Over the weekend of Oct. 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel. Israel has since declared a state of emergency and retaliated, beginning on Oct. 9 when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered for all food, electricity, and water to be cut off from the Palestinian city of Gaza. Soon after, Israel launched airstrikes into the city, causing thousands of its residents to be displaced.
As Americans watch this violence unfold from home, we turn to various forms of media such as news outlets and social media platforms for timely information on the events — and many often feel lost or have no idea how to support those in need from so far away.
It’s important to consider the layered history and context of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. This relationship dates back decades, with events and stories that many may not be aware of, especially if you don’t have personal ties to Israel or Palestine.
Jewish author Sim Kern recently took to TikTok in a viral video to stress the importance of knowing this history before making a statement. Kern called out the dehumanizing way Western citizens comment on the matter without appropriate context, and then suggested reading books by Palestinian authors because it will “change the way you view this conflict forever.”
Many authors use their experience and struggle for freedom and translate it into forms of literature. The books below concisely capture the perspectives of people experiencing these struggles themselves — and these recommendations can help you to better understand the issue at hand.
- Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa ($18)
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abdulhawa is a novel that follows a fictional multigenerational Palestinian family that was forcibly removed by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948. The critically-acclaimed novel follows the Abulhejo family as they experience a half-century of violence and displacement. It is told from the perspective of a young girl, Amal, who grows up with the power of family, love, and friendship during these troubling times.
- Ally by Michael B. Oren ($18)
Ally by Michael B. Oren is a memoir that tells the story of Oren, who is Israeli and an ally to both Palestine and Israel, but is only an ambassador for Israel. In this book, Oren highlights the struggle of being an ally when there is a great divide. This book is helpful when learning about both perspectives and the political efforts surrounding Israel and Palestine.
- Light in Gaza: Writing Borns of Fire Edited by Jehad Abusalim Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze ($15)
This anthology features a plethora of Palestinian writers in an effort to band together and reimagine what the future of Gaza would hopefully be. Light in Gaza takes a futurism approach to think ahead to what the city could look like beyond the current struggle Palestinians are facing, and offers a perspective you might not have considered.
- My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit ($20)
Written by journalist Ari Shavit, My Promised Land examines the history of Israel through the writer’s own personal and familial connections as well as interviews, historical documents, and extensive research. If you want to understand what Israel means to Jews past and present, this is a good starting point.
- Palestine: A Socialist Introduction Edited by Sumaya Award and Brian Bean ($0)
Palestine: A Socialist Introduction gives a foundational history on Palestine and its generational struggle for freedom. This book offers a socialist standpoint on how full freedom can potentially be achieved in Palestine’s case. If you have no knowledge of Palestine’s history, this book is a useful starting point, and is currently free to download from the publisher’s site.
- Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren ($20)
Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren reconstructs the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War of 1967. In this book, Oren uses perspectives from many figures, such as Moshe Dayan and Abdul Nasser, to further analyze the effects of the war that exists today. This book will help if you want a closer look at some of the events that took place prior to 2023.
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis ($12)
Angela Davis is known for activism and wisdom during the Black Power Movement. However, in Freedom Is A Constant Struggle, Davis draws parallels between freedom movements globally. In the book, Davis makes a connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Apartheid in South Africa, the Black Power movement, and many more to encourage those around the world to look closely at this struggle. This book can help you understand what is going on in Israel and Palestine, but also in America.
- To The End Of The Land by David Grossman ($19)
In this novel, David Grossman writes about the character of Ora, the mother of a son, Ofer, who is serving in the Israeli army. Described as an anti-war novel, it covers real events through fictional flashbacks from the 1967 Six-Day War through the 21st century, and shows the strains of war on families that are left behind when their loved ones are deployed into combat.
- Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and peacemaking in the Middle East by Abdel Monem Said Aly, Shai Feldman, and Khalil Shikaki ($53)
Though this book is on the heftier (and pricier) side, it includes the perspectives of an Egyptian (Abdel Monem Said Aly), an Israeli (Shai Feldman), and a Palestinian (Khalil Shikaki). Since it’s a textbook, it serves as a historical introduction to the Arab-Israeli conflict that will make sure you’re hearing from all parties involved. The second edition was published in 2022, also making this a more recent choice if you want more updated coverage on this issue.