Our Personal Choice of the Most Favourite Israeli Books

March 2020

We are home. Not by choice. Crazy reality all around. Some escapism is needed for the Neshama – soul….

We need, even for a little while a place of refuge to run to. Go to another world and think and imagine other things. Being closed at home with our family, we also need some alone time. Just to be with ourselves, even for a little bit.

A book is the answer to all of the above.
A good book can take you away to anywhere in the world. Or out of this world sometime…
It can also take you to our beloved Israel.
Here is a collection of our own personal favorite Israeli books. That can take you on a journey to Israeli hearts, stories and tales.
A hot cup of something, a good book (you can get them all in an e-version on line) and enjoy yourselves some Israeli quality time!

1.  A Tale of Love and Darkness – by Amos Oz

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history.
A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many.

The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.

2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – by Yuval Noah Harari

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

3. The Blue Mountain – by Meir Shalev

The absorbing first novel by one of Israel’s most important and acclaimed contemporary writers focuses on four idealistic early settlers of the modern state of Israel.

Set in a small rural village prior to the creation of the State of Israel, this funny and hugely imaginative book paints an extraordinary picture of a small community of Ukrainian immigrants as they pioneer a new life in a new land over three generations. Narrated by Baruch, a grandson of one of the founding fathers of the village, this lyrical novel transcends time and place by touching on issues of universal relevance, showcasing the skill of a master storyteller who never fails to entertain. 

4. The Secret Book of Kings – by Yochi Brandes

Stories are deadlier than swords. Swords kill only those who stand before them, stories decide who will live and die in generations to come.

Shlom’am, a young man from the tribe of Ephraim, has grown up in the shadow of several secrets. He wonders why his father is deathly afraid of the King’s soldiers, and why his mother has lied to him about the identities of those closest to him. Knowing his parents won’t divulge more than they have to, Shlom’am sets out on his own to unearth his mysterious past.

At the height of his journey, Shlom’am encounters the Crazed Princess. Princess Michal, daughter of the ill-fated King Saul and discarded wife of the illustrious, dangerous King David, seems doomed by the annals of history; hellbent on seizing the throne, David wiped out her father’s line and left her isolated…and plotting. Only Michal knows the shocking circumstances of Shlom’am’s birth. Only she can set into motion his destiny to become Jerobaam, the fourth king of Israel.

The Secret Book of Kings is a sweeping biblical epic filled with court intrigue, romance, and rebellion. It engages with the canonized stories of the Israel’s foundation and turns them on their heads. Brandes, known for her profound familiarity with Jewish sources, uncovers vibrant, adversarial men and woman buried deep in the scriptures and asks the loaded question: to what extent can we really know our past when history is written by the victors?

5. Valley of Strength – by Shulamit Lapid

This scenic, moving novel, set at the end of the 19th Century, follows the life-altering trials and experiences of a pioneer woman in pre-state Israel. Fania, a 16 year old survivor of a program in the Ukraine, arrives in Israel with her uncle, her deranged brother, and her unwanted baby – a product of rape. She meets Yehiel, a 26 year old widower and father of two. Fania moves in with Yehiel and throws herself into the life of a peasant woman, trying to squeeze a living out of the stony ground despite hunger and disease. Wearing Arab robes, she breaks into the male-dominated world of commerce, politics, and even defense.

6. See Under: LOVE – by David Grossman

In this powerful novel by one of Israel’s most prominent writers, Momik, the only child of Holocaust survivors, grows up in the shadow of his parents’ history. Determined to exorcise the Nazi “beast” from their shattered lives and prepare for a second holocaust he knows is coming, Momik increasingly shields himself from all feeling and attachment. But through the stories his great-uncle tells him—the same stories he told the commandant of a Nazi concentration camp—Momik, too, becomes “infected with humanity.” Grossman’s masterly fusing of vision, thought, and emotion make See Under: Love a luminously imaginative and profoundly affecting work.

7. Homesick – by Eshkol Nevo

This heart-warming, charming and clever first novel dips into the lives of each of the inhabitants of a village in Israel. It is 1995 and Noa and Amir, a student couple, have decided to move in together. They choose a small apartment in a village in the hills. Originally called El-Kastel, the village was emptied of its Arab inhabitants in 1948 and is now the home of Jewish immigrants from Kurdistan. Not far from the apartment lives a family grieving for their eldest son who was killed in Lebanon. The younger brother left behind, Yotam, forgotten by his parents, turns to Amir for support. Further down the street, Saddiq watches the house while he works at a building site. He knows that this house is the one from which his family was driven by the Jews when he was a boy, and to which his mother still has a rusty key. Despite friendships that develop and lives that become entwined, tensions among this melting pot of characters seem to be rising to the surface. Homesick is a beautiful and moving story about history, love, family and the true meaning of home.

8 The Fairest Among Women – by Shifra Horn

Part history, part fairy tale, part legend, this literary gem by the author of “Four Mothers” is the tale of beautiful Rosa, whose life coincides with the 50 years of the state of Israel. She was born during the War of Independence in the 1940s and disappears on a cold winter night in the 1990s.

9. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle – by Dan Senor, Saul Singer

START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel– a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?

With the savvy of foreign policy insiders, Senor and Singer examine the lessons of the country’s adversity-driven culture, which flattens hierarchy and elevates informality– all backed up by government policies focused on innovation. In a world where economies as diverse as Ireland, Singapore and Dubai have tried to re-create the “Israel effect”, there are entrepreneurial lessons well worth noting. As America reboots its own economy and can-do spirit, there’s never been a better time to look at this remarkable and resilient nation for some impressive, surprising clues.

10. Tamara Walks on Water – by Shifra Horn

As a child, Tamara loves stories and is constantly asking questions of those around her. However no one ever seems to give Tamara the whole story, so instead she must piece together the various narratives herself in what becomes a lifelong attempt to unravel the hidden secrets of her family history.

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