Jews, God and History is a comprehensive account of the 4000-year history of the Jewish people, the origin of their faith and their journey from ancient Palestine to all corners of the world till the making of modern Israel. Max Dimont intertwines their history with that of the civilizations of the time, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, to the middle ages and the modern world to tell the story of how a people survived the rise and fall of so many empires. From Abraham and the birth of the Jewish faith in Canaan -- present day Palestine -- a place that the Jews called their promised land, Dimont traces their wanderings in and out of this land till the nation of Israel was born in 1948.
The first wandering occurred when the descendents of Abraham moved from Canaan to Egypt where they were eventually held in captivity as slaves until the arrival of Moses. For the early years of Jewish history, Dimont has relied on the Old Testament. He therefore has had to speculate on what the real situations might have been. For instance, Moses might have been a Jew or an Egyptian prince who though a non-Jew found takers for his monotheistic religion among the Jewish slaves and set about spreading his faith and fighting for their freedom. Freed from Egyptian slavery, the Jewish people came back to Canaan where the Palestinian civilization flourished under David, Solomon and other kings for almost 700 years, until 600 B.C. when Assyrian conquerors took them captive into Babylon. When Babylon was conquered by the Persians and Jews were set free by the Persian king Cyrus, their second wandering ended with their return to Jerusalem around 400-500 B.C. Under the Greeks, the Jews fought for their freedom and established a Jewish kingdom, which was short lived as the Romans annexed it to their empire. The Roman rule lasted from 100 BC to around 200 AD and, when it collapsed, it scattered Jews to all corners of the empire. This was the third wandering, which ended with the United Nations mandate to establish the modern state of Israel.
One of the greatest Jews of all time, whose teachings have had immense ramifications on human history and civilization, gets only a brief mention in this book. Joshua Mashiah, who is known to the world as Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian faith, was born a Jew in the Promised Land during the Roman rule. Dimont, however, cites documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls to show that Christianity might have existed as a reformation movement among the Jewish people before the birth of Christ. The author also contests the prevalent story that blames Christís crucifixion on Jews who were against his temple reforms and lays the blame on the Roman rulers of the time. It is unlikely, he says, that Pontius Pilate who ordered that Christ be crucified did so to pacify the Jews rather than out of his own cruelty. This seems possible, given that Roman governors were known for their harsh and cruel treatment towards their subjects and would hardly be expected to be merciful and kind towards a Jew.
The author also discusses the spread of Judaism to different parts of Europe and the Arab world. With the fall of Rome and the invasions of barbarians into Europe, Jews moved into Europe and, with the rise of Islam, into the Arab world. The fact that the Jewish Golden Age occurred in the Arab world and under the Ottoman Empire should serve as a beacon to resolve the present day Israeli-Arab conflict.
How did the Jews survive the centuries away from their land and yet maintain their culture and faith? The answer, according to Dimont, lies in the Torah and the Talmud, the religious books that were instruments of Jewish learning and survival. From the times of their earliest wanderings, the Jewish people developed a systematic body of institutions, scholars and lawmakers who wrote, amended and reinterpreted the laws governing Jews and kept them together as a unified body and cohesive community. So well spread was education among the Jews that they were in the forefront of Renaissance and Modern age in Europe. Modern Judaism was full with figures like Spinoza, Freud, Zunz and Marx, scientists like Einstein, Meitner, Fermi and Bohr, painters like Chagall, Soutine and Pissario, statesman like Disraeli (Prime Minister of England) and Leon Blum (French premier).
The ages-old desire for a homeland came at a tremendous cost to the Jewish people. The anti-Semitic feeling that was sweeping across Europe eventually culminated into the horrors of the Second World War, which decimated millions of Jews, and finally resulted in the creation of a Jewish homeland.
Overall Max Dimont has done a commendable job in documenting in great detail, with fascinating analysis and reasoning, the story of the Jewish people