Top Books By Israeli Writers That Transcend Borders In The Middle East

Lucy Oleynik

At times art serves not only as an expression of personal views, but also as a remarkable symbol of hope for peace. It is especially true when mentioning Israeli artists. By exhibiting their works, they continue building a bridge of understanding between conflicting cultures and controversial beliefs. From poets promoting coexistence to painters emphasizing human dignity and moral values, they aim to create an infrastructure for dialogue. Political issues notwithstanding, the following books by Israeli writers became bestsellers in the Middle East. What could be better proof that culture goes beyond enmity?

Courtesy of WikiCommons

Natanel Semrik. ‘Jonathan in the Kingdom of Mood Balloons’

Children have always inspired us; parents from different ethnic and religious backgrounds unite in their attempts to raise emotionally stable and confident humans. Many kids have a hard time explaining what exactly bothers them.

Natanel Semrik‘s book ‘Jonathan in the Kingdom of Mood Balloons’ has the solution to such emotional outbursts. Semrik tells the story of a small boy who is learning to manage his emotions by switching different colors of balloons. Black stands for sad, whereas orange means happy, and so on. By choosing a particular mood balloon, little ones gradually become capable of distinguishing what they experience in a storm of feelings.

Courtesy of Dan Oryan

Dan Oryan. ‘When Father Grows Up’

In the same vein of children’s literature, Dan Oryan‘s masterpiece immediately comes to mind. Himself a diplomat, Dan managed to create a story which proved to be a real asset worldwide. He finished writing the book during his post as Israel’s deputy ambassador in Denmark. The book was first translated into Danish and Serbian and then into Arabic. The readers are invited to eavesdrop on a candid conversation between father and son; the son, curious about his dad’s childhood dreams. While discussing various ideas, the little boy tries to imagine how different their lives would have been had his dad chosen to become a professional athlete, an astronaut or a firefighter. Bombarded with questions, the father seems confused at times until in the end he confides that being a good father is what he really wishes for himself. ‘When Father Grows Up’ was the first book written by an Israeli official to have been published in Arabic. It perfectly exemplifies the universal values that parents want their kids to adopt, which rank higher than any clashing political interests.

Courtesy of Yoram Katz

Yoram Katz. ‘Bundles of Hope’

Another exceptional book that conquered the hearts of readers in the region was written by Yoram Katz. ‘Bundles of Hope’ is set during the background of the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese War. However, its plot has little to do with political hostilities between two countries. The author features himself, as an Israeli with broad connections in the Arab community. He often hosts a Lebanese businessman Nazem on his frequent travels to Israel. Nazem opens up with a shattering secret: he and his beloved wife have been desperately trying to conceive for 20 years. Determined to help his friend, Yoram takes on a risky endeavor. He accompanies the Lebanese couple first to cutting-edge medical centers in Tel Aviv, then to Jerusalem and finally takes them to a Bedouin camp in Gaza. Not only does the writer showcase a physical journey, but he also demonstrates a moral transformation all the characters experience. This story reaches out to everyone who cherishes core virtues of compassion, kindness and friendship above colliding political agendas. No wonder it sold dozens of copies in Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan and Iran.

Courtesy of

Etgar Keret. ‘The Seven Good Years’

The news that Etgar Keret’s recent book ‘The Seven Good Years’ will be translated into Farsi has already caused unprecedented media coverage. After all, it is a collection of personal stories, so intimate that the author is not willing to publish this work in his own country. Yet he is ready to reveal delicate truths to the Iranian audience. Keret pursues a much more global goal, and by writing about life’s hardships and misfortunes, he portrays ordinary people with their natural flaws. Due to endless propaganda and conspiracy theories, many Iranians perceive Israel as an aggressor. However, there is a chance to alter this narrative by engaging Iranian readers in down-to-earth, witty and touching personal stories. Despite a multitude of restrictions, the book will be published in London and then distributed to Iran through book markets in Afghanistan and online. While Keret realizes that literature cannot win the battle for peace, he still hopes to open up channels of communication between the two nations.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Tamer Massalha and Almog Behar. ‘Two: a bilingual anthology’

Last year marked the appearance of a truly unique book called ‘Two: a bilingual anthology’. It presents writings by both Israeli and Arab authors, a blend of two distinct languages and cultures. The two editors Tamer Massalha and Almog Behar first came up with the idea of publishing an unprecedented collection of stories in 2008; however, it took them nearly six years until the book was finally released. Some participants hesitated whether to get involved in the project, and others decided to withdraw after the onset of military confrontations between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. There were even writers who left at the very last moment out of fear for their reputation. Yet, despite all the obstacles, the book aroused great interest around the mundane realities of the infamous Middle East impasse. Prominent Israeli and Arab writers have clarified that, apart from endless talks about occupation and injustice, there is actual life going on. Two conflicting sides represented by Israeli and Arab writers exchanged their experiences and thoughts. Though aware that the broader concept of peace is a dream, they insist on peaceful communication. After all, it’s a fact that two peoples are intertwined in one territory. For better and for worse.

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