Having read and enjoyed Simon Schama's 'History of the Jews, part one: finding the words' I agree with some of the reviewers who claimed this book falls in the category of 'Read ten books, write an eleventh'. I don't care. Besides, Schama read a lot more then ten books and his tale caused me to buy two, both by Hillel Halkin, an Israeli American historian.
His biography of Yehuda Halevi is a fine book about this greatest of all Jewish poets who lived in Spain from approx. 1075 till 1141 when he died in the Holy Land. The book paints a wonderful picture of the golden age of medieval Spanish Jewry when the Jews flourished and suffered as they moved from Moorish rulers in the South to Catholic rulers in the North and back again.
Halkin explains Halevi's poetry, his Jewishness, his religion, the reasons he wrote The Kuzari and how by the end of his life he had to live up to what he had the rabbi say to The Kuzari: your intentions are good, but your deeds are not. Already an old man Halevi sailed for Egypt (where in 1896 in the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo an incredible cache of documents were found from which we could piece together the last months of his life). In May 1141 Yehuda Halevi sailed for Accre and a few months later the first Zionist died in th eland of his beloved Torah. His grave has never been found, but the discussions on Zionism are alive as ever.