Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review of the Other Zions: the lost histories of Jewish Nations

The Zionist movement viewed the establishment of a Jewish state as a remedy for Jewish “powerlessness.” In the late nineteenth century, Jews seemed condemned to exist as a despised minority within Christian or Islamic cultures. This well-done and revealing study shows that, even after the final, futile revolt against Roman rule in Judea in the first century, A.D., Jews exercised sovereignty in several regions outside the traditional Jewish homeland. Some of these Jewish states have already been well documented by primary sources; others are shrouded in legend, but their existence is credible. Maroney acknowledges the difficulty in separating fact from fiction and avoids unwarranted speculation. The Khazars, a Turkic people, established a state in the Caspian region and made Judaism their state religion in the ninth century. They may even have attempted missionary work in the emerging Russian state. In the Arabian peninsula, Jewish tribes controlled strips of territory but were overwhelmed by the Islamic tide in the seventh century. This is an informative and surprising examination of some obscure aspects of Jewish history.

— Jay Freeman

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