Good Books about Modern Israel

Image: A modern Israeli highway runs beside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. (Public Domain)

Some general histories of Modern Israel:

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis

Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Nation and Its History by Rich Cohen

Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert

My People: The Story of the Jews by Abba Eban

Some books about particular parts of Israeli history:

Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi

Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth M. Seigel

O, Jerusalem! by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

Primary Sources:

The Jewish State by Theodore Herzl

Memoirs by David Ben Gurion

The Jews in their Land by David Ben Gurion

Abba Eban, an Autobiography by Abba Eban

So, regular readers, what books have I neglected to mention that would help a beginner understand Israel? What histories do you like? What books give the reader the flavor of contemporary Israel? What memoirs and primary sources are particularly good?

I look forward to your additions in the comments!









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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

11 thoughts on “Good Books about Modern Israel”

  1. I haven’t read any of these apart from Eban’s “My People…,” which was what Rabbi Chester had me read when I studied for conversion under his supervision. I’m personally disinclined to read anything by Ari Shavit given what’s been reported about his record of sexual harrassment of colleagues, but I’ll check out some of the others on the list.

      1. Thank you for replying, Rabbi Adar. I am really struggling with this issue right now, with how I respond when someone’s personal behavior is beyond the pale, but their work is good. If I buy his book, I’m not necessarily directly rewarding his sexual misconduct, but I do contribute to his sales figures rising, which might lead to a contract to write another book, which means employees of his publisher and reviewers will have to encounter him. And I worry that buying his book gives the impression that I think his repugnant personal conduct was OK, even if it only gives that impression to him.

        I’m a musician. I know Wagner was cozy with the Nazis, but I enjoy and perform his music. I believe the work has worth even if its creator was deeply flawed. What do we do in these cases? When are we complicit by continuing to engage with those who treat some of their fellow human beings abominably? How do we as a society stop offenders, in a way that they can’t ignore, without depriving ourselves of potential value from what they might create in the future? Is that potential value worth its potential cost if they keep offending? Does our tradition have guidance for us here?

        1. Patti, good points all – and you make an important distinction between listening to Wagner and buying the product of a living person. I’m not going to answer this off the cuff – it’s too good a question – but will do some study first. Thank you for raising an important question!

          To Other Readers: If you have opinions about this, or examples from the tradition to reference, I hope that you will speak up!

    1. Patti, after this King on it I have deleted Shavit’s book from the library. We’re there a shortage of good alternatives I might have left it, but I think your point carries the day. Still reading through traditional sources for guidance on this. Watch for a blog post in the future!

      Thank you so much for challenging me on this. It is a better list thanks to your input.

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