A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS' CHOICE
A SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE BESTSELLER
In AD 70, when the Second Temple was destroyed, a handful of visionaries saved Judaism by reinventing it, taking what had been a national religion and turning it into an idea. Whenever a Jew studied—wherever he was—he would be in the holy city, and his faith preserved. But in our own time, Zionists have turned the book back into a temple, and unlike an idea, a temple can be destroyed. With exuberance, humor, and real scholarship, Israel is Real offers "a serious attempt by a gifted storyteller to enliven and elucidate Jewish religious, cultural, and political history . . . A powerful narrative" (Los Angeles Times).
Most great cities have a reason for being where they are, and doing what they do. Either they sit at the confluence of great rivers, at the head of a mountain pass, on the shore of a canal, on a trade route or a railroad crossing or a superhighway, but Jerusalem, as far as anyone can tell, has no reason for being where it is—at the edge of the desert, on a hill surrounded by identical hills, guarding nothing but itself, doing nothing but being Jerusalem.
Is it the oldest city in the world?
No. Jericho is older. But it’s in that same league, from
Rich Cohen, contributing editor at both Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, talks about why celebrities matter.
On why you have to take writing head-on.
The author's favorite books of all time.
“Accomplishes the miraculous. It made a subject that has vexed me since early childhood into a riveting story . . . by narrating the oft-told saga of the Jews in a fresh and engaging fashion. Provocative and entertaining … Cohen brings tough love to Judaism and modern Israel.”—Tony Horowitz, The New York Times Book Review
“Cohen is a masterful and slyly provocative writer who marches boldly into the most controversial issues posed by the existence of Israel. Blending historical narrative with contemporary reportage, Israel Is Real makes an argument that cannot be ignored. Along the way, Cohen establishes himself as being among the most talented essayists of his generation.”—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill
“A fascinating big-picture account of Israel from its distant past to what happened last week. Rich Cohen tells this story central to mankind with skill, passion, common sense, and wit.”—Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains
“Rich Cohen’s passionate, engaged, thoroughly modern book is—dare I say—a revelation.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
“The best book I’ve ever read about Israel (that troubled state), and the last word on it: all the stories, all the figures, all the fires, all the battles, all the exiles, all the personalities, all the strikes, and all the gutters. Rich Cohen has delivered the full big thing, a monumental book, the best I’ve read and expect to read for a long time. As the priests in the old city would say, it has hava: it’s full of life.”—David Lipsky, author of Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point
“Nobody has yet written about our Middle East heartbreak with such range and lucidity. Rich Cohen has kept an account of the wanderings; he’s kept a record of the tears. Israel Is Real is the definitive book on Israel.”—Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng
“Rich Cohen’s book creates a vibrant portrait that offers reasons Israel—surrounded by those who want to exterminate it—deserves to survive.”—Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler
An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History