The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is one of the most contentious issues in world politics today. Recent escalations in Israel’s military exercises against Gaza — including the
bombing of the al-Jalaa building, which housed both Al Jazeera and the Associated Press in Gaza City — have people around the world, from all ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, anxious to educate themselves about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although a May 21 ceasefire agreement seems to have put an end to the 11-day offensive that resulted in more than 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian casualties, the fact remains that this eruption of violence is only the latest in a decades-long war.
Since the establishment of the independent State of Israel in 1948, the international community has clashed over how to acknowledge the State of Palestine — if they acknowledge it at all. It’s a long, complicated history — one that’s defined the lived experiences of Arab and Jewish communities in the region for decades.
Below, 15 books to help you understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 Mornings in Jenin
Centering on a displaced Arab family living in the eponymous refugee camp,
Mornings in Jenin follows four generations of the Abulhejo family, including a set of twins, separated by a kidnapping, who find themselves on opposing sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 2 Sonora
Raised outside Phoenix, Arizona, half-Palestinian, half-Israeli Ahlam has never felt as if she belongs. She falls into a passionate love affair with another girl, Laura, and the pair run away to the bright lights of the Big Apple... but can they escape what awaits them at home?
3 I Saw Ramallah
Exiled from Palestine following the Six-Day War in 1967, poet Mourid Barghouti would not return to his homeland for 30 years — and when he finally did, Barghouti found that Ramallah, Palestine’s administrative capital, had undergone major changes in his absence.
4 Kingdom of Olives and Ash
From Breaking the Silence — an NGO made up of former Israeli soldiers opposed to the occupation — comes this thoughtful essay collection. Edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, and containing contributions from Rachel Kushner and Dave Eggers, among others,
Kingdoms of Olives and Ash is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 5 An Improbable Friendship
Ruth Dayan’s late husband won the Six-Day War for Israel. Raymonda Tawil’s son-in-law, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, was labeled a terrorist. By all accounts, they should have found themselves on opposite sides of the conflict — but their goals aligned in substantial ways, and their friendship would change lives.
6 The Way to the Spring
American journalist Ben Ehrenreich penned this inside look at life in the West Bank, based on three years of research and firsthand experience. A book in the tradition of
Behind the Beautiful Forevers and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, The Way to the Spring offers readers a glimpse of Palestinian life. 7 To the End of the Land
Years ago, Ora drew lots for Avram and Ilan to see which of them would receive a few days’ leave from IDF service. Ilan won, and later married Ora, while Avram languished as a POW of the Yom Kippur War. Now, Ilan and Ora have separated, and their grown son, Ofer, has been called up for extended service. Already grieving her anticipated loss, Ora takes Avram on a vacation in the Galilee, where she tells him all about her son, a young man he has never met.
8 Drinking the Sea at Gaza
Another work of longform journalism about life in Palestine, this time by an Israeli reporter sent to cover Gaza,
Drinking the Sea at Gaza charts the experiences of Palestinians at the turn of the 21st century. In the same way that Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy humanized ordinary people in North Korea, so too does Amira Hass’ book paint a portrait of unseen lives. 9 Our American Israel
There’s no denying that the United States is Israel’s biggest and most powerful ally. Amy Kaplan connects the dots between U.S.-Israeli relations and the concept of the American Empire in
Our American Israel. If you’ve ever wondered why everyone you meet in the United States has an opinion on Israel and Palestine, this is the book you need to read next. 10 Dear Zealots
Containing two essays from late Israeli novelist Amos Oz,
Dear Zealots examines the rise in fanaticism around the globe. As timely today as it was upon its initial publication in 2017, this slim volume is a must-read. 11 The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Israeli historian and University of Exeter Professor Ilan Pappe has written numerous books about the Israel-Palestine conflict, but
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine may be his most sobering. With an eye toward Al Nakba — the 1948 displacement of many Palestinians from the State of Israel — and the Palestine War, Pappe’s book examines the post-WWII period in the Palestinian region. 12 Strangers with the Same Dream
Man Booker Prize nominee Alison Pick’s 2017 novel follows a tight-knit group of Jewish refugees who set out in 1921 to found a kibbutz in what will later become the State of Israel. Although their goals are lofty, the life they make is not as idyllic as they had hoped. As interpersonal and intercultural tensions mount,
Strangers with the Same Dream rushes headlong to its gripping conclusion. 13 All the Rivers
Another novel, this one by the Israeli-born daughter of Iranian Jewish parents,
All the Rivers centers on a young couple who meet and fall in love in New York City, knowing all the while that their relationship cannot last. Hilmi is a Palestinian artist, whose Israeli girlfriend, Liat, can’t bring herself to introduce him to her family and friends. But as her feelings for Hilmi deepen, Liat begins to wonder whether or not pleasing her family is worth giving up on love. 14 Sadness Is a White Bird
In Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s Dayton Literary Peace Prize-nominated novel, a teenage IDF soldier finds himself torn between his service to his country and his friendship with a pair of Palestinian twins
. 15 Out of Place
Born into a Palestinian Christian family in Jerusalem in 1935, and raised and educated in Egypt, the late Edward W. Said reflects on how his early life shaped his anti-colonialist worldview, in
Out of Place.
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