In this overview of Israel's half century of existence, Hohenberg draws on newspaper accounts, memoirs of major players in Middle East politics and standard historical works, as well as a personal cache of memories, letters, notes and diaries, to teach a lesson in the intricacies of international diplomacy. Although he reflects the rather miraculous circumstances of the Israel's creation, he also gives a dutiful and dispassionate record of the failures as well as the successes of Israel's political leaders. For example, Hohenberg is brave enough to recount how quickly the afterglow of the Six-Day War subsided following the debacle of the Yom Kippur War. The writing is clear and, at times, crisp. However, this historical survey of Israel is hardly comprehensive, leaning too heavily on the traditional treatment of Israeli history as a series of Arab-Israeli wars. Economic matters, social issues and movements, and religious factionalism receive too little attention. Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of this study is Hohenberg's focus on the United Nations' role in Israel's development. As one of several histories out on the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary, Hohenberg's study holds up well though it will not lead the pack.
Ofrat, an Israeli art critic, breaks new ground in this history of Israeli art. He begins his survey with the religious and folk art of nineteenth-century Palestine, the foundation on which Israel is built, then strides into the twentieth century and the emergence of the first phase of socially conscious art, the Bezalel school and its utopian Zionist images. With the rise in European immigration, seeds of the avant-garde art of Paris arrived in Palestine, where they flourished not in the sacred city of Jerusalem but in the more secular and receptive city of Tel Aviv. Those cities have become emblematic of the two poles of Israel's highly politicized art: the faction that has valued art not as forms of personal expression but as manifestations of the Jewish experience and the collective community, paving the way for kibbutz realism, and its opposite, seen most clearly in the postwar "lyrical abstract" movement. Ofrat's chronicle of the evolution of Israeli art is a means of tracing the conception and birth of the nation itself.