French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, that: "Things are not so simple. Myth is not opposed to the real as the false to the true; myth accompanies the real." Today, Israel is an undeniable fact and no longer has to legitimize its existence. It is in the midst of living through the crises of adulthood. The authors simply want to reconstitute and trace the genealogies of these contemporary crises. Only upon a clear understanding of this present and this past can a future be constructed.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 153.2 x 228.1 x 17.8mm | 408.24g
  • Stanford University Press
  • Palo Alto, United States
  • English
  • Second.
  • 0804741662
  • 9780804741668

About Esther Benbassa

Professor Jean-Christophe Attias holds the chair of the History of Rabbinic Culture at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne. Professor Esther Benbassa holds the chair of Modern Jewish History at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sorbonne. Her books translated into English are: Haim Nahum: A Sephardic Chief Rabbi in Politics (1995); The Jews of France: A History from Antiquity to the Present (1999); and, with Aron Rodrigue, A Sephardi Life in Southeastern Europe (1998) and Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries (2000).

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Review quote

"Jean-Christophe Attias and Esther Benbassa have written an elegant and erudite book demonstrating the complex relationship to the land of Israel throughout Jewish history."--American Historical Review

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Flap copy

What has the land of Israel meant for the Jewish imagination? This book provides a lively and readable answer, covering Biblical times to the present. Its aim is to pierce the mystery of the images of Israel, to grasp their meaning and function, to trace their origins and history, and to resituate in historical terms the fertile mythology that has peopled and continues to people the Jewish imagination, interposing a screen between a people and their land. Describing the real, however, is not sufficient to disqualify the myths. The authors believe, with the famous French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, that: Things are not so simple. Myth is not opposed to the real as the false to the true; myth accompanies the real. Today, Israel is an undeniable fact and no longer has to legitimize its existence. It is in the midst of living through the crises of adulthood. The authors simply want to reconstitute and trace the genealogies of these contemporary crises. Only upon a clear understanding of this present and this past can a future be constructed. "

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Back cover copy

Jean-Christophe Attias and Esther Benbassa have written an elegant and erudite book demonstrating the complex relationship to the land of Israel throughout Jewish history. American Historical Review"

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Table of contents

Introduction Part One Genealogies 1. The Promised Land 7 "In the Beginning" Ambiguity 9 A Heritage Deferred 12 Exile and the Desert I6 The Memory of an Initial Expropriation 20 A Dismembered Land 24 Sedentary People, Nomadic God 27 If I Forget Thee, 0 Jerusalem... 30 2. The Holy Land 34 New Horizons 34 A Partial Reappropriation 37 The Center and the Periphery 41 Living Without the Temple 46 A "Deterritorialized" Judaism? 50 The Legal Land 52 Holy Land, Holy People 56 3. The Land of Dreams 60 Other Times: The Land's Middle Ages? 60 Stars and Climates65 The Heart of the World 69 Divine Land 71 The Land as Metaphor 75 A Taste of Paradise 79 Nearby Lands, Distant Lands 82 4. The Exiled Land 87 Land and Liturgy 88 The Land and the Law: Rabbinic Hermeneutical Exercises 94 The Duty of Aliyah or the Duty of Exile? 98 The Forbidden Land I02 Encounters with Palestine 107 Voyagers and "Geographers" IIo Nostalgia II6 Part Two Metamorphoses 5. The Rediscovered Land 121 "Here" and "There" I2I The Christian Rediscovery of Palestine I3 Palestine Revisited by the Jews 137 Ancient Land, New Land(s) I42 6. The Recreated Land 152 To Whom Does the Land Belong? 152 The Cult of the Land 157 The Symbolism of Pioneering I60 The Myths to the Rescue of the Land I68 The Land of Historians 179 Negation of Exile, Negation of Self 187 7. The Impossible Land I95 A Culture of Rootedness 195 Interminable Exile I99 The Return of the Promised Land 208 The Coming of Post-Zionism 212 The Wandering Israeli 224 Epilogue 231 Afterword 237

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