Featured Book: The Invention of the Jewish People

Shlomo Sand’s study of Jewish historiography “elicited a thunderous response that has yet to abate,” Michael Berkowitz declares in Reviews in History. It’s a book that’s “intended, from the title onwards, to be provocative,” The Guardian’s Jonathan Wittenberg agrees, adding, “But the book is a great disappointment.” For Repercussions & Reflections, Paul Atwood says otherwise: “I found this book stunning.” Read it, and decide for yourself who’s right.

The book is bent on “demolishing the myths of Jewishness on which both communal identity and Israeli state policies rest,” Stephen Howe told readers of the UK’s Independent. It’s as the publisher declares, the author “dismantles the founding myth of the Jewish homeland.” Howe again: “The core of Sand’s historical case is that the whole story is…a very elaborate fiction, supported by hordes of eminent scholars….” Sand contends that the Jewish people “are not really a ‘people’ in the sense of having a common ethnic origin and national heritage,” Leon Hadar writes in Middle East Policy.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Sand holds a distinguished professorship in history at Tel Aviv University. Even with such credentials, he has been “roundly criticized in some quarters,” Atwood reports, “for this meticulous and comprehensive study.”

The Invention of the Jewish People
By Shlomo Sand [translation by Yael Lotan]
Verso, 2020 [first published in Hebrew, 2008]