How to Talk to Kids About Israel

So you’ve just received your latest PJ Library book and it’s all about Israel! After pouring over the pages together, your child has questions--lots of them. What do you say? How do you answer? For some parents, talking about Israel can feel complicated or political. For others, their knowledge, like their children’s, may be derived largely from books, and for other families, Israel is viewed through the lens of family trips, video chats with relatives, and traditional recipes.

In the post below you’ll find books and activities separated by age group to help you introduce Israel to your kids and learn more about the country on your own.

PRESCHOOL

When they’re young, kids can explore the culture, sites, and sounds of Israel through story books, recipes, and activities with local PJ Library programs. While some children learn about Israel directly through phone calls, video chats, and visits with family who live there, many other children experience Israel as a special, far-away, place depicted in stories and their PJ Library books.

3 Falafels in My Pita by Maya Friedman

Recommended for ages 2 to 3

This early counting book introduces children to the sights and sounds of Israel.


Ella's Trip to Israel by Vivian Newman

Recommended for ages 2 to 3

Readers will follow a young girl named Ella as she takes her first trip to Israel with her family.


KINDERGARTEN

Around age five, children are often attracted to stories that feature people, places, and events with connections to their own lives. The children’s books listed below feature stories about special friendships with Israel serving as a backdrop to the central theme of the story.

Sammy Spider’s New Friend by Syliva Rouss

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

When an Israeli family moves in next door, little Josh Shapiro and Sammy Spider learn about the mitzvah of welcoming guests. In the process, they each make a new friend and learn some Hebrew words.


Shmulik Paints the Town by Lisa Rose

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Meet Shmulik, an artist, and his dog, Ezra. When the mayor asks Shmulik to paint a grand mural to help the town get ready for Independence Day celebrations, Shmulik has trouble focusing on the task at hand.


Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah Da Costa

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Two boys living in Jerusalem — one Muslim, the other Jewish — are surprised to discover they’ve been looking after the same stray cat.


Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom and Salaam by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Yaffa and Fatima are dear friends, despite coming from different backgrounds. When times get tough, how will they look after each other? This rendition of a classic Jewish folktale is an inspiring look at how friendship perseveres.


ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Since children in this age group are drawn to more complex stories, two of the selections in this list feature true-tales from Israel’s history. The third book, Israel, is unique among the books in the PJ Library catalog but still offers children a good jumping off place to start learning about, exploring, and asking questions about Israel.

A Concert in the Sand by Tami Shem-Tov

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Learn the true story of the creation of the Israel Philharmonic.


Israel by Rachel Shalev

Recommended for ages 6 to 8

This vibrant, over-sized, board book is a hunt and find book, similar to the Where’s Waldo series but with illustrations and characters drawn from Israel. This title is great to pack for long trips or in the event of a rainy vacation day. Kids will have a blast identifying the diverse group of characters hidden in each scene.


The Language of Angels by Richard Michelson

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

Eliezer Ben Yehuda had an idea: He wanted to make Hebrew a spoken language again. But that meant that somebody had to be the first person to grow up speaking it, and that someone was going to be his son, Ben Zion.


MIDDLE GRADE (Tweens)

As children age and are exposed to world news whether online or in print, they may encounter--and question--aspects of the history of Israel. Parents can sometimes feel at a loss for where to start. In addition to the PJ Our Way books your child might pick on their own, here are links that can help guide discussions about conflict in Israel:

How to Talk to Your Kids About Israel via kveller.com
Reframing Israel: via reframingisrael.org
APPROACHING CONFLICTS: Contexts, Perspectives, and Values in Israel Education via The iCenter for Israel Education

FOR PARENTS

Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel by Marv Wolfman, Mario Ruiz, and William J. Rudis

This book uses a combination of graphic art, photographs, and illustration to offer the reader a sense of Israel’s history and culture.


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

This book is a wonderful resource for those unfamiliar with the history of Israel. The material is presented in a concise and accessible format and reviews events from the founding of the country through present day.


Israel: An Introduction by Barry Rubin

As the title promises, this book offers the reader an overview of Israel.


A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev

The novel traces the path of Israel’s independence through the lens of two intertwining love stories.


ACTIVITIES

Eat, Play, Explore and More via PJ Our Way
Lesson Plans via the Center for Israel Education

More

How to Talk to Children About Israel via ReformJudaism.org
How to Talk to Kids About Violence in Israel via kveller.com
Picture Books for Parents Who Are Ambivalent About Israel via Tablet