CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims

Reuven Firestone, PhD, Author, Khalid Duran, Author . The American Jewish Committee and Ktav $29.50 (326p) ISBN 978-0-88125-723-6 ISBN 0-88125-724-9

To enhance mutual understanding between Jews and Muslims, Firestone, a rabbi and professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College, discusses the theological and moral similarities between the religions, underscores the gap between religion and politics, and emphasizes issues of concern to Muslims. He divides his introduction into three parts: a survey of Jewish history from biblical through modern times; God, Torah and Israel; and Jewish practice, including prayer, the calendar and the life cycle. Many of his explanations tiptoe around Arab sensibilities. "In Jewish tradition," he writes, "the term Israel does not refer to a land or a modern nation-state but to a people. The official name of the modern Jewish state is the state of Israel, meaning the state of the people of Israel...." The concept of the chosen people, he notes, was a survival tactic designed to preserve monotheism among idolatrous neighbors, not to promote elitism. Living in Israel is not simply an emotional desire, but a deeply religious and legal issue based on the substantial number of biblical commandments that cannot be fulfilled outside the land. Firestone explains the origins of Zionism, touches on the "vexed question" of who owns the land of Israel and concludes, unsatisfactorily, that the multifaceted conflict between Jew and Muslim is too complicated to discuss in detail here. This circumspect, middle-of-the-road approach presents a sensitive view that tries its best not to offend. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
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