Heading to Israel? Suggested Reading List

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite books on Israel. You may want to check them out.


Holy Land expert John Beck understands how culture and geography play a big part in interpreting the Scriptures. In Along the Road, Beck uses vibrant details of ancient society and the characteristics of the countryside to relate biblical lessons that we might otherwise miss. This book illustrates the fascinating connections between people, places, and events of the Old Testament and the locales and experiences of the life of Jesus. Dr. John A. Beck is a scholar, educator, and writer with extensive experience in biblical geography. He has a PhD in theology (Hebrew and Old Testament) from Trinity International University and is an adjunct faculty member at Jerusalem University College in Israel.

In 2016, I had the pleasure of arranging a Holy Land pilgrimage for Fr. Anthony Sortino, LC. His Holy Land Pilgrimage is an excellent resource for the Catholic on this journey. It is a Pilgrim’s Guide with Spiritual Reflections for each site with texts from Scripture, Saints, Popes and Fathers of the Church accompanied by pictures and illustrations to help you better enter into each holy place. He also includes lined, blank pages for note-taking, journaling, along with the text lyrics to many Catholic hymns perfectly suited to sing at daily Masses in each holy site. This book is in its second printing. I cannot recommend it, enough.

Most travel guides are not prepared to link the Bible and land in an accurate and meaningful way because they are written for people of all faiths. In The Holy Land for Christian TravelersJohn A. Beck provides a guide to the Holy Land for Christians with explanations of the biblical significance of important sites. The entries provide key Scripture references for reflection and a guide to the land that will encourage communion with God and a genuine spiritual experience for travelers as they walk in the footsteps of Jesus. A trip to the Holy Land can be a worship-filled, once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey. This book puts a biblical scholar and experienced Holy Land guide at the reader’s side.

Licensed Israeli guide Beryl Ratzer has written an engaging, concise, accurate illustrated guide to the Holy Land which is appreciated by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. I really like this one,  A Historical Tour of the Holy Land. Beryl lets you see the lands of the Bible through the eyes of Mark Twain and Sennacharib. The book has charts, maps, photographs, and ends with impartial treatment of contemporary events. This is NOT a spiritual type of pilgrimage guide; rather it is more for those interested in Holy Land history and how cultures here have developed and engaged with one another throughout the centuries.

Breaking Bread in Galilee – A Culinary Journey into the Promised Land, by Abbie Rosner, takes you along a journey exploring local foods and age-old culinary traditions that are described in the Hebrew Bible and still practiced in the Galilee today. In the process, she, and you, experiences how sharing foodways is a powerful means for overcoming suspicion and building bridges between individuals on each side of this country’s bitter conflict. The book’s investigation of indigenous food practices will appeal to those who are interested in food and food history, particularly when they identify with the local and slow food movements. Recipes included with some of the chapters will enable readers to enter further into this world. This book presents a refreshingly uplifting example of friendship and trust across the Jewish-Arab divide. The Galilee orientation and Biblical and Koranic references offer an unusually inclusive perspective on the Holy Land and sacred texts.

Culture Smart! Israel marks the nation’s 70th year of independence in a concise cultural guide of this diverse, dynamic, and paradoxical country. It provides important insights so you will know what to expect, how to behave, avoid misunderstandings, and form good social and business relationships. While Israel is a modern and largely secular country, it is one steeped in biblical history—a place where religion still plays an active role in public life. In 70 years it has grown from a sparsely populated strip of land into a vigorous democracy and regional superpower. Often called the Startup Nation, Israel is a world leader in a number of high tech industries. Its democratic institutions, despite a political and social polarization in recent years, are among the most enlightened in the world.

Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and no myth, revolutionary, or misunderstood prophet, insists Benedict XVI. He thinks that the best of historical scholarship, while it can’t “prove” Jesus is the Son of God, certainly doesn’t disprove it. Indeed, Benedict maintains that the evidence, fairly considered, brings us face-to-face with the challenge of Jesus–a real man who taught and acted in ways that were tantamount to claims of divine authority, claims not easily dismissed as lunacy or deception.​​ In Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, Benedict brings to his study the vast learning of a brilliant scholar, the passionate searching of a great mind, and the deep compassion of a pastor’s heart. In the end, he dares readers to grapple with the meaning of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection.

This was the first book I read on Israel. How is it that Israel– a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK? With the savvy of foreign policy insiders, Start Up Nation examines the lessons of the country’s adversity-driven culture, which flattens hierarchy and elevates informality– all backed up by government policies focused on innovation. In a world where economies as diverse as Ireland, Singapore and Dubai have tried to re-create the “Israel effect”, there are entrepreneurial lessons well worth noting.

While being fictitious, Cheryl Dickow’s short novel Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, is an inspirational read. Join Elizabeth mid-life flight to the Holy Land as she questions her marriage and life. See how God reaches her through people and events. Experience her walk on the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross, and a kayak trip down the Jordan River. Sit with her at an outfoor cafe and marvel at the sights and sounds of Jerusalem. Listen as she learns the names of God and hears about the matriarchs of the faith: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. Discover, with Elizabeth, the true nature of agape love on the pilgrimage of a lifetime. Take it on the airplane with you!

Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour grew up 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, Chacour began a long struggle with how to live out his personal spirituality. In Blood Brothers, he blends his riveting life story with historical and biblical research to reveal a little-known side of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Chacour is a graduate of the Seminaire du Saint Sulpice in Paris and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and is now Archbishop of the Melkite Church. He is founder of Mar Elias University, which serves 4500 students of all religions,  and has built schools, libraries, community centers, and youth clubs throughout Israel’s Galilee region, where he lives, as a source of reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.

The second book by Archbishop Chacour, We Belong to the Landgoes even deeper into the struggles of discrimination experienced by Christian Palestinians in the Holy Lands. 

“The conflict of being a clergyman and a Palestinian Arab in Israel forms the backdrop for this human drama as the author . . . tries to serve as aspokesperson for fellow Palestinians against what they perceive as injustices imposed on them by a Jewish state . . . This is recommended for those interested in a local perspective on the communal conflict in contemporary Israel.” ―Library Journal


Putting the present situation into its broader context and examining all perspectives, Understand the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict unravels the origins and development of issues which make the headlines daily. Each aspect of this complex conflict is explained with engaging objectivity, which will ensure students can examine the issues from all perspectives and in a social, political, historical and international framework. An easy to read treatment of the topic which helps bring contextual understanding.

Based upon conversations recorded by a French journalist, Faith Beyond Despair: Building Hope In The Holy Land mixes autobiographical reflections with a critique of the contemporary state of the Middle East. This third book by Archbishop Chacour  tells the stories of many individuals working for peace and of his own work, especially with children and students of the school and college he has founded. Seeing the lack of educational opportunities for Palestinian youth, in the early 1980s Archbishop Chacour created a school open to all local children which opened . The Mar Elias Educational Institution  caters for 4,500 students, representing all major religions and ethnicities in Israel.


I hope these books help you prepare for your pilgrimage tour to Israel, the Land Where Jesus Walked. What are YOUR favorite books on Israel? Let me know in the comments!


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