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In the Shadow of Zion

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In the Shadow of Zion

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In the Shadow of Zion
Promised Lands Before Israel
By Adam Rovner
NYU Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4798-1748-1

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - April 13, 2015

In addition to Israel, many locations around the world were proposed as a possible homeland for the worlds Jews. These locations were as diverse as Grand Island, New York and Uasin Gishu in East Africa, to locations in Angola, Madagascar, Tasmania, Suriname, Uganda, and many more. While these locations may have served as a refuge for the world's Jews, they did not have the same connection, or touch the hearts and souls of world Jewry, as Israel did and still does. Therefore, none of these proposed second-best options were ever acted upon.

In In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands Before Israel, Adam Rovner provides a well researched and eye-opening examination of several of these proposed homelands. Over the course of this examination, Rovner not only explores why these varied locations where proposed, but also their advantages and disadvantages for both the Jewish people who might settle there, and the local inhabitants. Rovner also details the various personages, Jewish and non-Jewish, who were instrumental in proposing, exploring, and deciding upon the viability of these potential homelands. Most enlightening of all, he also explores the political machinations associated with each proposal and why each was eventually discarded.

In this book, Rovner concentrates on six of lesser-known promised lands that were proposed, namely the locations in Grand Island, New York, the Uasin Gishu Plateau in East Africa (which covers a large swath of modern day Kenya), Angola, Madagascar, Tasmania, and Suriname. Most of these locations were kept on the proverbial drawing board for years. Along the way he also touches upon some unique areas that were proposed, but where quickly rejected such as Cyrenaica (located in modern Libya), northern Rhodesia, and the hinterlands of Paraguay.

Covering a time period from 1818 to 1948, In the Shadow of Zion provides a keen window into Jewish history and Zionist thoughts, in regard to the desperate need of a Jewish homeland well before the Holocaust began. In the course of this study, Rovner also provides a glimpse into the mind set of many political entities, such as the British, Ottomans, and Portuguese in regard to their feeling toward the establishment of some sort of Jewish homeland.

This book includes extensive endnotes and an excellent bibliography. It is ideal for both those with a general interest in Jewish history as well as for academicians. The text is written in an engaging narrative style that makes it accessible to everyone, high school age and above and it is an ideal for use as a supplemental text in university level classes on Jewish history, Zionism, and 20th century history. This book also deserves a place in all school and public libraries.

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