New Book: Epstein, The Dream of Zion

Epstein, Lawrence J. The Dream of Zion. The Story of the First Zionist Congress. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Dream of Zion

The Dream of Zion tells the story of the Jewish political effort to restore their ancient nation. At the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897 Theodor Herzl convened a remarkable meeting that founded what became the World Zionist Organization, defined the political goals of the movement, adopted a national anthem, created the legal and financial instruments that would lead to statehood, and ushered the reentry of the Jewish people into political history. It was there in Basel that Herzl, the man some praised and some mocked as the new Moses, became the leader. The book provides an overview of the history that led to the Congress, an introduction to key figures in Israeli history, a discussion of the climate at the time for Jews—including the pogroms in Russia—and a discussion of themes that remain relevant today, such as the Christian reaction to the Zionist idea.


Table of Contents

The Birth of Zionism
2.The Sad-Eyed Prophet: Theodor Herzl’s Mission
3.With Eyes Toward Zion: The Many Routes to Basel
4.Trembling Before History: The Three Days of the Congress
5.Zion’s Flame: Reactions Around the World
6.Echoes of the Dream: The Legacy of the First Zionist Congress

LAWRENCE J. EPSTEIN is professor emeritus at Suffolk County Community College, where he taught courses on Jewish thought and culture. He served as Adviser on the Middle East for two members of the United States Congress. He is the author of numerous books, including The Basic Beliefs of Judaism and Conversion to Judaism: A Guidebook.

New Article: Rosenberg-Friedman | Ben-Gurion and the ‘Demographic Threat’

Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “David Ben-Gurion and the ‘Demographic Threat’: His Dualistic Approach to Natalism, 1936–63.” Middle Eastern Studies 51.5 (2015): 742-66.





This article illuminates one of the many facet of Ben-Gurion’s leadership that had an impact on his public image – his stance on fertility and childbirth, during the years 1936–63. The article outlining Ben-Gurion’s thoughts on the birthrate in Mandatory Palestine and the State of Israel, analyse the developments in his views over the years and the reasons for it. His perception of the Jewish national importance of boosting the birthrate grew over time in keeping with historical developments and the soaring natural increase of the Arabs. In the first stage, births were important to him due to the need to create a Jewish majority that would pave the way for a Jewish state. In the second stage, once this goal had been achieved, it was out of concern for the security and stability of the state – in this stage, however, he built his leadership as a prime minister of all Israel citizens, including the Arabs. The analysis demonstrates, therefore, that Ben-Gurion’s approach was characterized by dualism. The reasons for this dualism as well as Ben-Gurion’s image as a ‘godfather of fertility’ are the focal point of this article.

Cite: Brecher, Marshall against Truman’s Palestine Policy, 1948

Brecher, Frank W. “US Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s Losing Battles against President Harry S. Truman’s Palestine Policy, January-June 1948.” Middle Eastern Studies 48.2 (2012): 227-247.



Reviews: Rivlin, Israeli Economy from the Foundation of the State through the 21st Century

Rivlin, Paul. The Israeli Economy from the Foundation of the State through the 21st Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


The Israeli Economy from the Foundation of the State through the 21st Century



  • Halevi, Nadav. “Review.”, June 2011.
  • Plaut, Steven. “Review.” Middle East Quarterly 18.3 (2011).
  • Press, Eyal. “Rising Up in Israel.” New York Review of Books. November 24, 2011.
  • Sauer, Robert M. “Review.” Middle East Journal 66.1 (2012): 179-180.

Cite: Zadoff, On Scholem’s Disillusionment with Zionism

Zadoff, Noam. "’Zion’s Self-Engulfing Light’: On Gershom Scholem’s Disillusionment with Zionism." Modern Judaism 31.3 (2011): 272-284.





On the morning of September 20, 1923, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a small ship was approaching the port town of Jaffa on the shore of Palestine. The ship, which had sailed from Alexandria, carried on its deck two young German-Jewish scholars who were to become—each in his own field—renowned personalities in the history of Jewish Studies in the 20th century. The first, the orientalist Shlomo Dov Goitein, continued sailing with the ship until its next station—the port of Haifa. The second, Gershom Scholem, who was welcomed on shore by his fiancé Escha Burchhardt, disembarked from the ship and arrived for the first time, as a Zionist, at his destination, where he stayed for the rest of his life. In his memoir Scholem describes the process of adaptation and integration in the new land as an easy one from the personal, social, and ideological point of view.1 Nonetheless, on many occasions, he expressed discontentment with the local Jewish life, complaining about the cultural and political situation in Jerusalem.2 The reasons for this discontent varied but they were mainly connected to the political developments in Palestine, to the direction that the Yishuv took, and to the dramatic events in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. This article concentrates on three important moments in the history of Zionism as well as in Scholem’s private life: first, the riots of 1929 and their aftermath; second, the realization of the destruction of European Jewry by the Yishuv in Palestine in 1943; and third, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Each of these events represents a turning point for the Jewish collective, as well as a turning point for Scholem as a private person on the way in the process of fulfilling his Zionist utopia.

Dissertation: Lainer-Vos, Irish and Zionist Transatlantic Networks

Lainer-Vos, Dan. Nationalism in Action: The Construction of Irish and Zionist Transatlantic National Networks


Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2008. Section054, Part 0626 421 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].

United States — New York: Columbia University; 2008.

Publication Number: AAT 3373778.


***** Abstract (Summary) *****

This dissertation treats nation building as a practical organizational accomplishment. It examines encounters between Irish Americans and Jewish Americans and their respective homelands to understand how national movements establish cooperation between the different "fragments" that constitute the nation.

Part One introduces the theoretical framework. Part Two examines a technology developed to secure financial resources for the nation. It compares and contrasts the Irish and Israeli attempts to float national bonds in the US in 1920 and 1951 respectively. Sold as a mixture of a gift and an investment, the Irish bond drive aggravated the relationship between Irish and Irish Americans.

The Israeli bond, on the other hand, combining similar elements, was instrumental in establishing cooperation. It functioned as a boundary object thereby nourishing cooperation without consensus. The comparison highlights the importance of organizational technologies for the making of nations.

Part Three explores the technologies developed to secure national attachments in the diaspora. Specifically, it examines the construction of national attachments in "Massad," a Jewish American summer camp, and an Irish American Gaelic Athletic Association. Attempting to endow diasporic subjects with a sense of belonging, national entrepreneurs constructed these sites as liminal places. In the Jewish case, "Massad" functioned as a simulation of Zionism.

This simulation allowed campers to believe that others, in Israel, experience wholesome national belonging. In the Irish case, the means to secure national attachments was competition. The regulation of matches generated a sense of friendly rivalry among teams representing different counties thereby fostering a sense of Irishness.

Studying nationalism as a practical accomplishment highlights the role of concrete organizational technologies in regulating relationships between the groups that make up the nation. Diversity within the nation is not necessarily an obstacle to nation building. Rather, the crux of nation building is the orchestration of difference. Nation building does not rely on the existence of taken-for-granted categories but on the establishment of cooperation without consensus. The concept of simulation clarifies that national subjects do not necessarily ignore or discount the importance of internal differences. Rather, national simulations allow subjects to make sense of their difference from within the nation.

Cite: Levinas’ Letter to Blanchot on the Creation of the State of Israel


The latest issue of Critical Inquiry (36.4; 2010), includes a section on a letter Emmanuel Lévinas wrote to Maurice Blanchot, and a discussion of it:


Introduction to “Letter to Maurice Blanchot on the Creation of the State of Israel”

Sarah Hammerschlag

Critical Inquiry Summer 2010, Vol. 36, No. 4: 642-644.
Citation | Full Text | PDF Version (24 KB)

Letter to Maurice Blanchot on the Creation of the State of Israel

Emmanuel Lévinas (trans. Sarah Hammerschlag)

Critical Inquiry Summer 2010, Vol. 36, No. 4: 645-648.
Citation | Full Text | PDF Version (29 KB)

The Final Meeting between Emmanuel Lévinas and Maurice Blanchot

Michaël Lévinas

Critical Inquiry Summer 2010, Vol. 36, No. 4: 649-651.
Citation | Full Text | PDF Version (24 KB)

Literary Unrest: Blanchot, Lévinas, and the Proximity of Judaism

Sarah Hammerschlag

Critical Inquiry Summer 2010, Vol. 36, No. 4: 652-672.
Citation | Full Text | PDF Version (98 KB)

ToC: Journal of Israeli History 29,1 (2010)

The Journal of Israeli History has its first issue out for 2010. Below is the full Table of Contents, with links to abstracts and (limited) online access. As always, I will try (nut do not commit) to post the articles as separate entries, too.


A century of childhood, parenting, and family life in the kibbutz
Amia Lieblich
Pages 1 – 24
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The formation of secondary education in Israel, 1948–1964
Avner Molcho
Pages 25 – 45
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The 1948 war veterans and postwar reconstruction in Israel
Moshe Naor
Pages 47 – 59
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The transformation of Israel’s religious-Zionist middle class
Nissim Leon
Pages 61 – 78
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Was the Balfour Declaration at risk in 1923? Zionism and British imperialism
Michael J. Cohen
Pages 79 – 98
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Hotel design in British Mandate Palestine: Modernism and the Zionist vision
Daniella Ohad Smith
Pages 99 – 123
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Book Reviews

1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
Motti Golani
Pages 125 – 129
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The Others within Us: Constructing Jewish-Israeli Identity
Noam Pianko
Pages 129 – 132
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Beyond Sacred and Secular: Politics of Religion in Israel and Turkey
Efrat E. Aviv
Pages 132 – 134
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Cite: Radzyner, A Constitution for Israel


Radzyner, Amihai. "A Constitution for Israel: The Design of the Leo Kohn Proposal, 1948." Israel Studies 15,1 (2010): 1-24.



UN General Assembly Resolution 181 declared that the states which will be established in the Land of Israel should accept a constitution. Dr. Leo Kohn was chosen to write the constitution proposal for the Jewish State. The article describes his constitutional project, which was carried out in three stages between the end of 1947 and October 1948. It identifies the sources of his influence in his proposals, names the figures that assisted in writing the proposals, and tries to understand the reasons for the changes made in the three versions of his proposal. It considers the claim that essential changes were due to the fundamental debate concerning the nature of the constitution of the Jewish State: Should it be similar to the constitutions of modern democratic states, or should it express the Jewish tradition and protect the special Jewish character of the state?




Keywords: Israel: Law, Constitution, Democracy, Jewish Identity, Israel: Religion, Religious-Secular Divide, Zionism: State establishment, עמיחי רדזינר

Cite: Ben-Gurion and the Soviet Union’s Involvement in the Jewish State


Mintz, Matityahu. "Ben-Gurion and the Soviet Union’s Involvement in the Effort to Establish a Jewish State in Palestine." Journal of Israeli History 26,1 (2007): 67-78.


Although the fourth volume of Shabtai Teveth’s biography of David Ben-Gurion presents a comprehensive and detailed description of his activities in the years 1942-46, it has omitted a fascinating aspect, which this article wishes to address: the contacts between Ben-Gurion and Soviet officials on the efforts to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. On the basis of documents in the Soviet and Israeli archives, the article challenges conventional explanations for Soviet support in 1947 for the partition of Palestine and subsequent recognition of the young state of Israel. It argues that the Soviets were less interested in imperialistic designs on the Middle East than in preventing the return of Jews to the USSR and its satellites after the war. Ben-Gurion knew as much but, for a variety of political considerations, kept silent.


Keywords: Israel and USSR Relations, David Ben-Gurion, Zionism: State establishment, Zionism: Diplomacy, UN Resolution 181, 1947 Partition Plan, Matityahu Minz, מתתיהו מינץ