To help you get to grips with this fascinating country, we’ve put together a reading list of the 14 best books to help you understand Israel’s history, culture and technology
In this advanced digital age sometimes it’s still nice to receive a good book that can be held in your hands, flipped through, and used as a learning tool in your household.
The following 14 English-language books, all from the last decade, are excellent representations of Israel in food, culture, history, technology and children’s literature, written by leading authors, illustrators, and photographers from Israel and the English-speaking world.
Each one would make a stellar gift for family or friends with a broad range of interests, or would do as just a little something for yourself to learn about one of the most fascinating countries in the world.
Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, by Daniel Gordis
This refresher course on Israel’s short yet complex history, written by an author and columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Bloomberg View, is a good book to read before passing it on to your friends and family.
From his home base in Jerusalem, Daniel Gordis delves into more than just what’s written in the history books, writing about Israel’s political, social and economic developments and other cultural achievements, while asking questions like: “Why does such a small country speak to so many global concerns?” and ‘Why does Israel make the decisions it does?” A reminder of the facts and triumphs we all need to brush up on now and again.
No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination and the Making of Modern Israel, by Shimon Peres
A personal account from the man who had a front-row seat for it all, this inspirational autobiography by Israel’s late ninth prime minister is filled with all the wisdom Peres soaked up during his 70-year stint in Israeli politics. Readers get a deeper look into what went on behind the scenes during Israel’s greatest trying moments and moral dilemmas.
Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens, by Doug Hershey
Drawing upon biblical prophecy regarding the future blossoming of the land of Israel, this coffee-table book compares pictures from the 1880s to 1940s with modern views of Israel, to show how far the country has come: sandy deserts turned into booming metropolises, fertile agriculture, and a society that has grown to become one of the world’s leaders in technology.
Israel Rising is a fascinating reminder that Israel’s achievements of the modern era were built up from scratch on the backs of pioneers.
A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age through the Jewish Wars, by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Paul D. Wegner
Reviewers have called this a “personal library” going back thousands of years to explain the history of Israel from the very beginning. An encyclopedia of history from a biblical, historical and archaeological perspective, this large volume contains over 600 photographs, maps and other sources that will turn your coffee table into an informative museum-like experience.
The Story of the Holy Land: A Visual History, by Peter Walker
The story of Israel through modern photographs, drawings and explanations by a professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Pennsylvania, this book examines Israel and the many conquests of its land from biblical to modern times. Filled with history explained in Walker’s compelling style of factual storytelling, it should have a spot in your library or on your coffee table.
Israeli Soul, by Michael Solomonov
This new bible of Israeli food by the unofficial ambassador of Israeli cuisine, American chef Michael Solomonov, is the culmination of his personal travels and experiences in Israel and in running his Jewish- and Israeli-themed American restaurants.
You’ll be delighted to find Israeli flavors infused into paletta popsicles; recipes that are lesser known outside of Israel, such as mafroum; and Solomonov’s famous hummus and quick tahini sauce.
Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
More than just a cookbook, Jerusalem — by Israeli-Jewish culinary legend Yotam Ottolenghi and his former restaurant partner Sami Tamimi, an Israeli-Arab who grew up on the other side of the city from Ottolenghi — this is a book of cultural evaluation, insight and food.
Including traditional Jewish and Arab recipes, a plethora of information and stories about the city, and beautiful photographs, this is one book that should be on every Israel supporter and culinary enthusiast’s shelf.
Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World, by Avi Jorisch
An updated guide to Israel’s innovative spirit and global goodwill that piggybacks off the famous Start-Up Nation (2009) but with a different angle, Thou Shalt Innovate not only discusses state-of-the-art Israeli medicine, agriculture, water and defense technologies and the developers behind them, but also takes a look at why Israeli culture is so compatible with the spirit of innovation, and how the contributions in each field can continue to change the world for the better in the future.
Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World, by Seth M. Siegel
Leading the field in water processing and conservation, Israelis are known around the world for creating agriculture and life on the very little water that we have.
In Let There Be Water, Siegel breaks down the science behind Israel’s greatest water technology discoveries, and the impact this knowledge can and will have around the world as water shortages and crises are steadily becoming a daily reality.
Fast Asleep in a Little Village in Israel, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod
Ever wonder what sound a rooster makes in Hebrew? You’ll find out in this touching children’s book that takes place in a small village in Israel.
With an infusion of Hebrew words and Israeli cultural nuances, and with soft watercolor illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke, this book will help you hear the sounds of rural Israel and help your youngster get a peek at everyday life here — noisy as it can be.
The Colors of Israel, by Rachel Raz
Encourage your children to learn their colors through the vibrant scenes of Israeli cities and sites in this beautiful children’s book. From the striking orange of the fruit bundles at a Tel Aviv juice stand to the red of the Israeli mail van, this book is a fun gift of Israeli culture and learning for all.
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