Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, by Daniel Gordis (Ecco, 560 pp., $29.99)
The Jews are like other people, only more so; Israel is like no other nation-state. This is the success of Zionism, and its failure. Zionism was meant to raise the Jewish people from exceptional degradation to ordinary dignity. Yet Israel is anything but ordinary.
The retreat of the European empires after 1945 led to the creation of more than a hundred new states. Only Israel has assimilated so many immigrants and fought so many wars while sustaining a liberal democracy, a free press, and an independent judiciary. Only Israel has completed the transition from an economy of raw materials — oranges and avocados — to the economy of digital knowledge. Israel now has more companies on the NASDAQ than all of Europe combined. Its GDP per capita is, with the exception of such oil oligarchies as Qatar, the highest of any postcolonial state — ahead of Japan and Italy.