Category Archives: Israeli

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi, based on a story by Boaz Yakin and Moni Yakin, with art director Chris Sinderson

Jerusalem famly portraitSome years back, during a discussion about what was then the latest tragic news coming out of the Middle East, a friend’s mother softly remarked about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “The absolute worst arguments happen among families.” She (the widow of conservative rabbi) was referring specifically to the shared Abrahamic ancestry of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. From Cain and Abel onward, too much of history – and not just religious history – has proven the truth in Mommy’s simple statement.

Welcome to Jerusalem, “… a stubborn little slab of reality that nevertheless shimmers like a mirage before the eyes of both the made and the sane, united them into a single brotherhood of dreamers, murderers, and poets.” The ‘family’ of the subtitle is the Halaby clan, originally from Syria, who arrive in the foothills of Jerusalem in 1893. A half century later, the family is bookended by two sons with four sisters in between: the elder, Yakov, is a wealthy community leader; Izak, six years younger, is always on the verge of ruin, mostly at the hands of his own brother. Yakov’s childhood animosity – “… overcome by jealousy at the attention lavished on his brother, [Yakov] vowed never to allow Izak a moment’s peace” – remains a trenchant reality, even into middle age.

During the violent, tumultuous 1940s leading up to the declaration of an independent state of Israel in 1948, the Halaby brothers and their families live vastly different lives. Yakov manages to maintain stability and comfort – luxury, even – all the while tormenting Izak, even causing his brother’s imprisonment when Izak is unable to keep up with loan payments. While Izak is virtually powerless, his angry, often cruel, wife desperately tries to keep her family together. Their sons’ reactions to their threatened lives vary significantly: one joins hands with his Muslim neighbors to serve the Communist Party, one leaves the family to fight abroad, one becomes entangled with an extremist anti-British underground network, and the youngest grows his reputation as a street hoodlum. The neverending conflict beyond the disparate Halabys is magnified within their relationships with one another … in spite of glimmering moments of haunting hope, tragedy proves inevitable – again and again and again.

“Inspired by stories told to him by his father,” author Boaz Yakin – perhaps better known as a filmmaker (Now You See Me, Prince of PersiaRemember the Titans) – unwinds the Halaby history with unflinching detail, brought to the page by veteran graphic illustrator Nick Bertozzi whose images never stand still. As in too many families in conflict, winners and losers prove indiscernible … the only truth is that people suffer, and always, the children most of all.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Israeli, Jewish, Middle Eastern

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret, translated by Miriam Shlesinger, Sondra Silverston, and Nathan Englander

Suddenly, a Knock on the DoorIn spite of quite the impressive creative output including on the page (books, graphic novels, articles) and on celluloid (as both writer and director), I discovered Etgar Keret because of a house – the narrowest house (four feet at its widest!) in the world, wedged in between an apartment building and a postwar co-op in what was once the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. When the architect, Jakub Szczęsny, imagined the perfect occupant for such a limited space, he thought of Keret because of his very short stories (which marked him as “someone accustomed to working within tight parameters”), as well as his Jewish Polish connections. You can read that house story here, and then discover 35 Keret stories (in less than 200 pages!) in this, his latest collection.

If Door is any indication, Keret’s writing surely defies easy categorization. Robbie finds a hole in the ground in which he can meet the incarnations of his many lies. Orit has to identify the body of a stranger who happens to be her husband even though she’s not married. Miron spends his mornings in a café meeting random people who mistake him for someone else. Ella unzips one lover to find another inside. A black man, a white woman, and a yellow priest confront a silvery, disabled God. Oshri the insurance salesman didn’t have any of his own when a man fell on his head. Ari’s girlfriend only sleeps with men named Ari.

Based on that 1/5 sampling of the collection, words like quirky, zany, wacky, might suffice. But then Keret will surprise you with wrenching: a man commits suicide over unrequited love; a newly widowed woman would rather open her restaurant to be with strangers than mourn alone. He offers even a few glimpses of the almost-mundane: a father who gives in to his willful young son; a woman who plans her husband’s 50th birthday surprise party for which only three near-strangers show up. And then there’s the personal favorite: a documentary filmmaker collecting answers about a talking goldfish which grants three wishes gets inadvertently murdered by a Russian immigrant whose  … uh … talking goldfish convinces him to make a final wish.

To read is to believe, even that which your brain might deem impossible. Keret offers quite the mind-boggling, head-scratching, heart-cracking literary trip, provided in convenient segments just right for our overstimulated, deficit-ed attention spans. Go ahead, answer that knock … let your unexpected journey begin.

Tidbit: Ironically enough, I did not stick Keret’s Door in my ears. I think I really missed something: the stories are read “by an all-star cast” including Ira Glass, Willem Dafoe, Michael Chabon, Nicole Krauss, and Nathan Englander (who also translated some of the stories!)! WOWOWOW! You can currently tune in to a few of the recordings on the homepage of Keret’s website. No clue how long those links will be available, so take advantage now!

Tidbit2: Talk about timing! This came through on my Twitter feed this morning – a five-foot wide house in Manhattan known as the “Spite House,” the story of which could even be a Keret creation!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis

Given the latest headlines in the Middle East, this seems to be the perfect time for another Deborah Ellis title. Best known for her Breadwinner Trilogy (The BreadwinnerParvana’s Journey, and Mud City) which became a tetrology this fall with My Name is Parvana, Ellis is an award-winning Canadian author whose international anti-war activism has given fierce power to her titles; she’s also parlayed her bestselling success to raise over a million dollars in royalties for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and Street Kid International with the first three Breadwinner titles alone.

While Ellis’ nonfiction titles for younger readers definitely reflect her anti-war beliefs, she doesn’t lecture or preach. Instead, she gives voice to the children who are living in war zones (Three Wishes, Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War), in refugee areas (Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees), and in the left-behind homes of deployed military personnel (Off to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children). Read together, the message is loud and clear: no one suffers more than the children. The foursome should be bundled together and sent to every policymaker throughout the world.

“In World War I, 15 percent of all casualties were civilians. In World War II, 50 percent of all casualties were civilians. In 2004, 90 percent of all casualties in war are civilians,” the epigraph stuns. Over six pages that follow, Ellis lists the names and ages of the 429 children who were killed between September 29, 2000 (the onset of the Second Intifada) and March 7, 2003.

In “a very small piece of land on the Mediterranean Sea,” Ellis writes in her introduction, “… a land sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians … the area has been at war for more than fifty years”: “The ongoing fight over this land means the children who live there spend their lives in a place of constant war.” In 2002, Ellis traveled to Israel and Palestine to speak to some of these children. Unless you recognize a name, can you really tell which ‘side’ these children are on?

Nora, 12: “I’m not supposed to go out by myself because my mother thinks I won’t be able to move fast enough if the soldiers come.”

Mona, 11: “I just want to go to school.”

Yanal, 14: “Being religious, whether you are Muslim or Christian or Jewish, or whatever you are, means that you should help people, and make the world better, and not just think of yourself. We have these things in common, at least in our religions.”

Maryam, 11: “I have only one wish. I would like to go to heaven. Maybe in heaven there is happiness, after we die. Maybe then.”

Elisheva, 18: “We could have lived like neighbors, and we did for awhile. We went to their weddings and feasts, and they came to ours. I remember when I was little we would go to their parties, and they were always friendly and welcoming. All of that has changed. Now we don’t know who we can trust.”

Hassan, 18: I would like to be a policeman when I get older. I would be a good policeman. People would trust me, and I would keep them safe.”

Yibaneh, 18: “God has become unclear. He’s heading somewhere, but it’s hard to see how this will all come to a good end.”

Asif, 15: “When I’m eighteen, I’ll go into the army. It’s the law for three years. … If I’m given an order I don’t like, an order to do something I think is wrong, I will refuse to do it. It’s important to protect the people, protect the Palestinians, I mean. I want to be a moral voice in the army …”

Mai, 18: “But now this wall is being built between us and them, and that will make it even harder for us to get to know each other as human beings. I don’t see God in this anywhere at all. I’ve never believed in God. We will make our own peace, just as we made our own war.”

Out of the mouth of babes … listen and learn. Peace, too, can be a choice.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2004

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Nora the Mind Reader by Orit Gidali, illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy, translated by Annette Appel

What a relief to find out someone has finally found the magic wand! It might look like an ordinary bubble blower to some, but you just need to read to believe.

Nora comes home from kindergarten one day and sadly tells her mother about the boy who called her “flamingo legs.” Even though she’s not quite sure what a flamingo is, she does know that her feelings have been hurt. Mommy goes looking “high and low … for her special wand for days that don’t seem to be filled with any magic at all.” With it, Nora “could see what people were saying as well as what they were really thinking.” What she quickly realizes is “that people don’t always say what they think or say what they think they are saying.”

At school the next day, her magic wand gives her new insight into her classmates. “I don’t feel like playing,” means “I don’t feel like losing.” A testy “Who wants to be your friend anyway,” really means “I do!” A not-so-nice “You ask too many questions”  is an envious “You’re so smart.”

And what about that boy who could think of nothing better than to call Nora a dubious name? When Nora tells him exactly what she thinks of him – “‘You have a nice smile’” – she realizes that Harry (“for that was his name”), for all his smarts, just wants to be friends but doesn’t quite know how to express himself. Nora, of course, knows just what to do!

Orit Gidali, an Israeli poet, adds in her author bio that she wrote this, her first picture book, for her 6-year-old daughter and “that it’s based on real magic.” Gidali surely shared that magic with her illustrator, Aya Gordon-Noy, who imbues each page with gleeful hocus pocus. Her delightfully whimsical drawings are enhanced with clever, imaginative details – a flamingo stamp imprint, real titles on the bookshelf (including Gidali’s own Twenty Girls to Envy Me), the backgrounds of faded type (I wish I could read Hebrew!) that look like they just might be special incantations, and the magic wand itself which happens to be the only photograph overlay making it the most ‘real’ thing in the book! See? Magic is real!

Both creators also share quite the giggle-inducing sense of humor: the woe-is-me-fish in his claustrophobic bowl, the adorable puppy love epilogue, and especially the final page corner with Harry saying one thing, but really hoping for a little magic of his own: “I’ll do anything not to go to sleep yet”!

I’m with Harry … with such magic in the air, who has time to sleep? Move over, puppy! I think it’s my turn with that magic wand!

Tidbit: In the original Hebrew version of the book, our intrepid heroine has a different name – it’s Noona the Mind Reader, which I randomly stumbled on while searching online for a copy of Gidali’s Twenty Girls (no English translation seems available as yet). In Korean, “noona” means older sister (used only by younger brothers), which Thing 2 used to call Thing 1 when they were younger. Just seeing that title gave me a moment of magical memory. The book is dedicated “To Nooni [hence the original title?], who taught me the most important things of all,” which made me ever so grateful for my own ‘most important Things of all.’

Readers: Children

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher

Guy Delisle is a graphic genius who draws what he sees – simply and unadornedly – with droll, minimal commentary, and creates some of the most poignant, effective, resonating memoirs ever. French Canadian Delisle has undoubtedly found international fame as a traveling artist: he recreated his temporary assignments to faraway animation studios in Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China: A Journey and Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea; he’s turned his family’s foreign postings (a result of his partner/girlfriend/wife/mother of his children – her moniker varies, sometimes by the panel! – employment with Médecins San Frontières/Doctors Without Borders) into The Burma Chronicles and now this, his latest, Jerusalem.

From August 2008 to July 2009, Delisle, his partner Nadège, their two young children Louis and Alice, call East Jerusalem ‘home.’ Two days after arrival, an MSF employee stops by and provides an initial glimpse of the complicated, labyrinthine geography – literal, historical, cultural, religious – into which the family has landed: “This is the ‘east’ part of Jerusalem. It’s an Arab village that was annexed following the six-day war in ’67. … According to the Israeli government, we’re definitely in Israel, but for the international community, which doesn’t recognize the 1967 borders, we’re in the West Bank, which should become Palestine (if that day ever comes). … For the international community, [the capital of Israel is] Tel Aviv. That’s where the embassies are. But for Israel, it’s Jerusalem. The Parliament, or ‘Knesset,’ is here, not in Tel Aviv.” Delisle’s outward reaction is “Hmm … ok.” Silently, he admits, “I didn’t really get it, but I tell myself I’ve got a whole year to figure it out …” And thus begins a year of living surreally…

While Nadège works, Delisle takes care of the children, and works when he can, which includes explorations between shifting borders. His gleeful sense of discovery is contagious; his observations are priceless.

His first outing without the family is an invitation to accompany an Israeli women’s group to the separation wall (“I didn’t think it would be so high”) where he dons one of the organization’s vests for safety (“At Machsom Watch, we’re against the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. We’re calling for their freedom of movement in their own land and an end to the occupation, which is destroying Palestinian society and damaging our own”), where he buys pickles (“Let’s try the local delicacies”) amidst journalists, kevlar-helmeted photographers, soldiers taking posed pictures of each other (“You’d think it’s the Eiffel Tower or the Great Pyramids”), before taking cover from tear gas grenades, machine guns … and stones (“F**k me!”).

Suffice it to say that no one, no one, can capture that ‘you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up’-sense of reality like Delisle. Jerusalem is surely his best work thus far; it’s also thankfully his longest. To reveal anything more feels selfish … to share the contagion seems to be the nobler option. To quote Delisle at book’s end: “And that’s it, a year of good and faithful service.” Spread the word.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, .Translation, Arab, Canadian, Israeli, Palestinian

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

Having grown up Catholic (I’m still in recovery), nothing works better than leftover Catholic guilt to get me to do something I’m whinge-ing about. The supreme irony about my former Catholicism is that going to Israel – especially (divided, chopped up, yours, mine, never ours-ancient holy city of ) Jerusalem – allowed me to shed any leftover vestiges of organized religion (except for the guilt part, of course) I had stuck to me.

Sarah Glidden, a young peripatetic comics artist already with major awards to her name (including the Ignatz Award for “Promising New Talent”) makes her graphic memoir debut with an ambitious topic: her own transformative journey to Israel. The result is a page-turning, deeply questioning, deft, moving account of what is certainly one of the most important experiences of Glidden’s young life.

Still in her 20s, Glidden grabs one of her oldest, closest friends (who is also one of her few Jewish friends) and the two embark on a “Birthright Israel” tour: “… the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26,” so says the Birthright website. In preparation, Glidden “spent every spare moment reading about Israel, Palestine and the conflict. I wanted to fill in the gaps between what I already knew, trying to prepare myself.”

She’s obsessively thorough: “I started with the beginning of recorded history and worked my way forward, trying to figure out what happened. What went wrong over there …” Glidden is already wary of being fed “whatever propaganda they try and throw at me,” and is vocally critical of the Jewish treatment of Palestinians. On the day of departure, she calms her boyfriend’s fears that she won’t “come back a brainwashed, raging Zionist, ready to dump [her] ‘Goy’ boyfriend.”

Glidden’s research serves her well (even as it drives her travel buddy Melissa a bit crazy). But nothing could have prepared her for her emotional reactions. Even as she remains staunchly unwilling to overlook the Jewish responsibility in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – “Maybe in 1900 more years some 26-year-old girl will be absentmindedly regarding illegal settlement snow globes in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Remembrance Hall gift shop, wondering how such brutal violence could ever have existed,” she remarks while wandering the “gigantic” Masada gift shop – she finds herself sobbing at the most unexpected moments of connection with her Jewish heritage.

Her journey, so touchingly accounted between these pages, is to be experienced without someone else’s filter. [Although I just have to add that if the expressions of the ghost victims don't make you cry a tear or two or three, your heart needs a major overhaul.] This is truly an intimate journey that needs to be personally discovered by every reader. Indeed, life – no matter what ‘side’ you’re on – has more questions than answers … in our ongoing, neverending search to know, sometimes sharing other people’s searching experiences might be the best way to find at least some of those elusive answers.

Tidbit: Check out Glidden’s current project, Stumbling Towards Damascus (working title), by clicking here. WOW again!

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2010

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Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

On this eve of 9/11, I’m in a frustrated funk. Regardless of political, religious, cultural, or ethnic affiliations, I think most Americans are shaking their heads at the state of the world, and definitely not shaking enough hands; not enough of us have  been able to turn away from watching an endless loop of the falling Towers all over again and again and again.

Indeed, this week’s intolerance has been overwhelming: the latest issue of Time magazine arrived in our mailbox with a cover screaming “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” [uh ... happy Rosh Hashanah??!!]; the Ground Zero Mosque controversy has hit every media outlet (although thankfully a diverse coalition of young people are finding Common Ground and offering an alternative sanity); and then there’s Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida with his incendiary threats … which, ironically, is fueling debates on the ‘correct’ way to spell Koran, Quran, Qur’an. That’s just a few of the headlines this week …

While I don’t mean to use Joe Sacco’s eye-opening, heart-breaking work as a pulpit, I think his Footnotes in Gaza is an apt post for today. Sacco – born in Malta, currently living in Oregon when he’s not traveling, internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest cartoonists ever, best known for his American Book Award-winning Palestine – has built his career documenting death and destruction throughout the world. His is today’s real world of intolerance …

Sent on a Harper’s magazine assignment to the Gaza Strip in 2001 to “focus on how Palestinians in one town – Khan Younis – were coping during the early months of the Second Intifada against the Israeli occupation,” Sacco and his journalist partner uncovered “seemingly the greatest massacre of Palestinian on Palestinian soil.” Their  November 1956 discovery was cut by the magazine’s editors, which Sacco found rightfully “galling.”

What had previously been relegated to mere footnotes in various reports gets full attention in Sacco’s latest title. As Sacco concurs with one of his interviewees, such events relegated to obscurity prove more important than ever as “they often contain the seeds of the grief and anger that shape present-day events.” Truth hurts.

Between November 2002 and March 2003, Sacco traveled back to Khan Younis and the neighboring town of Rafah, where “a couple of sentences in a U.N. report” led him to another related tragedy of scores of murders. His search for further information about both events is as much of the story here, as he works desperately to recreate the bloody events of November 1956 using eyewitness testimony, official U.N. documents, obscure newspaper reports, even paying two Israeli researchers to go through archives buried deep in the Israeli Defense Force’s military coffers. While details might differ over half a century later, the overall account of events concur: Innocent Palestinian men were shot dead by Israeli soldiers – massacre or mistake will depend on whose ‘side’ you’re on.

Sacco gravely reminds us that while he was immersed in the bloody events of 1956, “Israeli attacks were killing Palestinians, suicide bombers were killing Israelis, and elsewhere in the Middle East the United States was gearing up for war in Iraq.” Meanwhile, contemporary Khan Younis and Rafah remain fighting ground, constantly caught between a vicious cycle of destruction and reclamation from the rubble. Sacco himself becomes his prime eyewitness as his companions and friends vigilantly, selflessly keep him out of the line of neverending fire.

Tomorrow marks the 9th anniversary of 9/11. What will you do?

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009

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Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp by Trish Marx, photographs by Cindy Karp

Too often, media headlines are filled with Arab/Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli conflict and tragedy. Here’s a resonating anecdote filled with images of real-life kids from both sides of the religious/political/historical borders, enjoying a real-life camp where “… they will have the chance to meet and come together – not as enemies, but as campers, as children, and maybe as friends.”

Alya lives in the Arab village of Meiser in north-central Israel; she and her Muslim family are Israeli Palestinians. Yuval, a young Jewish boy, lives in the Jewish community of Maor just a short distance from Meiser. “Alya and Yuval are like children who go to camp anywhere. But in other important ways they are different. They are from two separate ethnic and religious groups who share the same land but who have been in conflict for the past one hundred years.”

For two weeks, children “who live in the midst of this ongoing conflict” will gather at Menashe Summer Peace Camp, sponsored by Givat Haviva, an educational organization that promotes Jewish-Arab Peace. “[N]o matter what language he or she speaks – [everybody] just calls it Peace Camp.” Friendship is hoped for, but the one thing all the children will learn is to respect each another.

Based on writer Trish Marx‘s visit to Peace Camp in 2005, this inspiring title alternates between glimpses of both Alya and Yuval’s everyday lives at home with their families, with key elements of their shared Palestinian/Israeli history, and most importantly their experiences at Peace Camp. In addition to the expected swimming, special crafts, and sleepovers, Peace Campers have some uniquely (surprising!) shared events, including an emergency rescue re-enactment complete with police, ambulance, and bomb squad in attendance!

Such is the children’s reality today … but a future of hopeful change is certainly in their hands: “In a country filled with tension and conflict, the campers have learned to take the first steps toward sharing their ancient homeland. And it happens every year, year after year, at Peace Camp.” Now if only we could get the adults – especially the so-called leaders – to spend a few weeks learning with/from the children …

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2010

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, .Nonfiction, Arab, Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian

Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

Waltz with BashirNo, I have not seen the film version of this title. The book is brutal enough on flat pages. I think moving pictures just might send me over the edge. That said, this riveting, nightmarish title should be required reading for anyone contemplating going to war, planning war, starting a war, or even just thinking about war … as important as patriotism and serving one’s country is, war should never be an option. While the subtitle makes this book 1982 Lebanon War-specific, the clear, screaming message from its pages is that this could be any war story, and the results would be equally futile and devastating.

Author Ari Folman meets an old friend Boaz for drinks in 2006, who tells Folman about his recurring violent dream that has its origins in the 1982 Lebanon War. Boaz questions Folman about Folman’s own memories of that terrible time, but Folman can remember nothing: “It’s not in my system. No, there’s nothing,” he says. Leaving his friend, Folman has a flashback for the first time in 20 years “from the night of the massacre … in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.”

Piece by piece, memory by memory, Folman questions friends, colleagues, and experts to painfully and exhaustively help him remember his part in the events of the Lebanon War and ultimately arrives at the massacre at two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Sabra and Shatila. “Against your will, you were cast in the role of Nazi,” Folman’s best friend Ori tells him. “It’s not that you weren’t there, you were. … But you didn’t carry out the massacre.” Still, Folman’s feelings of guilt-by-association blocked his memories for two long decades.

Folman, together with the film’s art director/chief illustrator David Polonsky, recreates the senselessness of war, regardless of whose ‘side’ you are on. “I don’t know who we’re shooting at. We’re just firing like madmen till nightfall,” Folman recalls of a violent encounter. “We were kind of unaware of a lot that was going on,” he comments about another experience. He’s shocked when a pant-less officer, distractedly watching pornography in an opulent villa taken over by Folman’s Israeli unit, orders Folman to blow up every red Mercedes because of a “hot tip” that a red Mercedes was going to explode on Folman’s men.

With a sense of distanced shock, Folman and Polonsky capture the utter wasted inhumanity of war, ending the book’s final pages with sheer carnage. The illustrated images of Folman’s memories literally become the actual photographs of bloody, twisted, mangled corpses … with the very last image of an old woman, holding her face, her eyes tightly shut in a silent scream of complete devastation. How much clearer can the message be? … War is never ever the answer.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2009

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Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi, translated by Yael Lotan

samir-and-yonatanSamir, a young Palestinian boy, must go to the “Jews’ hospital” for a serious operation to save his injured knee. Having just lost his younger brother to Palestinian/Israeli crossfire, Samir is understandably anxious about entering what he sees as enemy territory.

Waiting for the American doctor, he lies in a children’s ward with four other injured children – frightened Razia avoiding her father who beat her in a drunken rage, ethereal Ludmilla who will barely react to even food, rambunctious Tzahi with an Israeli soldier for an older brother, and intriguing Yonatan with a whole other night life of his own. Samir is fed full meals for the first time in his life, the medical staff is only too kind to him, and even the children – each with their own tales of hardship – eventually welcome him one by one. While waiting to recover, Yonatan helps Samir resolve his anguished feelings for his murdered brother. 

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2000 (United States)

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