Friday, January 15, 2010
The Other Zions
I wrote the Other Zions because there was a hole in the historical work about Jewish nationalism.
During over a decade of reading works on Jewish history, I came across scattered references to Jewish states, nations, kingdoms, tribes, and autonomous regions. I was suprised to find that there was not a single work about these unique Jewish communities. So, I set about to formally research this neglected area, and the result was The Other Zions: the Lost Histories of Jewish Nations, which was published by Rowman & Littlefield late last year.
The work details attempts to create Jewish autonomous political life away from the land of Israel. These examples in Jewish self-rule have been as varied as the Jewish experience. I tried to pick examples that satisfied at least three criteria: that the Jewish community be as independent as possible from foreign rule, i.e. that the state be ruled by Jews. Second, a Jewish community had a military and was capable of defending itself. Third, that the Jewish state be historically verifiable and was not some Utopian scheme that never led to any results.
In some instances, these three criteria were relaxed. Some of the examples could not be said to adhere strictly to all three. This is because of the complexities of Jewish diaspora life, and the difficulty of dealing with some of the primary sources.
That said, I believe that the work can be an important companion to any study of Jewish ethncity, nationalism, and the study of ancient and modern Jewish communities.
The Other Zions was written for a popular audience and meant to expose readers to groups of Jews who have only been written about in specialized books and professional journals. As a new pathway in Jewish history, it is my hope people will find the work illuminating.