The Development of a Nation
A review of The Hope Fulfilled: The Rise of Modern Israel, by Leslie Stein, Praeger Publishers, 2003, $29.95
By Jacqueline Shields
The Hope Fulfilled provides a historical account of the complicated events from the late 1800's that led up to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. Although a multitude of books have been written on this subject, Stein adds to the literature by writing a book that is much lighter than other history books that recount this time. Stein explores the events, and offers details on them, but the book is written in a very readable manner, making it more accessible to the lay person. In addition to the history that Stein provides, charts, photographs and maps are included that help to depict points and enable the reader to gain a better understanding of the people and their lives in Palestine at the turn of the twentieth century and in the early half of the 1900's.
A highlight of the book is Stein's chapter on the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl. In this section, the author discusses the life and actions of Herzl in great depth and shows his dedication to Zionism and its growth into a political movement to establish a national homeland in Palestine. Stein follows his trips and meetings in great detail, and I felt I knew and understood Herzl better from these descriptions. Another perk of the book is the discussion of the Balfour Declaration. Stein traces the path in great detail that led Lord Balfour to engineer one of the most controversial and debated declarations in history.
Despite the detail of certain historical events, in an attempt to be more readable and a bit more of a pop-culture book than a historical textbook, there is a lack of analysis of events, especially with relation to the conflicts between the Jews and the Arab population living in the region at the time of the aliyot movements. Stein states in the preface that he wishes to remain “balanced;” however, by remaining neutral he leaves gaps in the book and raises many significant questions that are not addressed. Stein writes of the increase in tension between the Arabs and the Jews, but when the jump is suddenly made from tension to violence and pogroms by the Arabs against the Jews, he does not explain why this suddenly occurred. I found myself asking, what caused the Arabs to become so vitriolic towards the Jews? He offers the theory that it was the mass immigration of Jews from Europe that angered the Arabs, yet he also comments that, at least initially, Jews and Arabs lived quite separately and had little impact on each other's life. Further, since Stein contends for the majority of the book that the Arabs were angered with the Jews because they were moving to the Arab land and taking it away from them, why do the Arab countries join forces together to attack Israel after the UN Partition in 1948? The Jews were not taking the land from Syria, Egypt, and Transjordan, so why did they attack Israel? Stein does not answer any of these important questions, and by ignoring them, detracts from the account.
Another criticism of the book is that Stein provides no explanation of the Jewish claim to the land of Israel. He assumes that the reader knows why Jews wanted to return to this region; however, by neglecting to mention the Jewish claim to the land, it appears that the Jews randomly chose Palestine to move to, and that the Jews were invading a historically Arab land and displacing them. By leaving out the Jewish claim, he provides no context in which to understand the mass Jewish emigrations from Europe to Israel.