Israel Is Real by Rich Cohen
An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History

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"It's a great irony that Israel was more secure as an idea than it's ever been as a nation with an army."

In AD 70, when the Second Temple was destroyed, a handful of visionaries saved Judaism by reinventing it--by taking what had been a national religion, identified with a particular place, and turning it into an idea. Jews no longer needed Jerusalem to be Jews. Whenever a Jew studied--wherever he was--he would be in the holy city. In this way, a few rabbis turned a real city into a city of the mind; in this way, they turned the Temple into a book and preserved their faith. Though you can burn a city, you cannot sack an idea or kill a book. But in our own time, Zionists have turned the book back into a

temple. And unlike an idea, a temple can be destroyed. The creation of Israel has made Jews vulnerable in a way they have not been for two thousand years.

In Israel Is Real, Rich Cohen's superb new history of the Zionist idea and the Jewish state--the history of a nation chronicled as if it were the biography of a person--he brings to life dozens of fascinating figures, each driven by the same impulse: to reach Jerusalem. From false messiahs such as David Alroy (Cohen calls him the first superhero, with his tallis as a cape) and Sabbatai Zevi, who led thousands on a mad spiritual journey, to the early Zionists (many of them failed journalists), to the iconic figures of modern Jewish Sparta, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon, Cohen shows how all these lives together form a single story, a single life. In this unique book, Cohen examines the myth of the wandering Jew, the paradox of Jewish power (how can you be both holy and nuclear?), and the triumph and tragedy of the Jewish state--how the creation of modern Israel has changed what it means to be a Jew anywhere.


About Rich Cohen

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Rich Cohen is a New York Times bestselling author as well as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. He has written seven books, including Tough Jews, Israel Is Real, and the widely acclaimed memoir Sweet and Low. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, and Best American Essays. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, three sons, and dog.
Published July 21, 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 404 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Israel Is Real

Publishers Weekly

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Reading the Bible and Jewish history “both literally and symbolically,” this eclectic and passionate, wide-ranging history of Israel and Zionism by the author of <EMPHASIS TYPE=ITALIC

Jun 08 2009 | Read Full Review of Israel Is Real: An Obsessive ...

The New York Times

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This history of Israel is full of nutritious morsels, leavened with the absurd.

Jul 26 2009 | Read Full Review of Israel Is Real: An Obsessive ...

The Guardian

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With its laboured, punning title, you might expect Rich Cohen's book to be a propagandistic defence of Israel, perhaps arguing that, despite its detractors, the Jewish state is here to stay.

Nov 20 2009 | Read Full Review of Israel Is Real: An Obsessive ...

The Washington Post

"They turned the Temple into a book," writes Rich Cohen in his fascinating but flawed new book, "Israel Is Real."

Aug 30 2009 | Read Full Review of Israel Is Real: An Obsessive ...

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