Part of the publisher’s series on cultures around the world, this book introduces readers to Israeli life via a cross-section of young Israelis sharing information about their land and their family histories and customs.
Many books which purport to be factual treatments of life in Israel fall prey to a common malady, an insidious form of political correctness which, in the name of artificial fairness, causes an author or editor to skew the realities of Israeli life. Those books result in shallow treatments of a complex reality, ultimately producing works that bear little or no relation to anyone’s actual life. This book takes a different and refreshing approach. Of course, no one book can cover all possible realities of life in Israel — for a complete picture, a reader needs a full array of materials — but this book is a clearly written, engaging narrative presenting a picture of Israeli life through the eyes of six teens, providing a good resource for learning about the country in an appealing manner. The six kids who share their stories comes from various segments of Israeli society; they meet by coincidence and become interested in learning about one another’s lifestyles and cultures. The characters are fictionalized but their descriptions contain abundant fact and provide an appealing learning experience. Historical background provides context and color photographs provide visual detail. Boxed facts summarize basic data. The teens represent families who have varying levels of religious observance, various political affiliations, are of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi extraction, and include both an Ethiopian Jew and an Israeli Arab. One of the teens made Aliyah from the United States with his family. They share their stories with pride but are unfailingly respectful of one another.
A map is included which will provide a controversial note; it identifies as Israel only the areas that were controlled by Israel pre-1967 and notes that the “West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement— permanent status to be determined through further negotiation.” A recipe and craft project is included along with chapter notes, suggestions for further reading, a glossary and an index. In today’s political climate, it is difficult to publish a book about Israel that will present a balanced picture without pushing too many “hot buttons.” With the exception of the controversial map, which one hopes will at least spark debate, this book comes closer than most to success.
Recommended for ages 10 – 14.
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.