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? (more…)

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My Promised Land – working with the conversation units

The conversation units

We have created for you eight individual discussion units based on particular chapters of the book. You can work with these units in a nine-part series of meetings that culminate in the Whole Book Discussion, or you can work with the units as individual stand-alone modules.

For each discussion you will need

  • to have read the book yourself…
  • for everyone attending the discussion to have read the particular chapter under discussion AND Chapter One – At First Sight (this first chapter offers crucial context) – no short cuts!
  • You need to have worked through the guide, making decisions for yourself.
  • You are welcome to print out any of the materials you wish. You can also run the entire session carbon-free.
  • a quiet, well-lit room with comfortable seating for the discussion itself.
  • a flip-chart or white board. (more…)

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My Promised Land – Provocative Facilitation

Here are some of what we may call the principles of provocative facilitation, in no particular order:

  • Dialogue is not consensus
  • Comfort must be hard-won, not worshipped
  • Learning means going to visit
  • Push for “authentic speech”
  • We live with questions that can’t be answered (more…)

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First Conversation Chapter Two: Into the Valley, 1921


מפת ישראלThis chapter focuses specifically on the Harod valley, (the south eastern part of the Yizrael valley), populated by a few poor Arab villages before Zionism arrived there in the Autumn of 1921. For centuries the valley had been sparsely populated and lightly farmed. A place of brackish water and disease. Shavit describes the new situation of Eastern European Jews and of Zionism at the end of the First World War.  The crisis of the former had become much more acute and the forces awakening in the Zionist movement had responded with more radical and widespread solutions, including the idea of large scale settlement in the Yizrael (Jezreel) valley, a valley that resonated with Biblical memory. (more…)

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Second Conversation Chapter Four: Masada, 1942


Masada in 1942 lies at the center of the chapter symbolically but Shavit’s narrative begins in the violent years of the Arab revolt of 1936 to 1939. These three years of almost unrelenting terror put Jew clearly against Arab and made it impossible for the Jews to maintain any kind of blindness to the Arab question that so many had exhibited up till then. In Shavit’s description, the 1936 campaign brought about a toughening of the Jewish psyche, a final realization that non-violent confrontation would be impossible.


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Third Conversation Chapter Five: Lydda 1948


“Lydda 1948” takes us to another valley, the Lydda valley in the centre of the country and tells the story of the Zionist development of the valley from the first initiatives before the First World War through to the deportation of the inhabitants of Arab Lydda in the course of the 1948 war. (more…)

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Fourth Conversation Chapter Six: Housing Estate 1957


In chapter six, Shavit chronicles a time when the population more than doubled as hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into the young country. The majority of immigrants came from great trauma, whether the trauma of the Shoah or the trauma of radical and sudden dislocation from Arab lands. Through four personal stories, three from central and eastern Europe and one from Iraq, Shavit leads us into the lives of some of the traumatised Jews who arrived in the country in these years. (more…)

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Fifth Conversation Chapter Eight: Settlement 1975


Shavit opens his chapter on settlement by exploring the effects of the 1967 and the 1973 wars. The Six Day war of 1967 brought Israeli control of the territories and liberated a potential messianic force within the ranks of religious Zionism. The 1973 war was a war of deep trauma for Israel and the eventual victory could not change the deep discontent regarding the war, the government and indeed, the entire leadership. A malaise was revealed and the country went into a kind of spiritual tailspin. Many sought new directions and new certainties. It is in the contrasting but cumulative effects of these two wars that Shavit locates the roots of the whole settlement enterprise. (more…)

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Sixth Conversation Chapter Ten: Peace 1993


Similar to the settlement chapter, this chapter is structured around a series of conversations with central figures in the peace movement. At the center stand three leading figures, Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin and Amos Oz with others ranged around them. Shavit, who himself played a central role in that movement, becomes an active participant in the conversations, arguing with them and accusing them of misleading the movement by concentrating on the post-67 territories, and promoting the possibility of gaining peace in exchange for a return of the territories. (more…)

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Seventh Conversation Chapter Eleven: J’accuse 1999


ארי7This chapter deals with the rise of the Oriental Jews (Mizrachim) in a process that began in the early 1970’s but rose to its zenith in the 90’s and the first years of the new millennium.  Most chapters in this book do not have one star figure, but in this chapter, there is no mistaking the star, Aryeh Deri, the founder and old-new leader of the Shas party, the traditional/Charedi Mizrachi  political party that first appeared in 1984 winning four seats in the Knesset, a number that had grown to 17 seats (450,000 votes) by 1999.

Shas was the first major Mizrachi political party.  It rode on a ticket of ethnic Mizrachi pride and traditional religious observance – everything that pre and early state Zionism was not. Deri, whose meteoric rise to power electrified the society as a whole, was later jailed for corruption.  Shavit’s story and interview with Deri tries to understand what that rise and fall represented to the community of non-Ashkenazi Jews in Israel. (more…)

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