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.