Voices From Israel Book Reviews

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Jewish Book Council, June 24, 2016

On Voices From Israel: Set 2

Mitchell Lane's Voices From Israel Set 2 joins the first set as a fine resource in the education of American children about a part of the world rife with misinformation, both purposeful and inadvertent. This well-researched series avoids many of the pitfalls common to books of this kind which often lean to one side or another of the political spectrum. This is a series that teachers and librarians can turn to with a sense of confidence that no one agenda is being served. The information is presented with clarity and it is clear that ease of use was of importance in the preparation of these five volumes.

The first volume is Americans in the Holy Land and it focuses on the relationship between the United States and Israel. Americans have been interacting with what is now the State of Israel since long before the State was declared and a succession of writers, explorers, archaeologists, missionaries, "visionaries". idealists, Zionists, scholars, politicians, scientists, artists, and many others have been drawn to Israel for its biblical history or for adventure, spirituality, and a host of other reasons. A few notable Americans featured include Mark Twain, Golda Meir, John F. Kennedy, "Mickey" Marcus, and Dr. David Applebaum. American Jewish support for Israel and immigration to Israel from the U.S. are discussed as well as the ups and downs of attempting to bring some American passions such as baseball. Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Starbucks coffee to the Israeli scene.

Culture, Customs and Celebrations in Israel features the diversity of Israeli society which includes Jews whose families originally hailed from all over the world as well as covering the entire spectrum of religious observance from secular to ultra-Orthodox. Development of the Hebrew language, long considered dead but certainly now vibrantly alive and responsive to the modern world, holidays, and traditional foods (with one recipe included) are all addressed. The role of the army as a leveler and a common experience is highlighted.

Israel and the Arab World begins with historical background explaining the roots of tbe Arab-Israeli confiict and the evolution of events resulting in the situation as it presently stands. The differing narratives of the two sides are acknowledged as are political and historic issues relating to Arab and Jewish claims to disputed land.

Israel: Holy Land to Many focuses on the many religions that originated in or have important ties to Israel. It is not only the Jews, Christians and Muslims who are tied to the land; it is also the Samaritans, the Druze and the Bahai. Religious sites are discussed in historical context and photographed in color with captions providing additional detail. Passages from the Torah, the New Testament and the Koran are used to highlight the importance of such sites to each faith. Various unusual customs are described such as the Samaritan Passover ritual and a recipe for an Armenian Christmas pudding is included.

Israel: Stories of Conflict and Resolution, Love and Death is the most timely volume of the set and leads the reader up to today and on into the future. It addresses terror, an issue that all Israelis must live with and integrate into their daily lives; no one is untouched. The author makes a valiant effort to be fair to all sides in his analysis of the forces that brought the region to this point and, in a thoughtful introduction, expresses his hope for a more peaceful future. He addresses the rise in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among the citizens as well as the techniques and treatments being developed to minimize its effects. Issues related to misunderstandings between differing groups in society and examples of racism are complex amidst the Islamic terror which periodically recurs. Less dramatic but important to understand are cultural issues related to driving and the legal system. One item of interest to tourists who hope to visit Israel and of importance to the overall economy is whether visiting Israel is safe. The author takes pains to assure those concerned that it is and explains with care why this is so.

Each volume in the series includes many color and black and white photographs, maps (with the disputed territories delineated), chapter notes, works consulted, further reading suggestions, suggested websites, a glossary of terms and in one case a glossary of foreign terms, and an index.

The series is appealingly designed, filled with infonnation and color, and does not favor one political agenda. It would be an excellent addition to home collections and especially valuable for classrooms and libraries.

Recommended for ages 12-18.

Chicago Jewish Star, January 15-28, 2016

On the Voices From Israel series.

An exciting new series of books about Israel today, aimed at teaching children about the many facets of the country, has been published for school-age children, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Developed as educational resources for schools and libraries, the series supports the Common Core standards and guidelines for English language and literacy for students K-12. It is suitable, as well, for Hebrew schools and day schools. . . Voices From Israel is an urgently needed series, especially welcome because it educates young students about the Jewish state in a balanced, personalized way. It avoids histrionics and the extremism so often favored by the media.

Series Made Simple, November 2015

On Benjamin Netanyahu: Leading the Way for Israel, Working Together: Economy, Technology, and Careers in Israel, I Am Israeli: The Children of Israel, Cultures, Customs, and Celebrations in Israel, The Experience of Israel: Sights and Cities, and Israel and the Arab World

Varying subjects and viewpoints make this series on modern-day Israel comprehensive and informative. Benjamin Netanyahu, a biography of the country's current prime minister, along with Working Together, I Am Israel, and Cultures, Customs, and Celebration, examine history, leadership, and everyday life. Coverage is generally positive and includes Arab perspectives and criticism of Israeli policies and actions. Experience and Arab World, written by journalist and tour guide Zohar, are by far the strongest of the group. Arab World is a thoughtful and generally objective look at Israel's past and contemporary relations with its nearest neighbors and the Palestinians that live in and outside its borders. Experience is a fascinating country tour written by a lively and well–informed guide. Bright color photos and sidebars are a plus. VERDICT The entire set is a sound choice for libraries that need in–depth report information about Israel. For libraries that don't need all volumes, Zohar's strong writing makes The Experience of Israel and Israel and the Arab World good standalone purchases.

Booklist, October 2015

On Israel and the Arab World

Zohar, born in Canada but now living in Israel, dreams of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and in this installment in the Voices from Israel series, he tackles the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Zohar devotes a chapter to the plight of the Palestinians but follows it with a chapter on Amin al-Husseini, who led the Palestinian people with an uncompromising position against Jewish Israelis. Zohar's narrative is engaging and balanced, and the many photos, straightforward language, and colorful layout add to the welcoming approach to this complicated topic. Zohar includes a glossary, which contains additional summaries of people and events; chapter notes; a list of works and websites consulted; and recommendations for further reading. This is a levelheaded and refreshing perspective on a hot-button issue.

Judith Oron, author of Cry of the Giraffe

On I am Israeli: The Children of Israel

I read Eva Weiss' book,I am Israeli: The Children of Israel a week ago. One of the best things you can say about a book is that, seven days later you are still thinking about it! I loved this book and can hardly wait for my grand kids to be old enough for me to read it to them. Apart from the excellent writing, I came away highly informed, which, considering that I lived in Israel for most of my life, is really saying something! The children's short biographies were interesting and inspiring and I loved the recipes, craft and other 'to do' items - how to make your own snow flake art was a highlight for me - do I have to be a child to try it?

Shoshana Glatzer, Educational Consultant, Curriculum Developer, Author

On I am Israeli: The Children of Israel

How refreshing to see the world through the eyes, interests, relationships and fun activities of children. Through beautiful pictures that accompany and illustrate the stories of five Israeli children, through their cooking, recipes, and art projects taught by the children, Ms. Weiss has created an exciting book that children everywhere (and adults too) will treasure.