Israel and the Arab World

Gil Zohar
  • Review
By – July 25, 2016

Mitchell Lane’s Voic­es From Israel Set 2 joins the first set as a fine resource in the edu­ca­tion of Amer­i­can chil­dren about a part of the world rife with mis­in­for­ma­tion, both pur­pose­ful and inad­ver­tent. This well-researched series avoids many of the pit­falls com­mon to books of this kind which often lean to one side or anoth­er of the polit­i­cal spec­trum. This is a series that teach­ers and librar­i­ans can turn to with a sense of con­fi­dence that no one agen­da is being served. The infor­ma­tion is pre­sent­ed with clar­i­ty and it is clear that ease of use was of impor­tance in the prepa­ra­tion of these five volumes. 

The first vol­ume is Amer­i­cans in the Holy Land and it focus­es on the rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Israel. Amer­i­cans have been inter­act­ing with what is now the State of Israel since long before the State was declared and a suc­ces­sion of writ­ers, explor­ers, archae­ol­o­gists, mis­sion­ar­ies, vision­ar­ies”, ide­al­ists, Zion­ists, schol­ars, politi­cians, sci­en­tists, artists, and many oth­ers have been drawn to Israel for its bib­li­cal his­to­ry or for adven­ture, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, and a host of oth­er rea­sons. A few notable Amer­i­cans fea­tured include Mark Twain, Gol­da Meir, John F. Kennedy, Mick­ey” Mar­cus, and Dr. David Apple­baum. Amer­i­can Jew­ish sup­port for Israel and immi­gra­tion to Israel from the U.S. are dis­cussed as well as the ups and downs of attempt­ing to bring some Amer­i­can pas­sions such as base­ball, Ben and Jer­ry’s ice cream and Star­bucks cof­fee to the Israeli scene. 

Cul­ture, Cus­toms and Cel­e­bra­tions in Israel fea­tures the diver­si­ty of Israeli soci­ety which includes Jews whose fam­i­lies orig­i­nal­ly hailed from all over the world as well as cov­er­ing the entire spec­trum of reli­gious obser­vance from sec­u­lar to ultra-Ortho­dox. Devel­op­ment of the Hebrew lan­guage, long con­sid­ered dead but cer­tain­ly now vibrant­ly alive and respon­sive to the mod­ern world, hol­i­days, and tra­di­tion­al foods (with one recipe includ­ed) are all addressed. The role of the army as a lev­el­er and a com­mon expe­ri­ence is highlighted.

Israel and the Arab World begins with his­tor­i­cal back­ground explain­ing the roots of the Arab-Israeli con­flict and the evo­lu­tion of events result­ing in the sit­u­a­tion as it present­ly stands. The dif­fer­ing nar­ra­tives of the two sides are acknowl­edged as are polit­i­cal and his­toric issues relat­ing to Arab and Jew­ish claims to dis­put­ed land. 

Israel: Holy Land to Many focus­es on the many reli­gions that orig­i­nat­ed in or have impor­tant ties to Israel. It is not only the Jews, Chris­tians and Mus­lims who are tied to the land; it is also the Samar­i­tans, the Druze and the Bahai. Reli­gious sites are dis­cussed in his­tor­i­cal con­text and pho­tographed in col­or with cap­tions pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al detail. Pas­sages from the Torah, the New Tes­ta­ment and the Koran are used to high­light the impor­tance of such sites to each faith. Var­i­ous unusu­al cus­toms are described such as the Samar­i­tan Passover rit­u­al and a recipe for an Armen­ian Christ­mas pud­ding is included. 

Israel: Sto­ries of Con­flict and Res­o­lu­tion, Love and Death is the most time­ly vol­ume of the set and leads the read­er up to today and on into the future. It address­es ter­ror, an issue that all Israelis must live with and inte­grate into their dai­ly lives; no one is untouched. The author makes a valiant effort to be fair to all sides in his analy­sis of the forces that brought the region to this point and, in a thought­ful intro­duc­tion, express­es his hope for a more peace­ful future. He address­es the rise in Post-Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der among the cit­i­zens as well as the tech­niques and treat­ments being devel­oped to min­i­mize its effects. Issues relat­ed to mis­un­der­stand­ings between dif­fer­ing groups in soci­ety and exam­ples of racism are com­plex amidst the Islam­ic ter­ror which peri­od­i­cal­ly recurs. Less dra­mat­ic but impor­tant to under­stand are cul­tur­al issues relat­ed to dri­ving and the legal sys­tem. One item of inter­est to tourists who hope to vis­it Israel and of impor­tance to the over­all econ­o­my is whether vis­it­ing Israel is safe. The author takes pains to assure those con­cerned that it is and explains with care why this is so.

Each vol­ume in the series includes many col­or and black and white pho­tographs, maps (with the dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ries delin­eat­ed), chap­ter notes, works con­sult­ed, fur­ther read­ing sug­ges­tions, sug­gest­ed web­sites, a glos­sary of terms and in one case a glos­sary of for­eign terms, and an index. 

The series is appeal­ing­ly designed, filled with infor­ma­tion and col­or, and does not favor one polit­i­cal agen­da. It would be an excel­lent addi­tion to home col­lec­tions and espe­cial­ly valu­able for class­rooms and libraries. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 – 18.

Addi­tion­al Titles Fea­tured in Review:

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions