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Books, Films and TV Shows about Israel


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We just returned from our first trip to Israel and now I want to learn more about this country before we return for another trip next year.

In preparation for the trip I read:
  • 2 guidebooks - Eyewitness and Lonely Planet.
  • 3 novels - The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amozs Oz (both recommended in my planning thread - I did not finish the Amos Oz, but will get back to it) and Exodus by Leon Uris (still reading this and enjoying it).
  • 1 history book - Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis (did not finish but will get back to it).
I have these books on my list to read (I have samples on my Kindle):
  • Friendly Fire by AB Yehoshua
  • The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron
  • The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (historic novel set in Masada)
I got the HillTop from this article - 7 Must-Read Books By Israeli Authors - and Friendly Fire was in the apartment we rented in Haifa.

Recommendations for other books to read, fiction or non-fiction?

Before the trip we watched some of season 1 of Srugim (Israeli TV series set in Jerusalem), finished season 1 while in Jerusalem, and finished season 2 while still in Israel. We are watching season 3 now. This show is really good and very informative about religious Jewish life in Israel.

Years ago we watched Prisoners of War (Israel version) and In Treatment (Israel version). Recently we watched Fauda, and a second season will be available soon.

Recommendations for other TV shows or films?

I will subscribe to Ha'aretz, the newspaper for Israel which is available in English in digital.

I learned a lot about traveling in Israel in the Trip Advisor forums and will continue to read them. There is also a Palestinian Territories forum which I will read. Next year we will go there for a day trip.


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A subscription to Ha'aretz is a very good idea. Clearly leftist in its views, nonetheless gives a well-balanced picture of the country, also giving space to regular contributors from the opposite side of the political map. Too bad that not all articles from the Hebrew version are translated.
For tourists : look for articles in this newspaper by Moshe Gilad (check also past issues in the archives), he's the tourism reporter and covers some of the less-known aspects of tourism in the country. In addition, columns by Ronit Vered can provide some good information on small producers and businesses in the realm of gastronomy.
I might add that the film "The Gatekeepers" should go on the list if you want an interesting perspective (one of many) on the present conflict.
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I finished the novel Exodus by Leon Uris (1958) and it was a long read, and in parts boring. It was very dated in many ways. Plus the main story about the boat Exodus leaving from Cypress is made up! There was a boat called Exodus and it played a big part in the history of Israel, but the story is very different. I read a few articles pointing out how one sided Exodus is - and it really is - but how influential it was in its time. After finishing I decided it was worthwhile reading it just because of its influence.

Huffington Post - THE BLOG 04/24/2013 Re-reading Leon Uris’ Exodus by Alan Elsner

This article in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz lists current authors.

Ha'aretz - Don't Blame BDS: Why the World Isn't Holding Its Breath for the Next Big Israeli Author
The list of translated Israelis is enormous, and the occupation doesn’t even sour the mood with some readers. Still, the U.S., British and Scandinavian markets remain tough nuts to crack

I am currently reading “The Hilltop” by Assaf Gavron, which depicts the surreal reality in the West Bank. It is very good.


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A friend recommended an Israeli movie which we watched last night. It was very good, and similar to Srugim, but from an Arab-Israeli perspective. We rented it on Amazon Video.

In Between, 2017
Three Palestinian women living in an apartment in Tel Aviv try to find a balance between traditional and modern culture.
Starring: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammalieh, Shaden Kanboura
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud
Writer: Maysaloun Hamoud

The main actress, Mouna Hawa, was in 3 episodes of Fauda, another Israeli show.


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I finished the novel “Waking Lions” by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and really liked it. It is set in modern times. A doctor and his family live in Beersheva. An incident involves him with the Eritrean immigrant community (illegal immigrants) and the local Bedouins. His wife is a police detective. It is more of a story of his life and marriage than a murder mystery, although there is a murder. It gives a good perspective on life in that part of Israel.


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An update on my Israeli authors reading list:

Etgar Keret - The Seven Good Years: A Memoir.
Short stories forming a memoir of the time between the birth of his son and the death of his father. Very good view of life in Israel. I loved this book.
Review - The Guardian - The Seven Good Years review – singular, surreal tales of Israeli life
Etgar Keret’s collection of personal essays, covering birth, death and failing at yoga, is driven by wit and sharp insight.

Other books I have by Keret:
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories
Tel Aviv Noir (Akashic Noir) - editor of this collection

Assaf Gavron - Almost Dead: A Novel
Very good story about a Jew in Tel Aviv and an Arab in the Palastinian Territories during a time of many attacks in Israel.
Review - Haaretz - Israeli Fiction / A Bomb in Tel Aviv
Maybe it's not coincidence that Assaf Gavron's 'Almost Dead' has been far better received abroad than at home. For those who haven't lived through the period it portrays, the very existence of a single work encompassing both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives constitutes grounds for profuse literary praise.

I also read Gavron's The Hilltop which was good.
Review - The Guardian - The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron review – ‘an extraordinary view of contemporary Israeli society’
A fictional West Bank settlement and the chaotic lives its inhabitants lead reflect the contradictions and complexities of life in modern Israel.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen - Waking Lions
Very good novel, by a female Israeli author, about a Jewish doctor and his family (his wife is a police detective) living in Beersheba and interactions with illegal immigrants from Eritrea.
Review - The Guardian - Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen review - a restrained, serious story of secrets and extortion
A hit-and-run accident and a blackmailing widow spark a triangle of moral dilemmas in the highly anticipated second book from the Israeli novelist
Article: The Culture Trip - 9 Israeli TV Programs You Should Stream Now, Feb 2018

In Treatment / BeTipul (HBO)

Just a (belated) note about In Treatment...the HBO version is not the Israeli program but a very worthwhile American adaptation. Starring Gabriel Bryne as the psychiatrist , it ran for three seasons and was very well received.


I have been unsuccessful in finding the Israeli version (BeTipul) with English subtitles. If you can locate it while you are in Israel, I would be grateful. One of the stars is Ayelet Zurer (no known relation).
We did watch The Women's Balcony last night and found it enjoyable...there was enough "realism" to temper the drift toward excessive "heartwarming". Some nice performances combined with the treatment of some important Israeli religious and social issues. The film is streaming on Netflix....


Last night, we started watching the hit Israeli comedy series "The Beauty and the Baker"...the jury is still out in terms of the chances of our sticking with it; it may be too broad for our taste. We have watched three of the half hour episodes. It's on Amazon Prime....

I somehow just saw this thread.

I agree with Joe about a subscription to Ha'aretz. It has some of the best journalists writing about Israei news, and great columnists. Also, for some reason, great archaeology. I subscribe to only three newspapers, NY Times, Wash Post, and Ha'aretz, and Ha'aretz is definitely worth it. If I think a columnist may be too slanted... I check what the Jerusalem Post has to say (for free). Also --- I have The Times of Israel come up on my daily feed; some very good writers there too. (Admitting here that an old family friend, Miriam Herschlag, is the Ops and Blogs editor of the Times of Israel; not that she's old. )

I am a big fan of Amos Oz. Also Meir Shalev ---- although I've only read his "The Blue Mountain". There's a relatively new book by the American Jewish writer NIcole Krauss, "Forest Dark", which takes place in Israel. It's not exactly wonderful, but you could try it. I did recently read and love "Dinner at the Center of the Earth" by Nathan Englander, which was brilliant. It's a very complicated story but basically it stems from his disilllusion with Israel after the assassination of Rabin. He had lived in Israel form quite a number of years before that.

I saw "The Women's Balcony", but I am not sure that one would be aware of the various conflicts the movie plays with if one were not already familiar with them ---- such as the kind of relatively liberal Sephardi religiousity of the community portrayed in the film coming up against the charismatic haredi savior.
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And re "Exodus" ---- yes, made up. Three of my adult survivor cousins, two brothers and the wife of one of them, were on the Exodus, along with the infant son of the couple (the infant is my cousin who lives in Ra'anana). As one of my cousins used to say (in his strong accent...) "I was on the Exodus, the REAL one, not the Paul Newman one."
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I somehow just saw this thread.
I saw "The Women's Balcony", but I am not sure that one would be aware of the various conflicts the movie plays with if one were not already familiar with them ---- such as the kind of relatively liberal Sephardi religiousity of the community portrayed in the film coming up against the charismatic haredi savior.
You may be right....but even without viewers knowing the particulars of the conflicts, I think it the movie presents a clear portrayal of the struggle of the modern orthodox against the extreme position of the ulta-orthodox and how the split affects the daily life and relationships of the characters.


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