No history of the Jews lends itself to an easy telling. Thus, Gordis, a rabbi and senior vice president at Shalem College in Jerusalem, quotes the immortal words of Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik early in the book: “Does God have mercy on Zion?” It is a question the reader will find herself returning to again and again.
Gordis’s account opens with Psalm 137, the cry of lament and longing sung for centuries by Jews hoping to return to the land promised them by God. We are then ushered into the ceaseless fight for Jewish survival from the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian exile to the establishment of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, from the Greeks to the Romans, from the building of the Second Temple to its destruction three generations later. By the book’s hundredth page, Gordis has already relayed a history of more than a million dead.
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