In his introduction, Mitchell Bard tells us that he has written this book so that “people will come away with a basic understanding of Israel’s history, politics, culture…and some of the dilemmas its people face.”
In addition to the main narrative, the book features beautiful color photographs of different parts of Israel, discussion questions, suggested activities and a time line. Sections highlighted in blue are devoted to various topics of interest relating to life in Israel. Those labeled Faces of Israel present vignettes of young Israelis from a variety of backgrounds. There are also biographies of famous people who have played special roles in Israel’s development. The sections labeled Look Closer discuss subjects such as technological development, tensions between Jews and Arabs, political issues and how Israel got its name. The highlighted Think About It section gives examples of difficult issues facing Israeli society such as why Rabin’s assassination was especially painful for Israelis and what kind of questions it raised. Creative thinking about possible solutions is encouraged. One of the most provocative sections is titled What Would You Do? The reader is presented with a situation and asked how he or she might solve the problem. For example, at a checkpoint in the West Bank a young Israeli soldier must decide whether to let an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman pass when he has been told that this might actually be a terrorist with a bomb. How these issues are resolved provides a fascinating glimpse into the Israeli psyche.
To summarize the sweep of history from 1700 BCE to the present is a daunting job and to do it so well and in so few pages is an impressive feat.
Highly recommended for ages 12 to adult and may be of particular interest to educators.