Category Archives: Book Talk

Review of “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


“Not in God’s Name:  Confronting Religious Violence” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Review & Commentary by Yoel Magid “The Encyclopedia of War” surveys over 1800 conflicts and finds that less than 10% had any religious component.   Stalin and Mao and Hitler, not religious men acting in God’s name, were mass murderers of tens of millions.  But knowing that doesn’t help our ability to comprehend today what we feel when confronted by Islamic jihadists who commit barbaric …

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rise novel image

This review originally appeared in ESRA Magazine.Times are tough. A country that was established on socialist economic principles and an uncompromisingly egalitarian social structure has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor in the industrialized world. Twenty super-rich families now effectively own and control the nation’s wealth and resources. The government, once run by secular liberal intellectuals, is now in the hands of a coalition of far-right politicians and …

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Zionism / What are we doing here?


The Accidental Zionist: What a Priest, a Pornographer and a Wrestler Named Chainsaw Taught Me about being Jewish, Saving the World and Why Israel Matters to Both,

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Transforming America’s Israel Lobby


Barely a week after Benjamin Netanyahu had his first meeting as Prime Minister with Barack Obama, the two are squaring off publicly over the issue of “natural growth” in West Bank settlements. One of the more interesting circumstances about this confrontation has been the silence of the Jewish groups who are thought of as constituting the “Israel Lobby.”In 2007, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt brought all the theorizing and debating over the role of the “Israel Lobby” in US …

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Wake Up and Smell the Planet


WHAT DO WE DO NOW? Wake Up and Smell the Planet: The Non-Pompous, Non-Preachy Grist Guide to Greening Your Day by Mountaineers Books, 175 pages, $15 (paperback) Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living by Graham Hill and Meghan O’Neill Villard, 240 pages, $15 (paperback) Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life by Ed Begley, Jr. Clarkson Potter, 240 pages, $18 (paperback) An Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth” and a Nobel Prize are …

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Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States

In this era of superheated rhetoric and vitriolic exchanges between the leaders of Iran and Israel, the threat of nuclear violence looms. But the real roots of the enmity between the two nations mystify Washington policymakers, and no promising pathways to peace have emerged. This book traces the shifting relations among Israel, Iran, and the United States from 1948 to the present, uncovering for the first time the details of secret alliances, treacherous acts, and unsavory political …

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Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic

“Takeyh asserts that Americans have grossly misunderstood the complex realities of Iranian political life. As opposed to the image frequently shown in America—a monolithic government controlled by clerical fanatics—Takeyh presents a far more nuanced picture. Despite the recent electoral triumphs of conservative ideologies, Iran remains torn between those who seek a more secular, pluralistic state and those who hope to maintain rigid authoritarianism. The outcome is far from …

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Lords of the Land: The War for Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007

Lords of the Landtells the tragic story of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of the 1967 war and Israel’s devastating victory over its Arab neighbors, catastrophe struck both the soul and psyche of the state of Israel. Based on years of research, and written by one of Israel’s leading historians and journalists, this involving narrative focuses on the settlers themselves — often fueled by messianic zeal but also inspired by the original Zionist …

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Origins of Democratic Socialism in Israel: Foundations and Leadership

The Origins of Democratic Socialism in Israel: Foundations and Leadership, covers the Socialist-Zionist history of Israel, with a focus on  communal organizations in the pioneering settlement waves of Israel, as well as other significant, related topics. The book addresses the Jewish Revolutionary youth groups in Russia, Poland and the Ukraine, who as pioneers in Israel established the kvuzot (small, self-sufficient communal groups of 10-12 people), the kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) and …

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A Woman in Jerusalem

Too often we find ourselves forced to reconcile our humanity with our actions. One might even regard this predicament – the need to atone for our inhumanities – as one of Israel’s steepest hurdles in its path towards peace. In A Woman in Jerusalem, humanity is subjective, and its appearance – as a bakery in the middle of a public relations debacle – takes many divergent turns. Thus, over the course of the novel, a variety of conflicting human ideals are revealed. As he describes …

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