Salomon Malka

(Armand Colin, 320 pages, 2018)


In May 2018, Israel celebrated its seventieth anniversary. To mark the occasion, Salomon Malka has chosen seventy significant days in the history of the country: key milestones, consequential actions of historical figures, and decisive events. But the dates are also significant because they resonate with the life of the author, a Jewish French writer of Moroccan descent born just a year after the founding of Israel. Malka touches upon a wide range of topics, from politics and international relations to archeology, culture, and technology. In 70 Days That Made Israel, he presents a multifaceted biography of Israel that allows us to better understand the journey of a state and its people, from the death of King David to the present


Malka’s approach is deeply personal and subjective. He imagines each of the seventy entries as impressionistic touches, each drawn from memories, testimonials, readings, and conversations. In one, he shares his favorite page in the Talmud, which relates the death of King David. In another, he evokes the strikingly premonitory book written by the Belgian Prince de Ligne in 1801—decades before the word Zionist was even coined—precognizing the return of Judea to the Jews. He relates the meaning of the commonly used expression, “Who killed Arlosoroff?” and explains why Tel Aviv may well be the Promised Land of Vegans, as it has recently been ranked as one of the best vegan cities in the world.


The book journeys from the creation of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to Golda Meir’s 1949 visit to the great Moscow synagogue, and then from Albert Einstein, who, in 1952, was offered the presidency of the State of Israel, to the funeral of the beloved actress Ronit Elkabetz, and finally to the recent recognition of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital. Well known and seldom recounted, contentious and benign topics are included in this account, which aims to “attest to the mistakes and successes” of the great adventure of Israel. Compelling, entertaining, and informative, 70 Days That Made Israel is a sweeping yet nuanced portrait of “a people that has not shown itself unworthy of the challenges it has been forced to face.”


A journalist and a writer, Salomon Malka is the author of more than a dozen books, most notably biographies on Emmanuel Levinas (Emmanuel Lévinas, la vie et la trace, Jean-Claude Lattès, 2002, and Duquesne UP 2006), Franz Rosenzweig, and Vasily Grossman. His books have been translated into many languages.