Author offers in-depth look at Ben-Gurion

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Most of us grew up taking the nation of Israel for granted, but for nearly 1,900 years, Israel was only a fantasy.

It was not that long ago that most Jews thought there would never be a Jewish state. Even in 1948, many Zionist leaders thought the declaration of a Jewish state should be delayed for fear of a second Holocaust, this one in Palestine.

Though Theodor Herzl may have sparked the idea of political Zionism, only David Ben-Gurion was able to bring a Jewish state to reality.

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, the community will have an opportunity to hear how daunting Ben-Gurion’s task really was, and perhaps to understand how some of the issues we confront today originated in decisions made back then.

Tom Segev, the author of “A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion,” will share highlights from his research and discuss the legends that surround Israel’s founding prime ministers. His talk will take us from the villages of Poland to the streets of Manhattan, from London hotels to the hills of Palestine.

With insights derived from previously unreleased archival material, Segev will present a full and startling portrait of a man of contradictions who sought a Jewish state “at any cost.” Segev will show a man who was neither saint nor villain, but rather an historic actor in the league of Churchill and Lenin – a 20th-century leader whose iron will and complex temperament left a complex and contentious legacy that we still reckon with today.

Segev is among Israel’s leading journalists and historians. His works include “The Seventh Million”; “1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East”; “Simon Wiesenthal”; and “One Palestine, Complete” (chosen one of the 10 best books of 2000 by The New York Times).

This free program, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Dwares JCC, 401 Elmgrove Ave., Providence, is presented by the Israel Desk of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island in cooperation with the Jewish Book Council. It is the first in this year’s Israeli Culture Series, which usually take place on the second Wednesday of each month at the Dwares JCC. The second presentation in the series, on Nov. 13, will feature Avraham Infeld, past president of Hillel International and a leader in Zionist education.  Other presentations may include films, music, food and authors.

TO RSVP or for more information, contact Or Cohen, community shlichah (Israel emissary), at ocohen@jewishallianceri.org or 401-421-4111, ext. 121.

LARRY KATZ is director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.