Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands
Thanks to Rabbi N.S. Liss, Highgate Synagogue
Celebrated author and historian Sir Martin Gilbert’s latest book is an interesting and enlightening read. Adorned with photos, maps and appendices, the book is essentially divided into two – the first half deals with pre-19th century history (i.e. pre-Zionism and Jewish aspirations to return to the Land of Israel), the second from the late 19th century to today. It covers every facet of Muslim-Jewish interactions from the inception of Islam and the dhimma to the fate of Jews in Arab lands post 1948. While Gilbert certainly includes accounts of awful persecution and intolerance towards Jews, he also refers to touching episodes of mutual co-operation and friendship between Jews and their Muslim hosts. As with the other Gilbert books I’ve read, he packs lots of information into a readable and accessible text. Recommended, particularly for those Ashkenazim like me whose knowledge of pre-State Muslim-Jewish relations is rather fuzzy.