The Jewish People: A History Volume I Completed!

Forthcoming from Koren Publishers, Jerusalem

The Jewish People

A History

Second Draft February 5, 2023

Forthcoming from Koren Publishers, Jerusalem

Henry Abramson

DRAFT: Please do not reproduce or circulate.

Copyright Henry Abramson 2023

Volume One: Biblical Israel

(1760 BCE to 200 CE)


  1. The Land of Israel
  2. The Biblical Narrative
  3. The Archaeological Record
  4. Daily Life in Biblical Israel
  5. Exile and Return
  6. The Maccabean Revolt
  7. The World of the Sages
  8. Judaea under Roman Rule
  9. The Birth of Christianity
  10. The Roman-Jewish War
  11. Women in Ancient Israel
  12. The Jewish People Survive Antiquity

Bibliographic Essay: On Covenantal History

Photo Credits


Imagine that, while browsing in the library, you come across one book unlike the rest, which catches your eye because on its spine is written the name of your family. Intrigued, you open it and see many pages written by different hands in many languages. You start reading it, and gradually you begin to understand what it is. It is the story each generation of your ancestors has told for the sake of the next, so that everyone born into this family can learn where they came from, what happened to them, what they lived for and why. As you turn the pages, you reach the last, which carries no entry but a heading. It bears your name.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020)


Hannah Szenes

Leaping into the open sky with not much more than a canvas parachute and a British radio strapped to her back, Hannah Szenes plummeted into Nazi-occupied Europe. Born to a Hungarian-Jewish family in Budapest, she had already made her escape from the Holocaust by immigrating to Israel in September 1939. Despite securing her personal safety in the land of Israel, she could not resist the call to help her endangered people: in 1943 she was among 240 volunteers for a dangerous program operating behind enemy lines. Thirty-two of the bravest, including three women, were ultimately selected for the mission. Hannah was twenty-three years old.

She was captured shortly after infiltrating Hungarian territory. Tortured and abused, she stubbornly refused to reveal the radio transmitter codes, protecting her comrades with her very life. After months of brutality, her frustrated and cowardly captors finally executed her by firing squad on November 7, 1944. She refused the blindfold.

Hannah Szenes (pronounced Senesh) is remembered not only for her courage, but for her poetry, including the moving “Blessed is the Match,” which she penned while on her mission. Among her poems is the characteristically brief “There are Stars.” 

There are Stars

Whose light reaches the earth when they themselves are gone and no more

There are people

Whose radiance illuminates when they themselves are gone and no longer among us

These lights — 

Brilliant in the dark of night — 

They kindle for humanity the lights along the path.

Her metaphor is at once both cosmic and historical. Just as there are stars in the night sky whose radiance is reflective of the brilliance they exuded many light-years ago, only reaching and illuminating the earth eons later, so too are there people who lived centuries ago, yet their influence is still felt as immediately as one perceives the stars in the night sky. 

The goal of The Jewish People: A History is to provide a constellation map to the broad swath of stars that continue to “kindle for humanity the lights along the path.” This book is introductory in tone, assuming that most readers will have only some familiarity with the scope of some 4000 years of history, although it is hoped that more specialized readers will also benefit. To strike this balance between a popular and a scholarly book the footnotes have been displaced from print to a digital home at, which will have the added advantages of allowing readers to provide feedback and me the possibility of adding the occasional correction and update. 

Translations are generally my own, with the exception of Biblical verses and passages from the Babylonian Talmud, which are taken from the Koren Tanakh Magerman Edition and the Noé Edition of the Koren Talmud Bavli, respectively. Dates are provided in the standard Gregorian calendar, with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE) used instead of BC and AD. The names of geographic locations, a source of perennial dispute, are generally provided using anachronistic terms familiar to contemporary readers. The middle eastern home of the Jewish people is rendered as the Land of Israel, distinguishing it from the post-1948 State of Israel, or simply Israel.


Lawrence NY

ערב ט׳׳ו בשבט תשפ׳׳ג

February 5, 2023

Was there a Jewish Dark Age, and Are the Lemba of South Africa Genetically Jewish?

This is a really fascinating topic.

Premieres at 11am ET.

Here’s a brief follow-up presentation related to The Jews of Africa lecture. Enjoy in good health!

Was there a Jewish Dark Age?

Recording of live lecture available to Channel Members at the Researcher and Colleague levels.

A “studio” version–meaning a recording of me talking into my iMac–is forthcoming, once I have a few moments to concentrate. For now, here’s the unedited/uncensored recording of the live lecture for Channel Members.

Big News Coming Next Week

Don’t want to say just what yet. But it’s big, like years in the making big.

Jewish Life in the (not so) Dark Ages; Is Printing a Jewish Invention? Babatha: The Jewish Mom of Ancient Times

Final Episode of Season One, and it’s PHENOMENAL.

I feel so honored to have worked with this amazing team at Unpacked on the Jewish History Unpacked podcast. We are thrilled that it has received such a positive response, ranking #1 in Judaism podcasts for the first few weeks and remaining in the top ten ever since. Please check out how Schwab and Yael explore the amazing history of Babatha, a 2nd-century woman who found herself caught up in the Bar Kochba rebellion. It’s a jaw-dropper. Click here to hear the whole series:

Is Printing a Jewish Invention? Maybe not (but it should be)

Premieres at 10:00 am ET with live chat. Join us for a conversation about this amazing new discovery!

Jewish Life in the (not so) Dark Ages (new lecture series!)

Live classes open to the Five Towns community and YILC membership, Zoom link for YouTube Channel Members (Colleagues) available on the Community Tab. Revised recordings forthcoming.

Jewish Life in the (Not So) Dark Ages (New Series begins January 25); Eternal Outsider: The Uriel D’Acosta Story; The Saga of Dutch Jewry premieres today at 12pm ET

Can’t wait to discuss this fascinating but little-studied period of Jewish history!

Live at YILC, Zoom link available to YouTube Colleague members, edited recordings later.

Yael and Schwab discuss the tragic story of Uriel D’acosta in this amazing episode of Jewish History Unpacked

The Saga of Dutch Jewry

Premieres at 12 noon ET

Really pleased to speak to some of my amazing Touro University students at the Yeshiva of South Florida last week! Here’s a photo with Rabbi Simcha Shabtai.

The Jews of India and China; Radhanites as the First Kosher Cruisers; The Hebrew Hammer; The Synagogue and the Church Emergent

What an amazing history!

Premieres today at 11:00 am ET

Who Were the Radhanites?

A quick look at this remarkable group of 9th-century world travelers! (The first kosher cruisers?)

The Hebrew Hammer: The True Story of Hanukkah

Spoiler alert: this is maybe not the Hanukkah Podcast you were expecting.

The Synagogue and the Church Emergent (Jewish Encounter with Rome series)

Channel members.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: