Aaronsohn’s Maps: The Untold Story of the Man Who Might Have Created Peace in the Middle East

Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Book Category: Non-Fiction, History

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Reviewed by Muhammed Hassanali

Goldstone chronicles the life of Aaron Aaronsohn, who carved careers in science, diplomacy and espionage. Furthermore, Aaronsohn does not conform to the standard “Jewish molds” of his era. His numerous and disparate accomplishments and his unique world perspective make his biographer’s task all the more challenging. Goldstone says that some of the information was denied to her as it is still classified – complicating her task.

Goldstone’s Aaronsohn was a refugee whose parents moved from Romania to Palestine (which was then under Ottoman rule) when he was six. While he was spiritual, he was not particularly religious. He was more liberal – and certainly more tolerant – than most of his fellow Jews. His vision of Palestine was a Jewish state in which Jews and Arabs co-existed. His Palestine would be a Jewish state with adequate civic and political spaces for other groups. Hence, citizens (Jewish or others) would strive for common secular goals. His vision of a state has striking similarities to the Ottoman model of governance.

As a surveyor, agronomist, and hydrologist, he discovered a new variety of wheat, understood farming and compiled detailed maps of water sources in the Middle East. He then used his knowledge to map the boundaries of Palestine based on geographical realities and economic needs. However representatives of Britain and France, who ultimately drew political boundaries, had other considerations. His political career was less spectacular than his scientific one. His religious views fueled his nationalistic passion, and for this cause he sacrificed his life and more.

One may question Goldstone’s version of Aaronsohn’s life, its historical importance, and its influence on Israeli-Palestinian politics today. However, Goldstone writes a compelling story and should be credited for writing about a less known (but important) figure like Aaronsohn. In the coming years more about Aaronsohn will enter the public domain as it becomes declassified. As additional historical evidence becomes available, and as other interpretations of Aaronsohn’s life appear, a different Aaronsohn may emerge. As there is precious little about him outside the specialized literature, it is hoped that Goldstone’s contribution will help spur additional work on Aaronshon and Middle Eastern history.

Armchair Interviews says: Unique look at one important man.

Author’s Web site: http://www.PatriciaGoldstone.com

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