Helen and her Middle East Reading Challenge never ceases to inspire me to read books about that particular part of the world. Fortunately for me, my local library has no shortage of these kind of books. Therefore, whenever I go prowling through their shelves I’m always finding something that grabs my interest. Of course, when doing so I always come across books from recognizable authors like Edward Said, Jimmy Carter, Bernard Lewis and Alan Dershowitz. But among those books from familiar authors are those from authors who are completely unknown to me. One such author is Marc Aronson. I came across his 2008 book Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel last week during one of my library visits. Although I didn’t realize it until began reading it, Aronson wrote the book primarily for a teen audience. Even so, I was surprised to find that Unsettled could still serve as a light but reasonably informative introduction to the modern State of Israel and the challenges it faces today.
If a young reader or even an older one who wanted to learn about the Middle East asked me for a list of recommended books I’d probably include Unsettled. Taking an introductory approach with his book, Aronson assumes the reader has little if any familiarity with the subject matter. In doing so, Aronson has written a book that even more experienced readers might learn a thing or two, and in the process fill a few massing gaps in ones Middle Eastern knowledge.
As for me, I liked his historical overview of the modern State of Israel, especially its founding and early history, and especially within the larger context of world history. I’m also pleased with the core of this book, which is his love-hate relationship with the Jewish State. As an American Jew with Israeli relatives, he feels an understandable affinity for Israel and the role it serves as a perpetual safe haven for Jews facing persecution or heaven forbid the horrors of another holocaust. As a strong proponent of human rights, he deplores mistreatment and marginalization of the Palestinians and knows if Israel is to remain a Jewish majority nation, then the current political situation must change.
The comedian Steven Wright, in his classic deadpan style, once joked he’d written several children’s books-but not on purpose. In my quest to find good books about the Middle East, I didn’t plan on reading a teen-targeted piece of nonfiction, but I did. And much to my surprise I found myself liking it.