My Promised Land – whole book structured discussion
Bettering or Battering?
A recurring theme in Shavit’s narrative is the difference, sometimes chasm, between intentions, actions, and results.
- What would you say were Shavit’s intentions in writing this book?
- Did he succeed?
The Jewish community throughout the world tends to be suspicious of those who criticize Israel and Zionism. This may be because criticism can serve two opposing intentions. Sometimes criticism is a call for destruction, and sometimes criticism is a call for improvement and reconstruction.
- How would you classify “My Promised Land” – reconstructive? destructive?
- Do you believe Shavit’s intentions were towards construction or destruction?
This book received considerable support from the Natan Fund, a Jewish organization that aims “to catalyze new conversations about Jewish life”.
- The book has already catalyzed conversations about Jewish life. Has it catalyzed new conversations for you?
- Do you think the Natan Fund was wise in supporting “My Promised Land”?
Triumphs and Tragedy
The sub-title of the book is “The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”.
- Are you left feeling that the book dealt well with both triumph and tragedy?
- Did you feel that one outweighed the other?
- Do you feel the balance or imbalance between triumph and tragedy in the book was significant?
Most literary definitions of the Tragedy genre would insist on the common element of “inevitability”. A tragic understanding of an event would assume that catastrophe was unavoidable.
- Does “My Promised Land” insist upon the inevitability of catastrophe?
- Do you find this acceptable?
Zionism appears throughout the book in many guises. Sometimes Zionism is like a character with whims and will, sometimes faceless sometimes emotional. “My Promised Land” presents Zionism as something dynamic, ever-changing, but with something constant at its heart.
We at Makom would say that the heart of Zionism is summed up in the penultimate line of Israel’s national anthem: “To be a free (Jewish) People in our land.” This line breaks down into four key values that are both simple and complex:
– to survive, and also “to be” in the sense of to relax, “just to be”
– free to take responsibility, free to grant and restrict freedoms, free to create
– connected to Jews globally, to Jewish civilization and culture
In Our Land
– the home of this collective enterprise is the “Holy Land”
- Given this understanding of Zionism’s heart, how would you say Shavit leaves you feeling about the Zionist enterprise?
- To what extent has Zionism been successful in ensuring the survival of the Jewish People?
- To what extent has Zionism been successful in enabling the Jewish People to “just be”?
- How are you left feeling about Israel’s capability to enable the Jewish People to continue To be?
- Has Zionism empowered the Jewish People to be able to make their own decisions, and decide their own fate?
- To what extent has Zionism been successful in enabling Jewish creativity?
- How are you left feeling about Israel’s capability to enable the Jewish People to continue to be free?
- To what extent has Zionism been successful in holding the Jewish People together?
- To what extent would you say Zionism has contributed to the language, culture, and values of the Jewish People?
How are you left feeling about Israel’s ongoing connection to Jewish people, civilization, and values?
“In Our Land”
- To what extent do you think that Zionism has succeeded in gathering Jews from around the world into a viable homeland?
- How do you feel about the way in which Zionism negotiated the claims of another people to the same land?
Throughout the world there is a marked reticence among young Jews to classify themselves as Zionists or to openly identify with the word Zionism. Ari Shavit has no such reticence.
- In what way would you say Shavit is a Zionist?
- How would you compare your relationship to Zionism with Shavit’s?
Israel vs Diaspora
From humble beginnings, Israeli Jews now make up (or will very soon make up) the majority of Jews in the world. This is not only due to Israeli birth-rates, but also due to dropping Jewish birth-rates in the Diaspora. The only Diaspora birth-rates that are rising, are among orthodox and ultra-orthodox.
Shavit asserts that Israel is the only chance for the long-term survival of non-orthodox Jewry. Before jumping off into discussions of the viability of Diaspora Jewry, let’s look at Shavit’s positive assertion:
- Have you ever seen Israel as the long-term solution to the continuity of non-religious Jewry?
- Do you find Shavit’s assertion challenging? Are you able to easily dismiss it?
Are you pleased to have read the book?
Are there people you particularly hope will read this book?
Are there people you particularly hope will not read this book?
What do you think about the fact that this book has not yet been published in Hebrew?
Finally, feel free to contact us for suggestions: Makom@jafi.org and read our:
“Facilitator’s guide” guide
“Working with the conversation units” guide.