What is Modern Israel?
Usually, we think of the state of modern Israel, as well as the late nineteenth-century Zionist movement that led to its founding, as a response to anti-Semitism which grew out of cultural and religious Judaism. In What Is Modern Israel?, however, Yakov M. Rabkin turns this understanding on its head, arguing convincingly that Zionism, far from being a natural development of Judaism, in fact, has its historical and theological roots in Protestant Christianity.
While most Jewish people viewed Zionism as marginal or even heretical, Christian enthusiasm for the Restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land transformed the traditional Judaic yearning for ‘Return’—a spiritual concept with a very different meaning—into a political project.
Drawing on many overlooked pages of history, and using a uniquely broad range of sources in English, French, Hebrew, and Russian, Rabkin shows that Zionism was conceived as a sharp break with Judaism and Jewish continuity.
Rabkin argues that Israel’s past and present must be understood in the context of European ethnic nationalism, colonial expansion, and geopolitical interests rather than—as is all too often the case—an incarnation of Biblical prophecies or a culmination of Jewish history.
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