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A Chronology of Israel - a review

By Adrian Wolff

2008. Soft Cover, 359 pgs. $49, NIS 189. ISBN 978-0-9798140-0-7.

Reviewed by Carl Hoffman

Before we go any further, I would like to make one thing clear. I am writing this review exclusively for those who are interested in the history of Israel. That is absolutely the only sort of people I want to deal with here—an audience of history lovers and anyone fascinated with our nation's past. I would like everyone who is not a history enthusiast to please stop reading this article and go on to the next page. That's right. All of you…please leave. Everyone. NOW.

Are they gone? Good. Well, fellow historians, now that we are alone, I want to announce the recent appearance of a wonderful resource for anyone seriously interested in the history of Israel from prehistoric times to the present day. A Chronology of Israel by Adrian Wolff fills a longstanding gap in the published material about our nation's history and provides us with an important new tool in making sense of more than 10,000 years of Israel's lengthy and complicated past.

Nothing can be quite as overwhelming as a thick, comprehensive, chapter-by-chapter history book about someplace with a very long history. A conventional, narrative, analytical history of, say China, can often leave the reader oversaturated and confused. No matter how clear or well-written, such a book—covering thousands of years of history—often leaves the lay reader unable to remember the names of all of the dynasties, confused about what happened when, unable to distinguish between the Mongols and the Manchus, and fuzzy about which dynasty came first, the Ming or the Ch'ing. Plodding through the many twists and turns of Chinese history, the reader finds him or herself wishing for a straightforward framework of basic events—often nothing more complicated than a list of the various periods of Chinese history and some simple bullet-pointed statements of what happened in each period.

The thousand year history of Ancient Rome, to provide another example, becomes much more intelligible if we see it within the chronological framework of the founding and rise of the city, the early republic, the spread of Roman power throughout Italy, the spread of Roman hegemony throughout the Mediterranean, the last days of the republic,the establishment and spread of the Roman empire, and the empire's decline and fall.

Whatever information or analysis we read in a narrative history thus becomes more meaningful as we understand it within the context of its particular historical period.

In A Chronology of Israel, Adrian Wolff provides us such a framework and much, much more. A professional tour guide in Israel with a lifelong fascination with history, Wolff schematically lays out 27 successive periods of Israel's history and presents a year-by-year timeline of events within each. Every person, place, incident and idea involved in these timelines is clearly identified and explained. Almost as though he could anticipate the reader's natural tendency to become confused, Wolff provides charts and detailed explanations of such mind-benders as the several Crusades and the various types of Moslem regimes—Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuk, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman—that held sway over this land during different periods of history.

Also helpful are several shaded boxes of text strategically placed within their appropriate periods of time that explain such things as the basic tenets of Islam, Christian theology, a historical and religious profile of the Druze and various national covenants and international treaties. A full complement of maps, charts, statistical tables, appendices and color photographs round out this very important new book.

A Chronology of Israel is not a book for beginners, nor should it be read instead of conventional narrative history. Wolff's compendium should rather be read alongside a narrative history and then kept within easy reach as a detailed reference book thus far unequalled by any similar work of which I am aware. Wolff has provided us with a major contribution to the study of Israel's history, and his book is simply a "must have" for anyone wishing to truly gain a grasp of this broad and complicated subject.

The book is available directly from the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at Bestsellers, Kfar Shmaryahu commercial center. 

 

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