July 10, 2010

Books, Take Me Away...to Israel

Take Me Away Saturday

For those of you unfamiliar with Take Me Away Saturday:
I started it because I love books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures. Take Me Away is a way to share with other readers books that can transport them into another culture. Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there. (Note: ex. not necessarily books by a German or an Australian, but books set in Germany or Australia.) I try to provide a variety of fiction genres as well as nonfiction selections.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit, which you can see at the bottom of this post. There is also a list of both countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts. Check them out and discover some good books to read.

This week we are visiting the Middle Eastern country of Israel:

Click on the titles of the books below to read reviews and/or purchase the book. Disclaimer: I do not receive commissions if you purchase a book through the link I provide, whether from Amazon, Indiebound, or otherwise.

Cross Bones (Temperance Brennan Series #8) by Kathy Reichs
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Examining a badly decomposed corpse is de rigueur for forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. But puzzling damage on the body of a shooting victim, an Orthodox Jewish man, suggests this is no ordinary Montreal murder. When a stranger slips Tempe a photograph of a skeleton unearthed at an archaeological site, Tempe uncovers chilling ties between the dead man and secrets long buried in the dust of Israel. Traveling there with Detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe plunges into an international mystery as old as Jesus, and centered on the controversial discovery of Christ's tomb. Has a mastermind lured her into an elaborate hoax? If not, Tempe may be on the brink of rewriting two thousand years of history — if she can survive the foes dead set on burying her.

Prince of Fire (Gabriel Allon Series) by Daniel Silva
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Now Allon is back in Venice, when a terrible explosion in Rome leads to a disturbing personal revelation: the existence of a dossier in terrorist hands that strips away his secrets, lays bare his history. Hastily recalled home to Israel, drawn once more into the heart of a service he had once forsaken, Allon finds himself stalking an elusive master terrorist across a landscape drenched with generations of blood, the trail turning on itself until, finally, he can no longer be certain who is stalking whom. And when at last the showdown comes, it will not be Gabriel alone who is threatened with destruction - for it is not his history alone that has been laid bare.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Epistolary Fiction

The monumental work that assured T.E. Lawrence's place in history as "Lawrence of Arabia." Not only a consummate military history, but also a colorful epic and a lyrical exploration of the mind of a great man who helped shape the Middle East as it exists today.

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles
Genres: Fiction, Chick-Lit, YA

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…

Goodbye pride—hello Israel.

Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars by Yaacov Lozowick

Genres: Nonfiction, Politics, Philosophy

In July 2000, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat refused to negotiate a peace offer made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David. At the end of September the Palestinians then launched their second intifada, an outbreak of terrorism in the heart of Israel’s cities that continues to this day. The unprecedented violence drove Barak from office and brought to power the feared hard-liner Ariel Sharon.

In RIGHT TO EXIST, Yaacov Lozowick, an Israeli historian, describes his evolution from a liberal peace activist into a reluctant supporter of Sharon. In making sense of his own political journey, Lozowick rewrites the whole history of Israel, delving into the roots of the Zionist enterprise and tracing the long struggle to establish and defend the Jewish state in the face of implacable Arab resistance and widespread international hostility.

Lozowick examines each of Israel’s wars from the perspective of classical “just war” theory, from the fight for independence to the present day. Subjecting the country’s founders and their descendants to unsparing scrutiny, he concludes that Israel is neither the pristine socialist utopia its founders envisioned, nor the racist colonial enterprise portrayed by its enemies. Refuting dozens of pernicious myths about the conflict—such as the charge that Israel stole the land from its rightful owners, or that Arabs and Jews are locked in a “cycle of violence” for which both bear equal blame—RIGHT TO EXIST is an impassioned moral history of extraordinary resonance and power.

A Daughter of Zion (Zion Chronicles Series) by Bodie and Brock Thoene

Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction

She survived the Holocaust

at great personal cost.

But will her past now destroy her?

It’s January 1948. After suffering the horrors of years in a Nazi concentration camp, Rachel Lubetkin has at last come home to Jerusalem . . . and the family who thought she was dead. But the mark on her arm has also marked her heart. Will her secrets, if revealed, discredit her among her own people? And at a time of great danger, when she so desperately wants to help?

British soldiers stand idly by while Arabs attack Jewish transports in the besieged Old City. Moshe Sachar, archaeologist by day and secret blockade runner by night, determines to fight for the ancient promises. But he can’t shake the vision of the beautiful young woman he rescued from the sea.

The very same Jewess that Gerhardt, a former Nazi, vows to find . . . to make her pay.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

Genres: Nonfiction, Politics, Religion, Human Rights

The crowning achievement of Jimmy Carter's presidency was the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, and he has continued his public and private diplomacy ever since, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his decades of work for peace, human rights, and international development. He has been a tireless author since then as well, writing bestselling books on his childhood, his faith, and American history and politics, but in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, he has returned to the Middle East and to the question of Israel's peace with its neighbors--in particular, how Israeli sovereignty and security can coexist permanently and peacefully with Palestinian nationhood.

Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed

Genres: Nonfiction, Social Sciences, Religion

Recently there have been pheonomenal strides in the historical understanding of the world Jesus lived in, as well as lesser-known archaeological discoveries from the early centuries of the common era that explain a great deal about Jesus, his followers, and his teachings. This is the first book that combines the historical and the archaeological in a way that will appeal to a broad general readership interested in discovering the key finds that comprise the state of the art of our knowledge of Jesus and his world. Each chapter of the book focuses on a significant modern archaeological or textual discovery and shows how that discovery opens a window onto a major feature of Jesus' life and teachings.

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler

Genres: Nonfiction, Travelogue, Religion

Mr. Feiler, in taking us through various harsh and craggy landscapes whose very appearance gleams with biblical associations, proves to be an excellent guide and a worthy wrestler. He has put an enormous amount of information into this book and has invested it with a keen intellectual curiosity, so that we learn a great deal about the spiritual meaning of the Bible and the centuries of speculation about it as a historical document. Most of all, Mr. Feiler achieves for his readers what he set out to achieve for himself: to ground the Bible in real soil and in real history and, in so doing, demonstrate its amazing vitality.

Revenge: A Story of Hope by Laura Blumenfeld

Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir, Travelogue

In 1986, Laura Blumenfeld's father was shot in Jerusalem by a member of a rebel faction of the PLO, which had been responsible for attacks on foreign tourists in the Old City—several of whom were also killed. when the desire for revenge manifested itself in a deeply personal way, Blumenfeld went undercover to find the Palestinian terrorist who injured her father. Along the way, she learned "lessons" in revenge by gathering stories of avengers, assassins, and the people they left behind from around the world, including Sicily, Albania, Iran, Greece, Egypt, Israel, England, and Germany. Combining the suspense and danger of a personal revenge story, and serious international affairs reporting, Revenge: A Story of Hope is a personal and intellectual tour of the human darkness we try to deny.

Harvest of Light by Allison Ofanansky

Genres: Children's Lit, Nonfiction, Religion

The olive harvest in Israel is a special time. Follow the tiny spring flowers blossom into green fruit, then ripen into shiny black olives. Watch as the olives are gathered, sorted, and pressed into oil. Then celebrate Hanukkah with an Israeli family as they use the oil to light their Hanukkah menorah. Come and enjoy the harvest of light.

The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua and Hillel Halkin

Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction

The three brides at the center of this gentle novel all refuse to do what Yochanan Rivlin, an aging Israeli professor of Near Eastern studies, wishes them to do. Samaher, a depressed Palestinian graduate student who is newly married, won't finish her seminar paper; Galya, soon to be a mother, won't tell him why she divorced his son; and Rivlin's wife, Hagit, a district judge, won't let him worry himself to death about it. Yehoshua, the most daring of the major Israeli writers, tells a simple story about a region that complicates all it touches. As Rivlin's obsession with his son's failed marriage grows, he also finds himself drawn into the world of his Palestinian student. The juxtaposition of a failed marriage and the turmoil of Israeli society suggests pointed political commentary, but Yehoshua's portrait of the hesitant courtship between the two peoples—sometimes tender and generous, sometimes grotesque and calamitous—remains, somehow, hopeful.

He, She, and It by Marge Piercy

Genres: Science Fiction

In the middle of the twenty-first century, life as we know it has changed for all time. Shira Shipman's marriage has broken up, and her young son has been taken from her by the corporation that runs her zone, so she has returned to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she grew up. There, she is welcomed by Malkah, the brilliant grandmother who raised her, and meets an extraordinary man who is not a man at all, but a unique cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions--and the ability to kill....

The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz

Genres: Nonfiction, Politics, Human Rights

The Case for Israel is an ardent defense of Israel's rights, supported by indisputable evidence. Presents a passionate look at what Israel's accusers and detractors are saying about this war-torn country. Dershowitz accuses those who attack Israel of international bigotry and backs up his argument with hard facts. Widely respected as a civil libertarian, legal educator, and defense attorney extraordinaire, Alan Dershowitz has also been a passionate though not uncritical supporter of Israel.

Do you know of any books that take place in Israel that you would like to recommend? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments! I love the feedback!

Be sure to check back for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up next:

North American country of Canada

Amish Culture
African country of Morocco

Where we've been and the books that take us there:
The Americas and the Caribbean
Triple Threat-Baltic States
Middle East
Sierra Leone
Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand
Cultures Across the World
Australian Aborigines
Sioux Nation
Inuit Culture


  1. Wow this such a cool feature!! Im from Brazil and live in Rio, but I lived the past 3 years in Israel and it is an amazing country!

    I cant be;ieve I didnt know your blog before... Im a follower now =)

    btw... there is a book called Ashes of the red heifer by Shannon Baker that takes place in Israel ass well =)

    Have a great weekend!

  2. What a great list, thank you! And the links at the bottom to other countries is awesome.

    I am hosting a Middle East Reading Challenge that starts August 1 and will link back to this post for participants (I hope that's ok). I'd love to add your books to the potential reading list if you don't mind.

    For information on the reading challenge, head over to http://helensbookblog.com and click on Middle East Reading Challenge at the top

  3. I'm reading Mornings in Jenin right now, which is set in Israel during the early days of the country.

  4. I'd add When I Lived In Modern Times and Fault Lines as well.

    Not read any from your list, but a couple of them do sound interesting. Must look them up.

  5. I have How to Ruin a Summer Vacation from the library in my TBR pile right now. We'll see how that one goes.

    The Beekeeper's Apprentice also takes place, partially, in Palestine (the setting is pre-WWII).

  6. So many great titles to choose from. Israel is a county that I would love to visit one day.

  7. Love this feature - very cool and a unique concept! I especially enjoyed going through your list since the bulk of the Historical Fiction I read for Hist-Fic Chick takes place all across the globe.

  8. Oooh! I love John Dominic Crossan!!

  9. I really enjoy your "Take Me Away" feature! Books I've read recently about this region would be the non-fiction "We Look Like the Enemy" by Rachel Shabi (last fall) about the conflict between Ashkenazi Jews and Arabic Jews in Israel, and in fact I just reviewed a novel yesterday, "The Lonely Tree" by Yael Politis -- it begins with a kibbutz in Palestine and then sees the formation of the state of Israel.


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