Forthcoming from Koren Publishers, Jerusalem
The Jewish People
Second Draft February 5, 2023
Forthcoming from Koren Publishers, Jerusalem
DRAFT: Please do not reproduce or circulate.
Copyright Henry Abramson 2023
(1760 BCE to 200 CE)
- The Land of Israel
- The Biblical Narrative
- The Archaeological Record
- Daily Life in Biblical Israel
- Exile and Return
- The Maccabean Revolt
- The World of the Sages
- Judaea under Roman Rule
- The Birth of Christianity
- The Roman-Jewish War
- Women in Ancient Israel
- The Jewish People Survive Antiquity
Bibliographic Essay: On Covenantal History
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)
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 henryabramson.com, 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.
ערב ט׳׳ו בשבט תשפ׳׳ג
February 5, 2023