The best books about Israel

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Israel and why they recommend each book.

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Mural

By Mahmoud Darwish (lead author), John Berger (illustrator), Rema Hammami (translator)

Book cover of Mural

This collection of poetry by a revered Palestinian poet illuminates his people’s emotional and historic connection to the land that is now the state of Israel. His poems, many of which were set to music, are credited with solidifying a Palestinian national consciousness. His family was displaced from their home by the Israeli army; when they returned, they lived as second-class citizens. The work achingly describes an abiding sense of love and loss.


Who am I?

I have spent my working life as a journalist, author and storyteller, aiming to uncover complexity that sheds new light on stories we think we know. I got my training at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—and from the wonderful editors of my twelve books. An Innocent Bystander, my book that deals with the Middle East, began as the story of a hijacking and a murder of an American citizen. But as my research widened, I came to see this story couldn’t be told without understanding many perspectives, including the Israeli and the Palestinian, nor could the political be disentangled from the personal.


I wrote...

An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

By Julie Salamon, Julie Salamon,

Book cover of An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

What is my book about?

My book is about the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American passenger. His murder became a historic flashpoint for the intractable struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and gave Americans a horrifying preview of what it means when terrorism hits home. An Innocent Bystander began as the story of that shattering moment and what it meant to the world and to the Klinghoffers, an American-Jewish family. As I learned more, the book’s scope widened, to investigate the tragic reverberations for the wives and sons of the Palestinian mastermind behind the hijacking.

Running through the core of my book lies the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the stories of these families, An Innocent Bystander illuminates the complex web of personal and historic grievances that lay behind the geopolitics of a region that remains in turmoil.

The New Story - Storytelling as a Pathway to Peace

By Inger Lise Oelrich,

Book cover of The New Story - Storytelling as a Pathway to Peace

This is a book for all who work with people – in other words, it is a book for everyone. It is full of inspiration and practical tools to bring transformation and healing into your daily life, wherever you are. During times of conflict, storytelling dedicated to peace and reconciliation has proven successful in creating a common ground between people of all ages, from different cultures and disparate world views.

The New Story includes more than 30 tales from around the world plus easy-to-do exercises, with contributions from six modern storytellers at work in places like Israel, Kurdistan, and Sierra Leone.


Who am I?

My name is Susan Perrow. I am an Australian whose ‘work’ passion is stories and storytelling. I am an author, storyteller, teacher trainer, and parent educator. For the last 30 years, I have been documenting stories from other cultures, writing stories, and telling stories to groups of children and adults – all this woven in with a career in teaching, lecturing, and consulting in Australia, Africa, Asia, China, Europe, and North America. I currently have four published story collections, in a total of 14 languages. Three of my collections are Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour, An A-Z Collection of Behaviour Tales, and Stories to Light the Night: A Grief and Loss Collection for Children, Families and Communities.

I have chosen my fourth collection to introduce to you below.

I wrote...

Therapeutic Storytelling: 101 Healing Stories for Children

By Susan Perrow,

Book cover of Therapeutic Storytelling: 101 Healing Stories for Children

What is my book about?

Working with imaginative journeys and the subtle power of metaphor, Susan has developed the art of therapeutic storytelling for challenging behaviour and difficult situations. She encourages us to adopt the premise that ‘stories know the way’. She offers a tried and tested method for creating a unique story to help resolve issues, build emotional resilience and character, and nurture positive values. The 101 examples of therapeutic stories include many for children’s behavioural challenges as well as some for community and global issues, for all ages. The book also provides motivational thoughts and tips for creating your own stories developed from Susan’s work in practice, in many cultures and many countries.

Jihad and Jew-Hatred

By Matthias Küntzel,

Book cover of Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11

As I wrote in the Foreword to the English edition of Küntzel’s work, published first in Germany in 2002, Küntzel synthesized a large body of scholarship in English and German that examined Nazi Germany’s propaganda aimed at the Arab world, as well as the collaboration of Haj Amin el-Husseini with Nazi propaganda efforts. I welcomed Küntzel’s exploration of Nazi Germany’s impact outside Europe, and its aftereffects in Islamist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and then the members of Al Qaeda who carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001.


Who am I?

I am a historian at the University of Maryland, College Park. In the past forty years, I have published six books and many articles on twentieth-century German history including Reactionary Modernism: Technology Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich; Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys; Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World; and Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989. My personal interest in German history began at home. My father was one of those very fortunate German Jews who found refuge in the United States before Hitler closed the borders and launched the Holocaust. 


I wrote...

Israel's Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945–1949

By Jeffrey Herf,

Book cover of Israel's Moment: International Support for and Opposition to Establishing the Jewish State, 1945–1949

What is my book about?

This, my first book that is not about German history, addresses one aftermath of the Holocaust, namely support from the public in Europe and the United States as well as opposition from the American and British foreign policy establishment to establishing a Jewish state in former British Mandate Palestine in the years following World War II. The book documents and examines support for the Zionist project from American liberals and leftists, French Socialists, Communists and Gaullists, from the Soviet Union and Soviet bloc at the United Nations, and opposition from leaders of the British Foreign Office, the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense. The contours of support and opposition will, I think, come as a surprise to and a fresh interpretation for readers familiar with the political alignments regarding Israel since the Six Day War of 1967.

Exit Wounds

By Rutu Modan,

Book cover of Exit Wounds

Not only is Rutu Modan one of my favorite illustrators she is also an extremely talented story writer and Exit Wounds is no exception. This was also one of the first graphic novels I had ever read and was so captivating. Her unique art style and writing are truly amazing. I love her color pallet and how it really keeps you engaged from panel to panel. Without giving away spoilers this book is based on real-life events and really gives you a greater sense of life in other countries can be like for better and for worse. 

I love all of Rutu Modan’s books but this one really hit home for me.


Who am I?

I am from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I have always had a passion for art and literature. I started drawing at a young age and never stopped. Constantly drawing on scrap papers from my father’s graphic arts business. Always pulling from my imagination and the world around me for inspiration. Books were a major outlet for my creativity. Graphic novels in particular were always my favorite form of expression. To be able to tell a story using pictures and share my own personal feelings with others was a means of communication for me. I began to study illustration in school and college. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marywood University. I currently work as a graphic designer and illustrator.


I wrote...

Leviathan

By Vince Galea,

Book cover of Leviathan

What is my book about?

Leviathan is a short story graphic novel that focuses on mental health. More specifically my own mental health… Based on true events the book takes place in a state of mind, or rather a dream. Conversations are narrated through sometimes incomplete thoughts or text messages from circa 2008. Texting was much less common then and more difficult to express emotions.

A failing relationship between two lovers and the fear of facing reality spirals to an end. There is also a comical side to this story as the protagonist is hurtling toward self-destruction. Little quirks and dark humor allow the reader to find comfort in this mature tragedy.

This book is available here.

All That Remains

By Walid Khalidi,

Book cover of All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948

This lexicon of the destroyed Palestinian villages of 1948 illustrated to a wide readership the scope and meaning of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe. In short installments, a whole history that is wiped out is reconstructed as part of the struggle against denial.

Who am I?

Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of PalestineThe Modern Middle EastA History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.


I wrote...

Ten Myths About Israel

By Ilan Pappé,

Book cover of Ten Myths About Israel

What is my book about?

In this groundbreaking book, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation, the outspoken and radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel. The “ten myths” that Pappe explores—repeated endlessly in the media, enforced by the military, accepted without question by the world’s governments—reinforce the regional status quo. He explores the claim that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation-building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice.” Turning to the myths surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, Pappe explains why the two-state solution is no longer viable.

My Promised Land

By Ari Shavit,

Book cover of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

My Promised Land is beautifully written, a story deeply informed by the author’s family history and the body of knowledge he built as an influential Israeli journalist. Shavit loves the place of his birth but doesn’t retreat from hard questions. He tells a powerful, poignant story of a state-created out of tragedy, and the brutal reality of what Jewish statehood has wrought for yet another disinherited group. There are no easy answers and Shavit offers none. But he presents the complexities and frustrations with intellectual rigor and literary grace.


Who am I?

I have spent my working life as a journalist, author and storyteller, aiming to uncover complexity that sheds new light on stories we think we know. I got my training at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—and from the wonderful editors of my twelve books. An Innocent Bystander, my book that deals with the Middle East, began as the story of a hijacking and a murder of an American citizen. But as my research widened, I came to see this story couldn’t be told without understanding many perspectives, including the Israeli and the Palestinian, nor could the political be disentangled from the personal.


I wrote...

An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

By Julie Salamon, Julie Salamon,

Book cover of An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

What is my book about?

My book is about the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American passenger. His murder became a historic flashpoint for the intractable struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and gave Americans a horrifying preview of what it means when terrorism hits home. An Innocent Bystander began as the story of that shattering moment and what it meant to the world and to the Klinghoffers, an American-Jewish family. As I learned more, the book’s scope widened, to investigate the tragic reverberations for the wives and sons of the Palestinian mastermind behind the hijacking.

Running through the core of my book lies the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the stories of these families, An Innocent Bystander illuminates the complex web of personal and historic grievances that lay behind the geopolitics of a region that remains in turmoil.

Apeirogon

By Colum McCann,

Book cover of Apeirogon: A Novel

The perilous distances traveled in this intense, genre-bending novel are likewise abbreviated – sometimes measured in meters, between Israel and Palestine, but they are as fraught with peril as any thousand-mile survival trek. Based on the author-embellished experiences of two men, one of whom is Israeli, the other Palestinian, who also appear as themselves in factual passages, the book mixes fiction and nonfiction to magnify the drama of traveling back and forth between two adjacent, lethally fractious zones. An unexpected friendship develops between the two men after each loses a daughter to terror violence perpetrated by the other side, which alters their views as they repeatedly crisscross the boundary line.

Despite the book’s comparatively confined settings, the effect is of near-constant, life-changing motion as the two struggle to bridge a seemingly impassible gap in search of the truth. It works. Words of praise like “staggering” and “transformative” barely hint at…


Who am I?

I started out like most travelers, attracted to new places and to meeting people whose worlds were different from my own. Typically, this meant tried-and-true destinations in Europe until a book project required me to visit an utterly daunting place, the West African nation of Liberia during a civil war. I was in no way prepared for the experience and it changed everything. Seeing how people behave when faced with extreme circumstances profoundly altered my view of the world. Everything was magnified. Though I still enjoy a cup of espresso on the Piazza Navona, there is nothing like traveling to a forbidden zone and meeting someone destined to be a lifelong friend on the roof of a bombed-out building. It opens the world in ways that are challenging and scary, but also incomparably rewarding. 


I wrote...

Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer

By Alan Huffman,

Book cover of Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer

What is my book about?

Tim Hetherington (1970-2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists. In Here I Am, I recount Hetherington’s life: his first interests in photography; his critical role in reporting the Liberian Civil War; and his tragic death in Libya. I also trace Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his prize-winning photographs of Liberian children to the celebrated portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who risk their lives to give a voice to people ravaged by war.

A Tale of Love and Darkness

By Amos Oz,

Book cover of A Tale of Love and Darkness

This book is both a coming-of-age memoir for the author and the State of Israel. It’s a masterpiece! I was holding my breath (and had tears streaming down my face) as I read his description of the night the neighborhood gathered by the radio to listen to the UN vote on establishing a Jewish state.

Who am I?

I’ve always believed that history isn’t a dry record of events; it’s a portal to the human soul, one that connects us to all the people who lived before. Diving into books about the history of the Jewish people connects me not only intellectually, but also emotionally. I was inspired to write Rebel Daughter as soon as I learned of the ancient gravestone of a Jewish woman. I was so intrigued by the unlikely but true love story the stone revealed that I spent the next ten years with some of the world's leading scholars and archaeologists to bring the real characters to life as accurately as possible. I have degrees from Princeton and Harvard and live in Israel.


I wrote...

Rebel Daughter

By Lori Banov Kaufmann,

Book cover of Rebel Daughter

What is my book about?

Rebel Daughter transports the reader to one of the most dramatic and momentous events in human history – the destruction of Jerusalem in the 1st century. This stunning tale of family, love, and resilience was inspired by a major archaeological discovery in southern Italy: the 2,000-year-old gravestone of Claudia Aster (Esther). The few Latin words chiseled into the ancient stone, proof of a very unlikely romance, shocked and intrigued scholars around the world.

Rebel Daughter is Esther’s story. This emotional and impassioned saga, based on real characters and meticulous research, seamlessly blends the fascinating story of the Jewish people with a timeless protagonist determined to take charge of her own life against all odds.

Itzhak

By Tracy Newman, Abigail Halpin (illustrator),

Book cover of Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin

Not only is Itzhak Perlman considered to be one of the world’s best violinists, he’s also a powerful role model for overcoming adversity.

Growing up, when I listened to Itzhak Perlman’s recordings, I didn’t know that as a young boy, he suffered from polio. So, when I saw him perform for the first time, I didn’t expect to see him enter the stage in a wheelchair. As I marveled at the silvery tone of his violin, I wondered how he navigated through concert halls designed without the physically disabled in mind.

What I love most about this book is that it drives home an important point. Itzhak’s fiery passion for the violin has never been compromised by his disability.

The author and illustrator's notes explain the importance of the changes Itzhak has made to the field of classical music. In Itzhak’s own words, he explains how and why he has…


Who am I?

I have been a professional violinist and teacher for over 30 years. I perform in the Washington-Idaho Symphony and specialize in the Suzuki method. My studio at the University of Idaho Preparatory Division includes violin and viola students ages 5-18. My career as an author began when I searched the shelves at my local library for books for my students to read. Only a few books about classical music graced the shelves. So I decided to try to do something about the void I noticed. My second book, about a trailblazing woman composer erased in history because of her gender, is forthcoming from Bushel & Peck Books.


I wrote...

In One Ear and Out the Other: Antonia Brico and her Amazingly Musical Life

By Diane Worthey, Morgana Wallace (illustrator),

Book cover of In One Ear and Out the Other: Antonia Brico and her Amazingly Musical Life

What is my book about?

Antonia Brico didn’t listen to discouraging words. Those words went in one ear and out the other. In One Ear and Out the Other tells the story of one woman’s fight to gain recognition as a conductor in an era when men dominated classical music. The first woman to guest-conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Antonia Brico never secured a permanent conducting job with a major symphony—but her contributions paved the way for the many women conductors to follow. A true visionary in the long fight for equal opportunities for women. The book is a Junior Library Gold Standard Selection and is the 2021 winner of the Paterson Prize For Young Readers in grades 4-6.

The Book of Longings

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Book cover of The Book of Longings

Brilliant, feisty, and intrepid Ana, raised in privilege and wealth in ancient Israel, is the heroine of this painstakingly researched historical fiction novel. Her mother discourages Ana’s intellectual curiousity, forbidding Ana’s writings about the secrets of repressed, abused women of her day. Her adopted brother Judas is part of the resistance against the Roman occupation, and her father plans on marrying Ana to a rich older man. Amidst this complexity, Ana defies him and marries far beneath her station. Her groom? Jesus of Nazareth. After the crucifixion, Ana goes to her Aunt Yaltha in Alexandria where she helps Yaltha locate her long-lost daughter. The Book of Longings chronicles Ana’s challenge to overcome the family secrets and cultural repression meant to silence and subdue her. Compelling, intriguing, and powerful! A must-read!


Who am I?

Family secrets aren’t always intentionally planned. The expectations of each generation often determine what’s spoken and what’s left unsaid. Uncannily, my fiction has revealed what’s been left unspoken in my family - not deep dark secrets, but the more ordinary ego and generationally-driven variety. In my writing there’s an unconscious precognition that occurs, pointing to mysteries in my own life. My work explores themes of family and longing, revealing the undercurrents of life that can be sensed but never grasped. In fact, after writing Bird with the Heart of a Mountain I discovered my own secret - that my Eastern European ancestry contained Romani blood!


I wrote...

Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

By Barbara Mariconda,

Book cover of Bird with the Heart of a Mountain

What is my book about?

Set during the Spanish Civil War, sixteen-year-old Drina yearns to dance flamenco. When she dances, she forgets what seems to be her legacy: I am nothing. I belong nowhere. Why does her mother forbid her to dance? She wonders about the dark family secrets her mother keeps that somehow hold them prisoner.

From her Gypsy campagna to the estate of a paternal grandmother she’s never known, Drina fights to discover who she is and where she belongs. She must carve out an identity all her own and discover what it means to be a “bird with the heart of a mountain.” Full of mystery, loss, and longing, this novel captures Drina’s quest to learn where she came from and to determine her own destiny.

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