A History of the Jews

by Paul Johnson

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Student Question

How can a brief history of the Jewish people be written?

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When preparing to write a short history of a long subject, it is always a good idea to first familiarize oneself with that subject through review of available essays, including the three the links to which are provided below.  The first of those links provides a summary of an important volume on the history of the Jewish people written by British historian Paul Johnson, titled A History of the Jews (1987).  Johnson’s study is too lengthy to read prior to drafting a one-page paper, but the attached review and a brief examination of how Johnson structured his book will help place one in the frame of mind necessary to contemplate the formidable task of condensing thousands of years of history, which by necessity should include the birth of the faith, Biblical history, the destruction of the Jewish temples, the expulsion from Spain, the experience of Jews in Eastern Europe with the regular occurrence of pogroms and other violent manifestations of anti-Semitism, the rise of the Zionist movement, the Balfour Declaration, the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the state of the Jewish people today, into a brief summarization.  That’s a lot for one page, and the challenge isn’t accumulating information but condensing the major historical developments into a very short paper.

Fortunately for any student studying Jewish history and requiring concise summaries, the Internet provides numerous helpful resources.  Among those are the following:

www.science.co.il/Israel-history.php “Brief History of Israel and the Jewish People

www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/246603/jewish/A-Brief-Biblical-History.htm “A Brief Biblical History”

www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ “Jewish Virtual Library” This is a particularly useful sight that provides for a wider variety of search options, including contemporary issues of special concern to the Jewish people, than the others.

www.patheos.com/Library/Judaism.html “Patheos Library: Judaism”

There are many more available resources online as well as in the average public library, but it is important when preparing a very short essay not to over-study the subject lest one get mired in extraneous details.  As noted, an academic exercise requiring one to summarize in one page a history that can extend for thousands of pages necessities identification of the main points and providing brief descriptions of each.  The list of topics provided above in the opening paragraph is not comprehensive, but provides more than enough in terms of most important developments for the drafting of a very brief paper.

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