(((Semitism))) by Jonathan Weisman

Read: 3 June, 2018

This book reads like an open letter to prominent Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League. It’s a call to action, an entreaty to re-expand activities beyond Israel and to take a meaningful stand against hate and the rise of fascism in the United States.

This is a timely book – perhaps even a little too timely, as several points made are no longer true (such as the discussion of Trump failing to move the US embassy to Jerusalem). But while these minor points have weakened, the overall rise of fascism is a well-documented trend.

The thesis of the book could have used a little tightening – while interesting throughout, it did meander a little, and it occasionally took some work to grasp what an argument was getting at.

That said, I liked that Weisman’s focus went beyond anti-Semitism, tackling the interconnectedness of hate. No small part of the book is devoted to GamerGate, which was the canary in the coal mine as far as many in the internet generation are concerned. The call to action, therefore, is for Jewish organisations to use their expertise and resources to take a leadership position in the fight against hate.

This is an important read. Weisman doesn’t provide answers (and, in fact, acknowledges throughout that there are sometimes no good responses), but the call for victimised communities to band together is essential.

The New Illustrated Companion to the Bible by J.R. Porter

Read: 2 May, 2013

As I’m blogging my way through reading the Bible, I’m always on the lookout for books that might help me understand the material on a less superficial level, and Porter’s book just happened to pop up in a search of my library’s catalogue.

Much of the content of the book is simply retelling the stories of the Bible, occasionally relating the information to outside sources (such as the writings of other Near Eastern cultures, archaeological finds, etc), though the “extra info” boxes that appear on nearly every page contained far more detailed discussions. Particularly in the portion of the book covering the New Testament, I was able to find quite a bit of food for thought.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, what really set this book apart was the illustrations. Every page has photographs of the relevant landscape or archaeological sites, diagrams, or paintings, and these were great fun to flip through.

Lastly, I quite enjoyed that Porter steps out of the scope of the Bible itself to, towards the end of the book, discuss Christian art and the development of beliefs in the early Church.

Though I do think that this would make a lovely coffee-table book, there were some pretty terrible editing issues, such as info boxes that end mid-sentence and a punctuation philosophy that borders on anarchism.

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