Read a Book About Israeli Life, History, and Culture

We have so many beautiful stories from Israel, but here are a few favorites that might already be on your bookshelves:

Picture Books

Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam book cover

Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam

Written by Fawzia Gilani-Williams and illustrated by Chiara Fedele, is published by Kar-Ben Publishing

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.

Everywhere Chair book cover

Everywhere Chair

Written by Nati Bait, illustrated by Moran Barak, published by Hakibbutz-Hameuchad/Sifriat Poalim

It all starts with a simple chair…and before you know it, the children in this story take off on a tour of Israel. The chair becomes a car, a train, a plane – and takes off for Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, and Haifa. When you’ve got an active imagination, there are no limits to where you can go!

Barefoot in the Sand book cover

Barefoot in the Sand

Written by Hava Deevon, illustrated by Rotem Teplow, and published by Green Bean Books

Saul from Romania has always dreamed of living in Israel, and so has Solomon from Yemen. When these two travelers meet on the shores of Tel Aviv, they share their stories and their joy.

Engineer Arielle and the Israel Independence Day Surprise book cover

Engineer Arielle and the Israel Independence Day Surprise

Written by Deborah Bodin Cohen and illustrated by Yael Kimhi Orrelle, is published by Kar-Ben Publishing

Engineer Ari’s great-great-granddaughter, Arielle, drives a lightrail train through Jerusalem. Readers follow her along her stops on a very festive day -- Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day!

Middle Grade Books

Pickled Watermelon book cover

Pickled Watermelon

Written by Esty Schachter and published by Kar-Ben Publishing

Salad for breakfast? Pickled watermelon for snack? Sleeping in a house just for kids instead of at home? Spending a summer in Israel isn’t at all what Molly expected!

Beni’s War book cover

Beni’s War

by Tammar Stein

Twelve-year-old Beni’s family has moved from Jerusalem to a moshav in the north of Israel to make a fresh start after the death of Beni’s soldier brother, Gideon. Sensitive Beni finds it hard to stand up to the bullies at his new school, and his brother, Motti, is now a soldier, so he isn’t there to help. When the Syrians attack, the moshav is evacuated as war breaks out. Beni must find a way to forge new relationships with his classmates while he tries to make his own contribution to the war effort. Alongside Beni’s moving coming-of-age story, this gripping novel gives an insight into life in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. It is the sequel to the Sydney Taylor Honor Book The Six-Day Hero but can be read as a standalone novel.

The Six-Day Hero book cover

The Six-Day Hero

by Tammar Stein

This thrilling, beautifully written coming-of-age novel vividly captures the spirit of Israel during the Six-Day War through the eyes of twelve-year-old Motti, who lives in Jerusalem, just a few meters from the Jordanian border. The entire country is suspended in a state of tense anticipation, Motti’s brother and father have been drafted, and his best friend has fled the country. Motti dreams of playing the hero and is frustrated that he’s too young to help until the reality of war teaches him that courage and daring are not exactly synonymous. The Six-Day Hero has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection and is a Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner.

Parents should know that this book has content warnings; we recommend you review them in the Parent Guide.

The Sound of Freedom book cover

The Sound of Freedom

by Kathy Kacer

Life is good for Anna Hirsch: her loving father is a respected clarinetist in Krakow, her Baba is a wonderful cook, and Anna and her best friend Renata make a perfect team. But with Hitler in power, Mr. Hirsch’s music students abandon him, and Renata’s family leaves for Denmark. Then superstar violinist Bronislaw Huberman comes to Poland to audition musicians for a new orchestra he is setting up in Palestine. Anna’s father auditions successfully, and the family emigrates, embarking on a future full of new possibilities but also new challenges. The Sound of Freedom is based in part on the true story of the origins of the Israel Philharmonic.

Ilan Ramon: Israel’s Space Hero book cover

Ilan Ramon: Israel’s Space Hero

by Barbara Sofer

Famous Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon represented Jews all over the world when he joined the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. This is the story of how he grew up to become Israel’s foremost astronaut, from his childhood in Beersheva, through his bar mitzvah following the Six-Day War, to his army service as a pilot and his training as an astronaut. This is an inspiring biography about an Israeli hero.

Parents should know that Ilan Ramon’s story is very inspirational, but also sad. The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven people on board. This tragic accident is sensitively described for young readers.


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