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 Biography: Ben Gurion-The Father of Modern Israel Preview
November 25, 2014
288 P., 5 3/4" x 8 1/4"

Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel

by Anita Shapira

David Ben-Gurion cast a great shadow during his lifetime, and his legacy continues to be sharply debated to this day. There have been many books written about the life and accomplishments of the Zionist icon and founder of modern Israel, but this new biography by eminent Israeli historian Anita Shapira strives to get to the core of the complex man who would become the face of the new Jewish nation. Shapira tells the Ben-Gurion story anew, focusing especially on the period in 1948 immediately following Israel’s declaration of independence. As a result of her extensive research and singular access to Ben-Gurion’s personal archives, the author provides fascinating and original insights into his personal qualities and those that defined his political leadership. As Shapira writes, “Ben-Gurion liked to argue that history is made by the masses, not individuals. But just as Lenin brought the Bolshevik Revolution into the world and Churchill delivered a fighting Britain, so with Ben-Gurion and the Jewish state. He knew how to create and exploit the circumstances that made its birth possible.” Shapira’s portrait reveals the flesh-and-blood man who more than anyone else created the Israeli state.

2015 Silver Medal Winner for the Washington Institute Book Prize given by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Feature Review: 

"I read this fascinating book with both intellectual and emotional thrill.”—Amos Oz, author of A Tale of Love and Darkness

“Anita Shapira portrays David Ben-Gurion as a man who, at some of the most crucial junctions in the whole of Jewish history, led his people, almost alone, by his prophetic foresight, his iron resolution and his fierce sense of reality. Yet, Shapira, does not idealize her protagonist: he is portrayed in her brilliant book as a man who was often insensitive to others, ferociously stubborn and incredibly lonely. I read this fascinating book with both intellectual and emotional thrill.”—Amos Oz, author of A Tale of Love and Darkness

“The most intimate yet unflinching portrait to date of a man revered and reviled. . . . Shapira may be the last truly qualified person to unpack some of the mysteries of Israel’s George Washington.”—Ilene Prusher, New York Times Book Review

“Keenly observed . . . Ms. Shapira tries to shed light on the inner life of the man whom fellow Zionist leader Berl Katznelson called ‘history’s gift to the Jewish people.’”—Liel Leibovitz, Wall Street Journal

“A beautiful portrayal of a man of exceptional character, whose transcendent love of his people informed his vision.”—Shimon Peres, former president of Israel

“Shapira unearths new archival sources and provides fresh perspectives. A tour de force and a must read.”—Jehuda Reinharz, Brandeis University

"In her valuable new biography, Shapira provides a concise appraisal of a founding father of the nation that was once only the dream of generations.... A brief but full-color biography of an essential leader."--Kirkus Reviews

“Fair and balanced . . . Ben-Gurion created the State of Israel and set it on its path. Shapira adeptly records how he did it and chronicles the rest of his storm-tossed life, so that future generations may appreciate both his achievement and his faults.”—Rabbi Jack Reimer, JNS

“Shapira, who is part of this series’ editorial team, covers Ben-Gurion’s life story sufficiently while highlighting the attributes that led him to become what Katznelson called ‘history’s gift to the Jewish people.’”—Neal Gendler, American Jewish World

‘This is an interesting addition to Yale’s Jewish Lives series —and Shapira rightly characterises the enigmatic Ben-Gurion as both a revolutionary Jacobin and “the helmsman of the state”’—Colin Schindler, Jewish Chronicle

"A carefully delivered, nuanced examination of the life of perhaps the most important Jewish political figure of the 20th century. This is a brief but indispensable study....Essential."--Choice

"Shapira’s compact yet probing biography, part of the Jewish Lives series from Yale University Press, gives full vent to his outbursts, obstinacy, and penchant for grudge-settling....But she freely acknowledges that these traits, which would severely handicap a lesser person, proved self-incentivizing to someone with Ben-Gurion’s blazing insights, remarkable intuition, and commitment to action....Her biography will help recapture his aura, audaciousness, and appeal for the current citizens of a now robust nation whose legacy survives him."--Jewish Standard

"Anita Shapira’s concise biography of Ben-Gurion reminds us that the complex issues and factionalism of modern Israeli politics have deep roots"—David Conway, Jewish Renaissance

Anita Shapira

Anita Shapira

Anita Shapira is professor emerita at Tel Aviv University, where she has served as dean of the Faculty of Humanities and held the Ruben Merenfeld Chair for the Study of Zionism. She is a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize and her most recent book, in English, Israel: A History, won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award.