Monday, April 30, 2018
In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands Before Israel Hardcover – December 12, 2014 by Adam L. Rovner (NYU Press)
Equipped with verve and an eye for the absurd detail, Adam Rovner set out across continents and into archives to recover the story of a time when desperation, imagination, and a sheer unwillingness to surrender to reality led some Jews to consider alternate Zions in unlikely corners of the globe. The result is a colorful and offbeat contribution to our understanding of modern Jewish history and of the fevered milieu out of which the state of Israel was born."
"Travel down some of the lesser-known roads to Jerusalem with an expert guide. Few books that claim the power to radically change the reader's worldview deliver on that promise. This informed investigation of several unexplored avenues of Jewish history actually does it. By examining six seldom-discussed attempts to settle a Jewish state outside of Israel, Rovner (English and Jewish Literature/Univ. of Denver) shows how the world might have looked had any of these plans come to fruition. Had the Jewish homeland developed in Angola, Suriname or Grand Island, New York—all considered candidates at one time—how might Jewish history, and world history, have turned out differently? The author meticulously follows in the footsteps of the visionary authors, rabbis and politicians who led hopeful expeditions to far-flung corners of the globe on just such a quest. Rovner writes clearly and precisely, providing a solid historical and geographical context, which he intersperses with personal narratives from his own travels that offer more intimate looks at the landscape and cultures of these countries."-From the late nineteenth century through the post-Holocaust era, the world was divided between countries that tried to expel their Jewish populations and those that refused to let them in. The plight of these traumatized refugees inspired numerous proposals for Jewish states. Jews and Christians, authors and adventurers, politicians and playwrights, and rabbis and revolutionaries all worked to carve out autonomous Jewish territories in remote and often hostile locations across the globe. The would-be founding fathers of these imaginary Zions dispatched scientific expeditions to far-flung regions and filed reports on the dream states they planned to create. But only Israel emerged from dream to reality. Israel’s successful foundation has long obscured the fact that eminent Jewish figures, including Zionism’s prophet, Theodor Herzl, seriously considered establishing enclaves beyond the Middle East.
In the Shadow of Zion brings to life the amazing true stories of six exotic visions of a Jewish national home outside of the biblical land of Israel. It is the only book to detail the connections between these schemes, which in turn explain the trajectory of modern Zionism. A gripping narrative drawn from archives the world over, In the Shadow of Zion recovers the mostly forgotten history of the Jewish territorialist movement, and the stories of the fascinating but now obscure figures who championed it.
Provocative, thoroughly researched, and written to appeal to a broad audience, In the Shadow of Zion offers a timely perspective on Jewish power and powerlessness.