15 Must-Read Books Before, During and After You Visit Israel

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From historical narratives to modern-day stories, enjoy from a variety of authors who detail Israel’s extraordinary diversity.

1. The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land

Donna Rosenthal’s book focuses on the insanely diverse group of 8 million individuals who live in Israel. From “Arab Jews” to Ethiopian immigrants and devout Christians, this small country fits a large variety of people. 

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2. Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights and the Struggle for Peace

David Borg’s book is an attempt to demystify some of the unknowns and disputed facts about Israel’s tumultuous history.

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3. Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

Daniel Gordis, a respected Israel analyst, writes the first comprehensive history of the state of Israel, from the beginning to the present day.

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4. Israel: A History 

Anita Shapira starts her recount of the history of Israel in the year 1881. By combining her personal story with historical facts and figures, the book is both a novel and compelling mystery. 

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5. Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel

This graphic non-fiction book uses photographs, illustrations, and digital art to recount Israel’s impressive history, written by Marv Wolfman, Mario Ruiz, and William J. Rudin.

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6. Let There Be Water

Israel, after facing its own water shortage, remedied its issues and now is at the forefront of cutting-edge water technology. Seth Siegel’s book is based on meticulous research and interviews that show how Israel can lead as an example for other countries. 

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7. In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea

Michael Brenner touches on the difficulty Israelis face as they try to be like other nations, while simultaneously trying to be at the forefront and act as a “light unto the nations.” 

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8. Israel: Is It Good for the Jews?

Richard Cohen, a journalist for The Washington Post, writes a combination between a memoir, recount of history, as well as an explanation for a controversial column he wrote in 2006. 

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9. The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival

Hirsh Goodman is a senior research associate for the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. He analyzes Israel’s security, history, and prospects for peace in this book.

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10. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Ari Shavit uses interviews, historical documents, and his own family’s story in order to highlight important moments in Israel’s history. 

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11. Jerusalem: The Biography 

This narrative showcases Jerusalem, a city centered around so many wars, destruction, and turmoil. The book, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, also focuses on the many people who left their mark on the city. 

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12. Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel

Journalist and award-winning author Matti Friedman tells the tale of Israel’s first spies, focusing on four main characters who were part of a unit known as the Arab Section. 

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13. Hadassah: American Women Zionists and the Rebirth of Israel

This story, written by Mira Katzburg-Yungman, focuses on the group of women in 1912 who formed what is now “the largest collective project of women in the Diaspora.” Hadassah has played a critical role during Israel’s many hardships. 

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14. Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter

Filled with documents and texts, Bonna Devora Haberman focuses on topics that make the reader think about Zionism and Israel. The book is riddled with Mishna, Gemara, Midrash, and Rabbinical thought. 

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15. Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation

Longtime chief of NBC’s Tel Aviv news bureau chief Martin Fletcher walked the entirety of Israel’s coastline, observing often-ignored parts of the country, to tell a “different and truer story” in this book.

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BONUS: The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East

Sandy Tolman’s book is a true story about the relationship between one Arab and one Jewish family. The two families are tied together by a piece of property that resides in a much disputed region of the country. 

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