Books on the Israel-Palestine conflicts – 20% OFF

In a previous BookNotes last November I recommended a large number of books to help us understand some of the complexities of the background of the brutal war in Gaza; it was extensive, listing a lot of titles we had on our shelves here at the shop, even if it was not comprehensive. From an older, award-winning history of Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore to one that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize (announced just last week) by Nathan Thrall, A Day in the Life of Abed Salam (Metropolitan Books; $29.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $23.99) to the must-read memoir of Arab Christian leader Elias Chacour (Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel (Baker Books; $17.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $14.39) we did our best to offer some good ones.

In that BookNotes column I framed the books about the war in the Middle East by a bunch of suggestions of various sorts on the Biblical-theological debate about the legitimacy of violence and the ethics of war— some on the just war theory, some on Biblical nonviolence, some that were point-counterpoint arguments showing several views. For a readable intro to the Biblical basis for peacemaking, might I suggest Speak Your Peace by the impeccable Ron Sider? (Herald Press; $16.99 / OUR SALE PRICE = $13.59.) 

You can read that BookNotes, here. 

After Easter my adult daughter, Stephanie, and I, started an informal course we put together for our small adult ed program at First Presbyterian Church in York, PA on peacemaking in the Middle East. We adopted the hard but thrilling vision of The Telos Group, calling us to be pro, pro, pro — pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and pro-peace. It should be obvious that lasting peace for all has to allow for the flourishing of all, so we cannot be one-sided. We are no experts (that is obvious) but we did our best in this class and you can see those presentations at our First Presbyterian Church of York Facebook page or the church’s website. (I’m speaking rather off the cuff, so forgive my stumbling around for the right words sometimes. Ha.) In the last two weeks we’ve borrowed a bit from Walter Brueggemann’s book Chosen? Reading the Bible Amid the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (WJK) $18.00 / OUR SALE PRICE = $14.40.

As I write, Israeli IDF bombs are falling in Gaza’s Rafah City, where many refugees from previous bombs have been forced to flee, even as IDF troops renew ground assaults in the North. Those who know or care about the historic constraints of the just war theory can determine if these further attacks are morally warranted, but we know that tens of thousands of Palestinian people, most civilians, have died, and their infrastructure has been almost totally decimated. The International Court of Justice will perhaps rule further to determine if this constitutes genocide but it certainly is, at least, as Brian Walsh said on a webinar with us a few months back, domicide. Those who have been displaced from their homelands now even have their houses and culture destroyed.

And yet, this is, admittedly, a complex and even morally ambiguous war. Hamas is committed to terrorism. While most of their attacks have not been grand, that changed on October 7th when they performed their hideously evil attack on thousands of civilians. It is a day that will live in infamy.

I hope our reading suggestions can help some of us learn more and create some sort of theologically-wise response that is balanced and fair and rooted in an awareness of the social, political, ethnic, and theological contexts. And push us to take whatever action we can as citizens and, most of us, I suspect, members of the world-wide Body of Christ. See, for instance, the letter from Churches for Middle East Peace here.

This recent article in USA Today nicely shows a variety of views of what church folks are thinking and doing and it quotes at least two friends of mine, Todd Deatherage of The Telos Group and Mae Elise Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace. 

It seems both morally obvious to me and a common sense low barre to now demand a ceasefire. Most mainline churches have called upon their members to contact their congressional leaders to press for such a ceasefire.

And yet, our Congress passed — agreeing on something for the first time in a long while — and our President signed an authorization for billions and billions more military aid to be given to the government of Israel. They are (in opposition to Biblical teachings, I would say) zealous about military superiority and one of the mightiest war machines on the planet. And yet, our leaders give them more firepower, which the prophet Micah might have called “the beginning of sin for you” (see his denunciation of the military warehouse in Lachish in Micah 1:3.)

What galls me now — sorry to speak bluntly to our gentle bookstore customers — is how the far right (and others, who should know better) are denouncing Biden for this small gesture of temporarily withholding some of the military materiel as a plea for Netanyahu’s armies to slow their vengeance against Rafah. Journals such as Commentary have written egregiously wild accusations suggesting that those who protest Israeli military policies are “celebrating” the Hamas attacks. Christian Zionist organizations have grossly mischaracterized the anti-war movement which, as all should know, includes Jews and Christians, both in Israel and in the US. There are one-sided, pro-Hamas activists, of course, but I am confident that most who speak out against the violence perpetrated by both sides are decent people trying to give voice to their decent social ethics or public theology. Shame on those disparaging all who stand for peace by overstating the influence of the violent and anti-Semitic.

Some of us are haunted by the hope of Isaiah 65 that enemies will reconcile and no one will be hurt in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The inclusive vision of Isaiah 2 stimulates my imagination. (I quipped in Sunday school class that of course you need to beat swords into plowshares to prevent serious fighting when all the various cultures show up in town, as promised.) One might wish that the current administration of the Israeli nation-state would care even a smidgeon about the normative principles in their Torah and prophets.

And don’t even get me started on what an obviously sick and unfaithful interpretation of Islam has captured the jihadists in the ranks of Hamas or Hezbollah. Heaven help us.

So times are bad and we must each determine what we think, what we believe, and what we will do. I hope we can help.

Here are a handful of books to help us further understand. All are 20% off.

This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Greg Myre & Jennifer Griffin (Turner Publishing) $18.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19

Three things about this marvelously captivating read, a page-turner and a personal favorite for understanding the texture of life in the Middle East.

First, This Burning Land was mostly written by Myre, but is co-authored by his wife; they are a pair of seasoned war correspondents; Myre has filed reports with any number of mainstream media outlets (The Associated Press and The New York Times) and Griffin worked for Fox News. So that’s sort of intriguing, eh? They lived in Israel for decades and raised two children, which, in some chapters, become part of their story. This isn’t a memoir but there is moving stuff here, wonderful, honest, painful, and at times inspiring storytelling.

Secondly, it offers more information about various segments, factions, locales and sides of the conflict than nearly any book I’ve read. In good journalistic fashion they tell the backstory, bringing up up close, episode by episode. One author has called it “stunning” while Aaron David Miller (author of The Much Too Promised Land) says it an “extraordinary story — personal yet hard-hitting.” As he puts it, there are no punches pulled here. It is full of pathos and background, stories of friends and some hair-raising episodes. As yet another Middle Eastern author put it, “you will be swept up in their story of tragedy and hope.” And you’ll learn a whole, whole lot. I sure did.

Thirdly, it is not up-to-date. This isn’t a criticism, just noting that it doesn’t cover recent events. The horrors of the height of the suicide bombings of the second intifada (roughly 2000 – 2005) finally sent them home and the book came out in paperback in 2010.  It may not be current, but it is still “devastatingly insightful.” Very highly recommended.

Side By Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine edited by Sami Aswan, Dan Bar-On, & Eyal Naveh (The New Press) $24.95  OUR SALE PRICE = $19.96

Created by the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) this is innovative and an amazing resource for those who want greater understanding from two often contrasting perspectives. Yep, this is a side-by-side narrative, written in parallel (the one page from the Israeli perspective and the other facing pace offering a Palestinian perspective.)

Side By Side is almost 400 pages and was created by a group of Israeli and Palestinian teachers. Naturally, the conflict can be explained and taught from just one side and these heroic university educators wanted to be fair and teach “both sides.”

Interestingly, the Library Journal, in a very favorable review, said it “underscores the problems” which, I suppose, it does. But what a healthy way into the conversation, showing in a nearly pioneering way, how various people understand their often different histories. Wow.

Christ and the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace edited by Paul Alexander (Pickwick) $28.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40

This is an excellent resource offering a variety of authors each sharing a speech or lecture or sermon they gave at a peacemaking conference in Bethlehem ( yes — that Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, Palestine.) It is especially concerned about the role of evangelical Christians (often presumed to be Zionist and disinterested in the human rights of the Palestinians.) Some chapters are more academic than others and every one is worth reading. A few are brilliant and many are quite inspiring.

I recommended this before but didn’t share the details.

Because I’m eager to promote this, here is what you’ll find, chapter by chapter.

“Palestinian Christians in the Shadow of Christian Zionism” by Alex Award. Award starts the conference off with some moving stories of his experiences as an Arab Christian, including awful discrimination from fellow evangelicals experienced at global Bible conferences. He’s honest, upbeat, and inspiring.

“The Holocaust and the Evangelical Movement: From German Pietism to Palestinian Christians” by Manfred W. Kohl. One of the more scholarly pieces about anti-semitism, various understandings of Jewish people throughout church history, and a moving ending listing ways to help evangelicals develop a more balanced approach.

“A Palestinian Christian Evangelical Response to the Holocaust” by Sami Awad. Sami is a youngish, esteemed evangelical and here he tells movingly of an experience of anti-Palestinian ideology experienced while on an educational retreat to the death camps in Europe. Don’t miss it.

“Theology of the Land: From a Land of Strife to a Land of Reconciliation” Salim Munayer. I have read a lot on this topic and it is one of the best overviews I have seen, carefully interpreting the various themes of land-promises in the Bible. Good, good stuff. Dr. Munayer is founder of Musalaha, in Jerusalem, a charitable organization that works for reconciliation.

“What Can Pentecostals and Charismatics Do for Peace with Justice in Israel and Palestine?” by Paul Alexander. Paul is an old friend and the compiler of this collection of papers given at the Checkpoint conference. It is conversational, informal, passionate.

“Strange Freedom: Existential and Social Liberation from a Christian Perspective” by Mae Elise Cannon. We so admire Cannon’s good work (with the organization Churches for Middle East Peace) and here she offers a profound essay on the liberation God can bring as she frames the conflict in light of principles from the gospel of Christ’s Kingdom. Very thoughtful.

“The New Testament and the Land” by Gary M. Burge. Dr. Burge teaches at Wheaton and has written two books on this topic; he is an expert and this summary piece is extraordinary.

“The Land in Light of the Reconciliation of Christ: A Dispensationalist View” by Darrell Bock. Professor Bock (of Dallas Theological Seminary) is a well known and exceptionally thoughtful evangelical scholar. He was born Jewish and became a follower of Jesus which makes him that much more interesting. He offers a pretty generic overview of the dispensationalist worldview and insists that, despite his solid loyalty to Israel, they dare not do whatever they wish and are, like all of us, obliged to live well in the land, working for justice for all. Not bad.

“The Ethical Responsibility of the American Church Toward Palestinian Christians” by Tony Campolo. I have always enjoyed listening to Tony and am honored to call him a friend. He naturally preaches about Jesus and calls us to a wholistic vision of Kingdom living, trusting Christ and working for peace. He tells some great stories, too. By the way, Tony, raised in a vibrant Italian-American community was sent to a school in which he was one of only a few non-Jewish kids, so he knows the Jewish community well. This is good stuff.

“Evangelicals, Islam, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” by Colin Chapman. Chapman is an impeccable British scholar who at the time was teaching Islamic Studies in Beirut, Lebanon. He is exceptionally reliable, thoughtful, a tad scholarly, and here offers a brief but solid introduction, inspired by his must-read Whose Promised Land?

“Peaceful or Violent Eschatology: A Palestinian Christian Reading of the Psalter” by Yohanna Katanacho. The Christ and the Checkpoint Conference was held at Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, Palestine, and Dr. Katanacho is a professor of Biblical Studies (and an Academic Dean) there. This is the most academic piece in the book with Katanacho interacting with important work on the Psalms by the likes of Gerald Wilson and Robert Cole, whose interpretations seems to fund a militant Zionist project, which he finds unfaithful.  His most recent book is Praying Through the Psalms.

“Contextual Palestinian Theology as it Deals with Realities on the Ground” by Mitri Raheb. Raheb is a rock star of global, post-colonial theological studies, a  Palestinian Lutheran pastor and life-long resident of Bethlehem. His chapter was somewhat informal even as he offers 7 key points to help us think faithfully about the occupation of his homeland by right-wing Zioinist forces.

“Where Do We Go From Here?” by Jonathan Kuttab. Kuttab should be better known, an important voice of human rights and the rule of law in the region. He is a lawyer and co-founder of the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence and a variety of other advocacy organizations.

Some of these chapters and really, really informative and some are quite stirring. Kudos.

A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land edited by Mae Elise Cannon (Cascade) $40.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $32.00

This is another anthology, a really great reader, that would be useful to have on hand for a lifetime. There is so much in here. Mae Cannon is a friend and customer and we so value her important, evangelical work for peace and justice. (She has done a few handbooks of faith-based involvement such as The Social Justice Handbook and the excellent follow-up, Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age, both published by IVP.)

She is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and serves as the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Previously, she learned her chops as the senior director of advocacy and outreach for World Vision US on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

This edited volume done for CMEP, A Land Full of God, is simply one of the best big volumes on the topic, unprecedented for this kind of overview. There is so much in here, from so many perspectives. The forward reveals some of their approach; it is called “Multiple Narratives Toward Peace.” It’s a big book, but well worth having.

There are more than 30 chapters in Land Full of God, most original for this volume, although a few were previously done. It is nearly 300 pages and is arranged in seven sections:

PART I starts off with “Contextualizing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” with helpful pieces by Dale Hanson Burke, David Neff, Rich Nathan, and His Holiness Pope Francis.

PART II includes essays under the rubric of “God’s Chosen People and the Family of Abraham” and includes four very impressive chapters about the Jewish claims to the land (one written by a Jewish author, another about the larger family of Abraham, and the questions around supersessionism.)

PART III “Land and People” has four chapters about the land, culture, and peoples, including a marvelous survey (by Dr. Clayborne Carson and Rev. Troy Jackson) about Martin Luther King’s 1959 trip to the Holy Land and what we can surmise about his views of the contemporary conflict based on his diaries and comments from his trip There’s a bit on the rise of so-called Christian Zionism that’s important. Please don’t miss the stand out chapter by David Gushee on “Christian Just Peacemaking and Israel-Palestine.” Gushee is a world-class ethicist and a scholar of the holocaust.

PART IV is called “Political Paradigms and Perspectives” and includes the famous piece by Desmond Tutu in which he compared Palestinian conditions under the occupation with his experience of apartheid in South Africa, and an important historical piece by The Honorable John Kerry. I loved the piece on a Pentecostal view of interfaith learning by Paul Alexander (the editor of the above-listed book.)

PARV V offers voices for peace in four chapters in  a section called “An End to Violence and Vision for Peace.”

PART VI offers pieces under the section heading “We Belong to Each Other: Relationships Across Divides.” It has fabulous messages by Shane Claiborne, Lynne Hybels, Carolyn Custis James, and now Bread for the World President, Eugene Cho.

PART VII is entitled “Future Hope: Action and Engagement Toward a Just Peace.” It leads off with an excellent piece by Jim Wallis, which I highly recommend, an inspiring one by Joel Hunter, and more. These are really good.

There is included the full draft of the “Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and Holy Land” declaration called Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence. What a resource! Kudos to Christians for Middle East Peace. Highly recommended.

The Other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope Munther Issac (IVP) $20.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $16.00

I recommend this hefty book because it is so clear, so conversational, so obviously heart-rending and honest. Munther Isaac got his PhD from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and is an academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine (and directs the ongoing Christ and the Checkpoint Conferences there.) He is the pastor of the famed Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. I bet you saw pictures on facebook of the baby Jesus in the rubble posted from there last Christmastime.

This is a voice that must be heard. As an evangelical biblical theologian and church leader, Munther Isaac speaks on behalf of sisters and brothers in Christ whose story and very existence is ignored and marginalized in the West. A wealth of historical and personal experience, including his own, authenticates the educative challenge of his biblical and theological perspectives. The Other Side of the Wall helps us appreciate the other side of an argument that is all too often assumed to have only one legitimate side for Bible-believing Christians. — Christopher J. H. Wright, Langham Partnership, author of Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Munther Isaac is a Palestinian Christian and as such an heir to the unbroken Christian presence in the land of Jesus going back to the early church. In this provocative book, he writes with the passion and urgency of an Old Testament prophet, offering a direct challenge to theologies from the West that have been weaponized against him and others like him in the Holy Land. His words will surely challenge and discomfort many American Christians, but if we are ever to become the makers of peace and the agents of God’s kingdom we are called to be, we must learn to listen to prophetic voices outside our own culture and traditions, and especially to the vulnerable, the powerless, and those who seek justice and peace. — Todd Deatherage, co-founder and executive director of the Telos Group

Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth (Herald Press) $10.00  OUR SALE PRICE = $8.00

This is a handsome, large-sized study guide put out by an ecumenical coalition, published by the Mennonites, but drawn up from within and among Palestinian Christain community. Drawing on language that might remind one of the Barman Declaration (about resisting Hitler in 1940s German) or the Belhar Confession (naming the sin of racism in South Africa) this document and the four week study offers a great resource for church or small group conversations. It argues for nonviolent resistance to the militarized and repressive Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  You can read more about it here at the Kairos Palestine website.




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  • United States Postal Service has the option called “Media Mail” which is cheapest but can be a little slower. For one typical book, usually, it’s $4.33; 2 lbs would be $5.07. This is the cheapest method available and seems not to be too delayed.
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