Israel & the Palestinian Territories: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Israel & the Palestinian Territories guide provides a selection of literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

There’s a wealth of textbook accounts of Israeli and Palestinian politics, but for some non-fiction and travel writing, the following selection should serve you well.

The InnocentsThe grande dame of travel literature about the Holy Land, without whose sharp humour no visit is complete, is Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad (1871), perfect for points of comparison between the region then and now.

From BeirutAnother classic is Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), a compelling memoir of the journalist’s time in Israel and Lebanon.

The Other SideMore recently, English author Susan Nathan wrote The Other Side of Israel (2005), which chronicles her move from Tel Aviv to an Arab town east of Haifa, where she was a sole Jew among 25,000 Arabs.

If a placeAlso tugging on your heart strings is If a Place Can Make You Cry (2002), a compilation of emails and letters sent by author Daniel Gordis to friends and family in the USA following his move to Jerusalem with his family.

ElvisA set of stories commingled with politics can be found in Elvis in Jerusalem (2002) written by long-time Ha’aretz columnist Tom Segev, while This Heated Place: Encounters in the Promised Land (2004), by Deborah Campbell, offers a variety of perspectives on the region, as the author encounters gay Tel Avivans, West Bank settlers and Gazan schoolgirls.

The Iron CageFor more-academic reads, dip into Robert Fisk’s sweeping Middle Eastern overview, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (2007), or The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (2007), by noted historian Rashid Khaliki.

The ZooFinally, an insight into the lives of everyday Palestinians (and their zoo animals) is offered by Amelia Thomas, coordinating author of this book, in The Zoo on the Road to Nablus (2008). Telling the true story of the last Palestinian zoo and the only – and indomitable – Palestinian zoo vet and his motley crew of staff and animals, it’s an illuminating glimpse into the tragi-comic world of the West Bank.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.