The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BCE – 1492 CE (The Story of the Jews #1) by Simon Schama

‘In the beginning…’

A chance conversation led me to borrow this book from the library. I wanted to get behind the vague knowledge drifting within my memory to a more factual appreciation of Jewish history.

In this book Mr Schama starts with Elephantine, a Jewish garrison town dating from the 5th century BCE. Elephantine, which I had never heard of, is an island in the Nile River. I kept reading, some of the details reinforced my existing knowledge, others contradicted it. Why, I wondered, did the Jews return to Egypt? The more I read, the more I stepped away from the mythology (part of my Christian upbringing) and into Jewish participation in the world. I met scholars and poets, physicians, and philosophers. I became immersed in a world that I can appreciate without fully understanding. I admire the endurance and creativity displayed by Jewish people despite centuries of bigotry and persecution.

This book finishes in 1492, with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. I intend to read the second book (‘When Words Fail’) as well.

I finished this book with a greater appreciation of aspects of Jewish history albeit overwhelmed (at times) by the detail.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

One thought on “The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BCE – 1492 CE (The Story of the Jews #1) by Simon Schama

  1. I think I’ve got the DVD of this somewhere.
    I think Schama is generally more digestible on TV though I absolutely loved, loved, loved his Landscape and Memory and recommend it to anybody travelling to Europe with plans to visit palaces etc.
    (Which is nobody at the moment, of course…)

    Liked by 1 person

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