Return to Zion The History of Modern Israel

  • Eric Gartman (author)
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About the Book

The history of modern Israel is a story of ambition, violence, and survival. Return to Zion traces how a scattered and stateless people reconstituted themselves in their traditional homeland, only to face threats by those who, during the many years of the dispersion, had come to regard the land as their home. This is a story of the “ingathering of the exiles” from Europe to an outpost on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire, of courage and perseverance, and of reinvention and tragedy.

Eric Gartman focuses on two main themes of modern Israel: reconstitution and survival. Even as new settlers built their state, they faced constant challenges from hostile neighbors and divided support from foreign governments, being attacked by larger armies no fewer than three times during the first twenty-five years of Israel’s history. Focusing on a land torn by turmoil, Return to Zion is the story of Israel—the fight for independence through the Israeli Independence War in 1948, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the near collapse of the Israeli Army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Gartman examines the roles of the leading figures of modern Israel—Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Yitzchak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon—alongside popular perceptions of events as they unfolded in the post–World War II decades. He presents declassified CIA, White House, and U.S. State Department documents that detail America’s involvement in the 1967 and 1973 wars, as well as proof that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was a case of mistaken identity. Return to Zion pulls together the myriad threads of this history from inside and out to create a seamless look into modern Israel’s truest self.


Return to Zion is a very good overview of the history of Israel. For laypersons and scholars alike, they will get a very good picture of the evolution of Israel done in a readable way and filled with insights. 

—Ambassador Dennis Ross, former director of policy planning, U.S. State Department for President George H. W. Bush, Middle East Peace envoy for President Bill Clinton and special assistant to President Barack Obama

Highly readable and engaging; a persuasive effort to explain the story of Israel—what happened and why. New data from declassified U.S. documents are welcome and illuminating.

—Daniel Mandel, ZOA Center for Middle East Policy and author of H. V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel

Eric Gartman

Eric Gartman is an intelligence analyst for the United States Department of Defense who has lived and studied in Israel and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.

Book Reviews


Read an Excerpt.

Read Jewish Book Council review and discussion questions.

Read the author's blog, Visiting Scribe, The Prosen People, on the Jewish Book Council website.

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