The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Offers Israel Matters to Local SynagoguesWritten by Behrman House Staff, 25 of April, 2012
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has announced it will provide copies of Israel Matters to rabbis throughout the Los Angeles area to present to their b’nai mitzvah from the pulpit – at no cost to their synagogues.
Published by Behrman House this month and originally developed by the Holy Land Democracy Project of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Israel Matters fulfills an important role in educating young teens, as well as their families, on the past, present, and future of Israel. At the same time, the book also touches upon Israel’s significance as the only democratic nation in the Middle East, and how its existence as the Jewish homeland impacts the lives of the Jewish people worldwide.
Behrman House is also making Israel Matters available at substantial quantity discounts for synagogues in other areas of the country, and for all religious schools.
“We were delighted to work with The LA Federation and with the Holy Land Democracy Project to bring this book to a wide audience,” said David Behrman, President of Behrman House. “In today’s highly charged political climate it’s important for young people—for anyone, actually—to have a clear understanding of Israel that comes from engaging in an exploration of the facts.”
“Israel Matters is an excellent introduction for everyone who feels a gnawing connection to Israel but doesn't know why—as well as for everyone who wants to speak up for Israel but doesn't know how,” said Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Instead of the cardboard cutout descriptions of Israel one reads either in the popular media or promotional literature, Mitchell Bard presents a three-dimensional Israel, full of political debate, cultural clash and the human dilemmas of real people.”
Israel Matters begins with an overview of the country, juxtaposing its small physical size with its central importance to three major world religions, and its contributions to world culture, technology, and modern industry. From there the book traces what is now modern Israel back to the year 1,000 BCE, then works forward through critical historical moments to arrive at the birth of the modern nation in 1948. The issues of today’s Israel—including the challenges of balancing peace and security, the debate over a Palestinian state, and the controversy over the West Bank—are addressed in clear prose that lays out both the details of the historical events and the reactions of the various interest groups—Israeli and international—that have long claimed a stake in the fate of Israel.
Along the way the book introduces the major players in Israel’s history as well as “Faces of Israel”—modern individuals from a variety of backgrounds who have a deep connection to the country Meet a sixteen year-old Arab Israeli who wants to study computer engineering, a seventeen year old immigrant whose family came from Russia when he was seven, and an American whose last minute stop in Israel after a semester abroad established a connection that has brought him back annually for over thirty years.
Some facts about Israel will surprise many. For example, in 1952 Albert Einstein turned down an offer to become Israel’s second president, claiming advanced age and lack of any aptitude or experience for the job, even though “my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.”
Other source material may raise a chill, including descriptions of the treatment of Jews in Baghdad during the 11th century, or excerpts from the text of the Alhambra Decree ordering the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Definitions of a variety of terms, such as dhimma, the special classification given to Christians and Jews in Muslim countries, and the Yishuv, the way the Jewish community of Palestine was referred to before 1948, aid understanding and provide an authentic sense of place and time. A timeline places events into further context. A reader’s guide with discussion questions is also included.
Dr. Mitchell G. Bard is Executive Director of American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), Director of the Jewish Virtual Library, and a leading authority on U.S.-Middle East policy. He is also author of The Arab Lobby, 48 Hours of Kristalnacht, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World War II, and Myths and Facts, A Guide to Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Los Angeles area rabbis who wish to make the gift of Israel Matters possible in your synagogue should contact Dr. Beryl Geber.