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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Natan Book Award

An authoritative and deeply personal narrative history of the State of Israel, by one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today.

Not since Thomas L. Friedman's groundbreaking From Beirut to Jerusalem has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as My Promised Land. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family's story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension.

©2013 Random House Audio (P)2013 Ari Shavit

What the critics say

“Shavit's provocative book avoids the clichés typical of some works about the Middle East, and the audio version benefits from Paul Boehmer's superb presentation.” (AudioFile)
“One of the most nuanced and challenging books written on Israel in years . . . [The] book’s real power: On an issue so prone to polemic, Mr. Shavit offers candor.” ( The Wall Street Journal)
“The most extraordinary book that I’ve read on [Israel] since Amos Elon’s book called The Israelis, and that was published in the late sixties.” (David Remnick)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • James
  • 2014-10-13

Too important to be ruined by its narration!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I've withheld comment until I had a chance to listen to some samples of Paul Boehmer's narration of other works. In other contexts, he has a terrific voice and style. But this was a mistake - the faux-Israeli accent makes it almost unbearable to listen to, and undermines the content of this important book. As I was listening in my car, I almost had to pull over because I was laughing so hard at the pronunciation of "1936" - the "theerrty" so far back in the throat I thought he would choke. Over and over again. This during the "Arab Uprisings" - not the intended effect, I'm sure.

The irony is that the author himself speaks far better English than the narrator - a richly-intoned, articulate, British-inflected voice.

What did you like best about this story?

If all Israelis - and Palestinians - had a sensibility akin to Shavit, the two nations would surely find a way to coexist peacefully. He holds the remarkable achievement of the Jews in Palestine in perfect tension with its tragic impact on the Palestinian people. Essential reading on the history of this land.

How could the performance have been better?

See above. Really unfortunate. In that this is clearly a reaction many have had, the publisher should strongly consider re-doing the recording.

Do you think My Promised Land needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No, just a new recording - same narrator, sans accent. Please consider it - this book is too important to be ruined by its narration.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Jodie Futornick
  • 2014-07-22

Horrible narration

What made the experience of listening to My Promised Land the most enjoyable?

The book is great, but the narration was painful. As others have said, I found the faux-Israeli accent distracting and a bit insulting. I won't say it ruined the book for me, but it did make it very difficult to get through.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • TableTopGamer
  • 2013-12-12

Detailed history of Israel, leading to today

What did you like best about this story?

I learned so much about the recent history of Israel, which gives perspective to modern events. The author covers the initial history period in such loving detail - I can taste the oranges, feel the heat, see the people's faces. The history is reviewed from personal perspectives, and includes rich details. As the book moves to current times, the author does live interviews, and is careful to explore right, left, and centrist ideals. For the most part, all are given respectful staging. At some points, the author seems to be lecturing people for ideas with which he does not agree, and the book, to me, starts to lean very leftwards. While the author does continue to respectfully present other views, his view is very clear by the end.

What about Paul Boehmer’s performance did you like?

I love the book as audio, as the reader has an Israeli accent and the words are so richly pronounced. I find myself echoing the words after he reads them. It is lovely in audio format.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The personal stories of how different individuals came to and experienced Israel were varied and interesting, to hear the unique histories.

Any additional comments?

At times the author's politics are frustrating and I get angry - but perhaps this is what makes a book very good - that emotions are stirred. I enjoyed listening to this with my husband - we would often stop the telling to discuss it, and for me, that enriched the telling.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Stuart M. Wilder
  • 2013-12-01

Great book, but why the accent?

Would you listen to My Promised Land again? Why?

Great book. Shavit puts into words everything I sense when I go to Israel.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Why does Audible have its narrators put on accents when reading books by feign language authors, or for that matter foreign authors? I do not need the Russian, Israeli, or English accents to appreciate books written by authors form those countries— I find it a distraction. The book is not written in dialect, so why should it be read that way. (At least this did not have the mispronunciations of Hebrew and Yiddish words I find in so many other audiobooks on Jewish or Israeli subjects. Lord knows how many other foreign words get mangled. Is it too much to ask the readers to research how to pronounce the foreign words they are reading?) Still, I was grateful for this audiobook because it allowed me to get through it quickly.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Chaim Feder
  • 2014-05-06

Important book; unfortunate narration

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Many of the chapters are very powerful indeed. Shavit is an Israeli writer/commentator who deeply identifies with his country and is equally pained by the tragic problem resulting from the existence of sovereign State primarily for the Jewish People in the middle east. His description of his love and associated agony is important for we Israelis and important for intelligent, sober readers. To my taste, the opening chapters needed substantial editing.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

At any number of points, I was on the verge of stopping to listen and to instead read the print/e-book edition, solely because of the narration. The book describes an epic drama, immediately asserted in the subtitle "Triumph and Tragedy", that is ongoing. The narrator, speaking in the highly accented English of a non-native (although Paul Boehmer seems to be US born and bred), reads the book as a melodrama. I also thought it was poorly acted. To my mind, it is an utterly wrong, inappropriate, and even damaging choice for delivery.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr.
  • 2014-02-04

Candid, Critical, and Compassionate

For years I have been deeply critical of Israel as I have slowly awoken to the plight of the Palestinian people. Knowing that my understanding of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was superficial, I welcomed Shavit's first hand account as an Israeli journalist affiliated with the Israeli peace movement.

Although Shavit's book is way too long and at times repetitive, I found his accounting to be remarkably candid and critical - while it was also engaging, insightful, and compassionate. He presents the historical context for Zionism (the persecution and annihilation of European Jews), but makes it clear that the Jews saved themselves at the expense of the Palestinians. His description of the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people is deeply touching and profoundly sad.

Shavit does an excellent job of illuminating the evolving nature of Zionism and the State of Israel over the decades and helps to explain why Israeli politics is so dysfunctional and Israeli society so polarized. Consider, for example, that the founders of Israel were Eastern European, largely secular, Jews, while successive waves of immigrants, who did not fight in the war that established Israel, came from countries with a very different historical and religious context ( e.g., in the 1950's Jews from Muslim majority countries or in the 1990's Jews from the former Soviet Union).

Shavit makes it clear that the settlements in the West Bank are another catastrophe and that the future of Israel, the Palestinians, and all who are allied with these two people (most of the world, that is) depends on a just resolution. He has no prescription for resolving this intractable mess, but he helps his readers to understand the mutually incompatible truths that these two ancient people hold that maintain the conflict.

For the life of me I can't understand why other reviews were critical of the narration. Boehmer did an excellent job.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • David Enzel
  • 2014-01-04

Insightful; Thought-Provoking; A Bit Long

What made the experience of listening to My Promised Land the most enjoyable?

I learned a lot about the history of the State of Israel and where the country is now from someone in his late 50s who has witnessed a lot and researched many aspects of Israel he did not personally experience.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Although Mr. Shavit candidly discusses Israel's shortcomings it is clear throughout the book that he loves Israel and wants it succeed - as do I. Although I understand Israel better than I did before I listened to the audiobook, the path forward for Israel remains foggy and hard to see. This is not the fault of the author, but it does in my opinion argue for a shorter, more tightly written book. Some of the book sounds like stream of consciousness.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator has an accent similar to the accent of the author. I feel the accent made the audiobook harder to enjoy. I know the author is Israeli and don't need to reminded of that with every word narrated.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The book is too long to listen to all in one setting. The book is also in my opinion significantly longer than necessary. The book would have benefited from a good editor. For example, the discussion about the Tel Aviv night club is much longer than necessary. Yes, there is a lesson there but the club is one venue in a city with many night spots.

Any additional comments?

I am glad I listened to the book. It combines a love of Israel along with a rare and candid overview of the country's weaknesses.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Melvyn
  • 2013-11-29

A compelling and revelatory history.

What did you love best about My Promised Land?

The author has captured the emotions and conflicting moral ambiguities of nation building on land occupied by others. He covers with frankness the settlers' harsh treatment of the indigenous Arab population. In addition to telling the story of the early Jewish settlers, the author examines Israel's decision to build an atomic capacity and its short and long-term consequences. When he interviews some of the early participants in the program, he attempts to parse what is real from what is rationalization. I found the book neither anti nor pro either Israel or the Arabs. One gets the sense that he wanted write an honest history, if there can be such a genre about this area of the world. However well informed one might be about early and present day Israel, this book is highly revelatory.

What does Paul Boehmer bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Paul Boehmer's reading is superb. He reads with immediacy and emotion that makes you believe you are present when the events he is describing are taking place. He also captures both the author's moral outrage yet sense of resignation at certain of the Israelis' less attractive conduct toward the Arabs.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The human body is not equipped for such a task.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Tony P.
  • 2015-03-29

Not really a story of Israel...

Would you try another book from Ari Shavit and/or Paul Boehmer?

No

Any additional comments?

This isn't a story of Israel. It is a severely skewed tale of a devout leftist. Every story is defined by some negative account that is actually minor in the grand scheme of things but is central to this ashamed Jew. Every account leading up to Israel's independence highlights Jewish war crimes while barely mentioning any involvement of Palestinine atrocities. Embarrassing. I could only stand it for six hours. So, to be fair, this review doesn't cover the final 2/3 of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • 2014-08-28

Incredible history, brilliant narration

This is a great book for anyone wanting to dive deep into Israeli history and politics. The author does an inspired job of telling the Jewish state's story from it's true, existential beginnings. Not the 1920s or the 1940s, but the late 1800s, and even before that.

Shavit offers a very nuanced argument for Israeli's current malaise, one which provokes more thought than seeks to convince of anything. And such a thing is rare.

This is also a rare book which might be better as an audiobook than in paper format. Paul Boehmer's delivery and accent really bring this work to life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful