Books: Personal Histories – Memoirs, Autobiographies, Novels


Scroll down to see the books in this category.

These collections of books have been assembled from many sources of recommended reading on Israel/Palestine, including: the United Church of Christ (UCC) and UCC PIN, Sabeel, Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) and others. Many of the book descriptions are taken from Amazon.com; some come from the source of that book recommendation.

Presented in the following categories on individual pages:
About/By Palestinian Christians
Religion; The Bible; Christian Zionism
History
Personal Histories: Memoirs, Autobiographies, Novels
Political Analysis; Diplomatic History
The Current Situation
About Palestinians inside Israel
Zionism; Jewish Identity
Faith Relations; Anti-Semitism
Art; Illustration; Poetry
Tourism; The Politics of Tourism
Please note: some books are listed in more than one category.
The order of the books within each category is random and is not related to the importance of the work.

Please send us your suggestions for additions to these lists; contact us at info@palestineportal.org.

We Belong to the Land: The Story of a Palestinian Israeli Who Lives for Peace and Reconciliation, by Elias Chacour (2001)
Nominated several times for the Noble Peace Prize, world-renowned Palestinian priest, Elias Chacour, narrates the gripping story of his life spent working to achieve peace and reconciliation among Israeli Jews, Christians, and Muslims. From the destruction of his boyhood village and his work as a priest in Galilee to his efforts to build school, libraries, and summer camps for children of all religions, this peacemaker’s moving story brings hope to one of the most complex struggles of our time.


Blood Brothers, by Chacour, Elias (1984)
As a child, Elias Chacour lived in a small Palestinian village in Galilee. When tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and nearly one million forced into refugee camps in 1948, Elias began a long struggle with how to respond. In Blood Brothers, he blends his riveting life story with historical research to reveal a little-known side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, touching on questions such as:
What behind-the-scenes politics touched off the turmoil in the Middle East?
What does Bible prophecy really have to say?
Can bitter enemies ever be reconciled?
Now updated with commentary on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a new foreword by Lynne Hybels and Gabe Lyons, this book offers hope and insight that can help each of us learn to live at peace in a world of tension and terror.


The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan (2008)
In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.


Fast Times in Palestine, by Pamela Olsen (2011)
Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate. The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and social and political upheavals but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in a Hamas village, from rooftop parties in Ramallah to militant rallies in Nablus, the book is packed with suspense, humor, and unforgettable characters. Its seamless blend of travelogue, memoir, and narrative journalism ramps the average American up to a sophisticated, multi-faceted understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict.Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but albout human nature and our place in the world.


Khirbet Khizeh, by Yizhar Smilansky (2014)
It’s 1948 and the Arab villagers of Khirbet Khizeh are about to be violently expelled from their homes. A young Israeli soldier who is on duty that day finds himself battling on two fronts: with the villagers and, ultimately, with his own conscience. Published just months after the founding of the state of Israel and the end of the 1948 war, the novella Khirbet Khizeh was an immediate sensation when it first appeared. Since then, the book has continued to challenge and disturb, even finding its way onto the school curriculum in Israel. The various debates it has prompted would themselves make Khirbet Khizeh worth reading, but the novella is much more than a vital historical document: it is also a great work of art. Yizhar’s haunting, lyrical style and charged view of the landscape are in many ways as startling as his wrenchingly honest view of modern Israel’s primal scene. Considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, Khirbet Khizeh is an extraordinary and heartbreaking book that is destined to be a classic of world literature.


Out of Place: A Memoir, by Edward W. Said (1999)
From one of the most important intellectuals of our time comes an extraordinary story of exile and a celebration of an irrecoverable past. A fatal medical diagnosis in 1991 convinced Edward Said that he should leave a record of where he was born and spent his childhood, and so with this memoir he rediscovers the lost Arab world of his early years in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt. Said writes with great passion and wit about his family and his friends from his birthplace in Jerusalem, schools in Cairo, and summers in the mountains above Beirut, to boarding school and college in the United States, revealing an unimaginable world of rich, colorful characters and exotic eastern landscapes. Underscoring all is the confusion of identity the young Said experienced as he came to terms with the dissonance of being an American citizen, a Christian and a Palestinian, and, ultimately, an outsider. Richly detailed, moving, often profound, Out of Place depicts a young man’s coming of age and the genesis of a great modern thinker.


Anxious for Armageddon: A Call To Partnership For Middle Eastern and Western Christians, by Donald E. Wagner (1995)
This unique resource offers the fascinating account of Donald E. Wagner’s personal experience with the Middle East and calls Western Christians to work with Middle East Christians in healing the pain of Jews and Palestinians.Wagner grippingly tells of his early involvement with streams of Christianity that treat Israel’s possession of the Holy Land as fulfillment of a divine plan that will result in the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon.


The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust: A Memoir, by Noam Chayut
“She took from me the belief that absolute evil exists in this world, and the belief that I was avenging it and fighting against it. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil … Since then I have been left without my Holocaust, and since then everything in my life has assumed a new meaning: belongingness is blurred, pride is lacking, belief is faltering, contrition is heightening, forgiveness is being born.”
The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust is the deeply moving memoir of Chayut’s journey from eager Zionist conscript on the front line of Operation Defensive Shield to leading campaigner against the Israeli occupation. As he attempts to make sense of his own life as well as his place within the wider conflict around him, he slowly starts to question his soldier’s calling, Israel’s justifications for invasion, and the ever-present problem of historical victimhood. Noam Chayut’s exploration of a young soldier’s life is one of the most compelling memoirs to emerge from Israel for a long time.


The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine , by Miko Peled
A powerful account, by Israeli peace activist Miko Peled, of his transformation from a young man who’d grown up in the heart of Israel’s elite and served proudly in its military into a fearless advocate of nonviolent struggle and equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis. His journey is mirrored in many ways the transformation his father, a much-decorated Israeli general, had undergone three decades earlier. Alice Walker contributed a foreword to the first edition in which she wrote, “There are few books on the Israel/Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one.” In the new Epilogue he takes readers to South Africa, East Asia, several European countries, and the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel itself.


Miral, by Rula Jebreal
Written by the much-admired Italo-Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, Miral is a novel that focuses on remarkable women whose lives unfold in the turbulent political climate along the borders of Israel and Palestine. The story begins with Hind, a woman who sacrifices everything to establish a school for refugee Palestinian girls in East Jerusalem. Years later Miral arrives at the school after her mother commits suicide. Hind sees that Miral has the potential to change the world peacefully – but Miral is appalled by the injustice that surrounds her, and flirts with the notion of armed resistance. Hind desperately works to persuade her to stay the course of education, hard work, and non-violent resolution-but is she too late? [This novel has been made into a movie.]


Mornings in Jenin, by Susan Abulhawa
Mornings in Jenin is a multi-generational story about a Palestinian family. Forcibly removed from the olive-farming village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejos are displaced to live in canvas tents in the Jenin refugee camp. We follow the Abulhejo family as they live through a half century of violent history. Amidst the loss and fear, hatred and pain, as their tents are replaced by more forebodingly permanent cinderblock huts, there is always the waiting, waiting to return to a lost home. The novel’s voice is that of Amal, the granddaughter of the old village patriarch, a bright, sensitive girl who makes it out of the camps, only to return years later, to marry and bear a child. Through her eyes, with her evolving vision, we get the story of her brothers, one who is kidnapped to be raised Jewish, one who will end with bombs strapped to his middle. But of the many interwoven stories, stretching backward and forward in time, none is more important than Amal’s own. Her story is one of love and loss, of childhood and marriage and parenthood, and finally the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has. Set against one of the twentieth century’s most intractable political conflicts, Mornings in Jenin is a deeply human novel – a novel of history, identity, friendship, love, terrorism, surrender, courage, and hope. Its power forces us to take a fresh look at one of the defining conflicts of our lifetimes.


Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America by Jamal Krayem Kanj
A great deal has been written over the years addressing the Palestine-Israel conflict, and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. However, few works on the subject really present the personal aspect: What is it like to be a refugee? What propels a decent human being to take up arms, to become a freedom fighter or a terrorist? This book tells the remarkable story of one such refugee, following his journey from childhood in the Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, becoming a member of the PLO, through to eventual emigration, a new life as an engineer in the United States, and a ‘return’ trip to historic Palestine. Running parallel to the personal narrative, the book also documents the story of Nahr El Bared itself: the story of a refugee camp that grew from an initial clump of muddy UN tents to become a vibrant trading centre in north Lebanon, before its eventual destruction at the hands of the Lebanese army as they battled with militants from the Fatah Al Islam group in the summer of 2007. Throughout it all, the spirit of the remarkable people of the camp shines through, and the book provides a moving testament to how refugees in Lebanon have managed to persist in their struggle for their right to return, as well as survive socially, economically and politically despite more than sixty years of dispossession, war and repression.


Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury
Gate of the Sun is the first magnum opus of the Palestinian saga. After their country is torn apart in 1948, two men remain alone in a deserted makeshift hospital in the Shatila camp on the outskirts of Beirut. We enter a vast world of displacement, fear, and tenuous hope. Khalil holds vigil at the bedside of his patient and spiritual father, a storied leader of the Palestinian resistance who has slipped into a coma. As Khalil attempts to revive Yunes, he begins a story, which branches into many. Stories of the people expelled from their villages in Galilee, of the massacres that followed, of the extraordinary inner strength of those who survived, and of love. Khalil—like Elias Khoury—is a truth collector, trying to make sense of the fragments and various versions of stories that have been told to him. His voice is intimate and direct, his memories are vivid, his humanity radiates from every page. Khalil lets his mind wander through time, from village to village, from one astonishing soul to another, and takes us with him. Gate of the Sun is a Palestinian Odyssey. Beautifully weaving together haunting stories of survival and loss, love and devastation, memory and dream, Khoury humanizes the complex Palestinian struggle as he brings to life the story of an entire people.


Palestinian Walks, by Raja Shahadeh
Raja Shehadeh is a passionate hill walker. He enjoys nothing more than heading out into the countryside that surrounds his home. But in recent years, his hikes have become less than bucolic and sometimes downright dangerous. That is because his home is Ramallah, on the Palestinian West Bank, and the landscape he traverses is now the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel. In this original and evocative book, we accompany Raja on six walks taken between 1978 and 2006. The earlier forays are peaceful affairs, allowing our guide to meditate at length on the character. Amid the many and varied tragedies of the Middle East, the loss of a simple pleasure such as the ability to roam the countryside at will may seem a minor matter. But in Palestinian Walks, Raja Shehadeh’s elegy for his lost footpaths becomes a heartbreaking metaphor for the deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.


Gaza Writes Back, edited by Refaat Alareer
Gaza Writes Back is a compelling anthology of short stories from fifteen young writers in Gaza, members of a generation that has suffered immensely under Israel’s siege and blockade. Their experiences, especially during and following Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive known as “Operation Cast Lead”, have fundamentally impacted their lives and their writing. Their words take us into the homes and hearts of moms, dads, students, children, and elders striving to live lives of dignity, compassion, and meaning in one of the world’s most embattled communities. Readers will be moved by the struggles big and small that emerge from the well-crafted writing by these young people, and by the hope and courage that radiate from the authors’ biographies.


I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, by Izzeldin Abuelaish
By turns inspiring and heartbreaking, hopeful and horrifying, I Shall Not Hate is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s account of his extraordinary life. A Harvard-educated Palestinian doctor, he was born and raised in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and “has devoted his life to medicine and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians” (New York Times). On January 16, 2009, Abuelaish lost three of his daughters and his niece when Israeli shells hit his home in the Gaza Strip. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, he has called for the people of the region to come together so that his daughters will be “the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”


I Saw Ramallah, by Mourid Barghouti
A fierce and moving work and an unparalleled rendering of the human aspects of the Palestinian predicament. Barred from his homeland after 1967’s Six-Day War, the poet Mourid Barghouti spent thirty years in exile—shuttling among the world’s cities, yet secure in none of them; separated from his family for years at a time; never certain whether he was a visitor, a refugee, a citizen, or a guest. As he returns home for the first time since the Israeli occupation, Barghouti crosses a wooden bridge over the Jordan River into Ramallah and is unable to recognize the city of his youth. Sifting through memories of the old Palestine as they come up against what he now encounters in this mere “idea of Palestine,” he discovers what it means to be deprived not only of a homeland but of “the habitual place and status of a person.” A tour de force of memory and reflection, lamentation and resilience, I Saw Ramallah is a deeply humane book, essential to any balanced understanding of today’s Middle East.


Letters from Palestine: Palestinians Speak Out about Their Lives, Their Country, and the Power of NonViolence, by Kenneth Ring and Ghassan Abdullah (2010)
Many books have been written dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the pro-Israeli perspective. However, relatively few reflect the Palestinian point of view. Letters from Palestine is one of the rare books that offers an American audience the chance to listen to and learn about the lives of actual Palestinian people as they describe what it is like to live in the occupied territories of the West Bank or Gaza, or to grow up as a Palestinian in the U.S. Their accounts are lively, poignant, searing, tragic, yet often laced with touches of surrealistic humor. Most of all, they show Palestinians in all their humanity and will help American readers see beyond the usual stereotypes. The stories in this book are meant to introduce Americans to contemporary Palestinians who represent both the traditions of their culture and the bright promise of their future.


Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories, by Anna Baltzer
Anna Baltzer, a young Jewish American, visited the West Bank to discover for herself the realities of everyday life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. What she found would change her outlook on the issue forever. For eight months over the following four years, Baltzer lived and worked with farmers, Palestinian and Israeli activists, and the families of political prisoners, traveling with them across checkpoints and roadblocks to reach hospitals, universities, and olive groves. Baltzer witnessed firsthand the devastation wrought by expanding settlements and the Wall. She also encountered countless Palestinian grievances beyond the occupation, of non-Jews living in a Jewish state and refugees yearning to return to their homes and land. Baltzer’s probing and honest examination of the occupation, Zionism, and the pervasive spirit of Palestinian resilience offer a fresh look at Palestine today. 2014 edition: Updated & revised with new photos, appendices, testimonials, and afterword. Full color, original photographs, maps, and stories — popular for classrooms, book groups, etc.


An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel, by Jeff Halper (1995)
Israeli anthropologist and activist Jeff Halper throws a harsh light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the point of view of a critical insider. While the Zionist founders of Israel created a vibrant society, culture and economy, they did so at a high price: Israel could not maintain its exclusive Jewish character without imposing on the country’s Palestinian population policies of ethnic cleansing, occupation and discrimination, expressed most graphically in its ongoing demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories.
An Israeli in Palestine records Halper’s journey ‘beyond the membrane’ that shields his people from the harsh realities of Palestinian life to his ‘discovery’ that he was actually living in another country: Palestine. Without dismissing the legitimacy of his own country, he realizes that Israel is defined by its oppressive relationship to the Palestinians.


Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege, by Amira Hass (1999)
In 1993, Amira Hass, a young Israeli reporter, drove to Gaza to cover a story-and stayed, the first journalist to live in the grim Palestinian enclave so feared and despised by most Israelis that, in the local idiom, “Go to Gaza” is another way to say “Go to hell.” Now, in a work of calm power and painful clarity, Hass reflects on what she has seen in Gaza’s gutted streets and destitute refugee camps. Drinking the Sea at Gaza maps the zones of ordinary Palestinian life. From her friends, Hass learns the secrets of slipping across sealed borders and stealing through night streets emptied by curfews. She shares Gaza’s early euphoria over the peace process and its subsequent despair as hope gives way to unrelenting hardship. But even as Hass charts the griefs and humiliations of the Palestinians, she offers a remarkable portrait of a people not brutalized but eloquent, spiritually resilient, bleakly funny, and morally courageous. Full of testimonies and stories, facts and impressions, Drinking the Sea at Gaza makes an urgent claim on our humanity. Beautiful, haunting, and profound, it will stand with the great works of wartime reportage, from Michael Herr’s Dispatches to Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart.