Israel: A Sim­ple Guide to the Most Mis­un­der­stood Coun­try on Earth

  • Review
By – June 28, 2021

Noa Tish­by is on a mis­sion to cor­rect mis­per­cep­tions of Israel — its his­to­ry, cul­ture, and peo­ple. After watch­ing Israel be crit­i­cized by the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly online, the Israeli actress, writer, and pro­duc­er began defend­ing the coun­try on Twit­ter and beyond. What began as a hob­by devel­oped into a deep pas­sion, and ulti­mate­ly, a voca­tion. The more Tish­by sought to explain Israel to oth­ers the more she sought to learn her­self. From that jour­ney, this book was born.

Tish­by presents key talk­ing points on key issues in an ener­getic and engag­ing way, rel­e­vant for new­bies and sea­soned advo­cates alike. In a con­ver­sa­tion­al style,Tishby inter­weaves her fam­i­ly his­to­ry, per­son­al life sto­ry, and sassy and some­times snarky com­men­tary with a light­ning-fast overview of the his­to­ry of Israel, the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict, and con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges such as set­tle­ments. She ends with a retort to BDS, an overview of Israel’s many pos­i­tives, and a cur­so­ry and still rel­a­tive­ly pos­i­tive spin on diver­si­ty with­in Israel.

Although it is not a book of his­to­ry, Israel con­tains much his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion, care­ful­ly curat­ed to sup­port Tishby’s end goal of pro­mot­ing Israel. This can lead to incom­plete, sim­pli­fied, or mis­lead­ing con­clu­sions. For exam­ple, Tish­by uses the idea that there has nev­er been an inde­pen­dent Pales­tin­ian state as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for why the Jews alone can claim to be return­ing” to their” land, but doesn’t dis­cuss how con­cepts of land own­er­ship, empires, and nation-states has changed over time. She also con­tin­u­al­ly points out when Arab lead­er­ship failed to accept two-state pro­pos­als, pre- and post- 1948, with­out dis­cus­sion of why they did so, which is crit­i­cal to under­stand­ing the Arab expe­ri­ence in the conflict.

If you’re look­ing for a more his­tor­i­cal or nuanced con­ver­sa­tion, this isn’t it, nor does it claim to be. If you’re look­ing for an acces­si­ble, uplift­ing read on Israel, and/​or look­ing for ways to expand and improve your Israel advo­ca­cy arse­nal, Tishby’s book is a great fit.

Joy Get­nick, PhD, is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Hil­lel at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester. She is the author of the Melton School of Adult Jew­ish Learn­ing Beyond Bor­ders: The His­to­ry of the Arab-Israeli Con­flict, has taught his­to­ry at area col­leges, and pre­vi­ous­ly worked in the JCC world and as the direc­tor of a teen Israel trav­el sum­mer program.

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