Under­stand­ing Israel Today: A Kid’s Guide to the Mid­dle East

Elisa Sil­ver­man
  • Review
By – February 2, 2016

Pre­sent­ed in a well-out­lined and orga­nized six-chap­ter for­mat, Under­stand­ing Israel Today pro­vides a con­cise account of the coun­try from its bib­li­cal roots to our cur­rent time for the ele­men­tary- and mid­dle-school read­er. The read­er is intro­duced to Israel through the eyes of a stu­dent, Ayelet, who describes her fam­i­ly, her school sched­ule, her favorite games and adven­tures, and her dreams. Using engag­ing facts of Israel’s ancient and mod­ern his­to­ry, a sol­id time­line nar­ra­tive is cre­at­ed. One chap­ter is devot­ed to the Jews in Israel, focus­ing on the vari­ety of eth­nic­i­ties and reli­gious sub­groups that make up the popula­tion. Anoth­er chap­ter gives a sol­id overview of the Mus­lims, Chris­tians, Druze, Bedouins and Cir­cas­sians that are a part of Israel’s popula­tion. Defin­ing and descrip­tive fea­tures of each reli­gion and their com­mu­ni­ties will offer cul­tur­al insights. Silverman’s chap­ter on the polit­i­cal life of Israel pro­vides an understand­ing of its for­ma­tion, par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy, the Knes­set and cur­rent issues. The sixth chap­ter address­es the Pales­tin­ian Author­i­ty, the peace process, Gaza, the West Bank and the nuclear threat of Iran.

It should be not­ed by edu­ca­tors and read­ers that the pos­si­bil­i­ty of con­tro­ver­sy over state­ments in the text or maps may arise due in great part to the ongo­ing polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions in the Mid­dle East and Israel. The map includ­ed by the pub­lish­er, for exam­ple, shows as part of Israel only the areas that were con­trolled by Israel before 1967 and des­ig­nates the West Bank” on the map and in the text as a sep­a­rate area altogether. 

Sil­ver­man has packed an incred­i­ble wealth of infor­ma­tion into 64 pages that is eas­i­ly read­able for stu­dents. High­light­ed sec­tions such as, In case you are won­der­ing…” serve to pro­vide details that can be used to immerse the stu­dent in the life and peo­ple of the coun­try, fur­ther­ing open dis­cus­sion. Stu­dents will appre­ci­ate the time­line, maps, recipe, craft instruc­tions and addi­tion­al source read­ing includ­ed with the cur­rent and his­tor­i­cal pho­tographs. By increas­ing our knowl­edge of sub­jects as var­ied as HaTik­vah, Oznei Haman, the Iron Dome, and the Magen David, Under­stand­ing Israel Today will be a valu­able resource at home and at school for par­ents, teach­ers, and stu­dents of all ages.

Chris­tine Maas­dam holds a Mas­ters in Human­i­ties, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in Muse­um Stud­ies and Cul­tur­al Prop­er­ty Pro­tec­tion. She is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing her M.L.I.S. Her inter­ests are phi­los­o­phy and the impact of art and tech­nol­o­gy on culture.

Discussion Questions