Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel, 2nd ed. (2008)

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My history B.A. informs my first observation about Homeland—writer Marv Wolfman identifies a disputed point in the history of the formation of Israel as a state—and I appreciated it. Wolfman takes the rockier road.

A lot of Homeland does take the rockier road, working very hard to be not to be jingoistic. The knocks one can think of against Israeli personalities are here—Sharon, for instance, and the Phalangist Massacre. In fact, if the book is biased, it’s not against Israelis or Muslims—it’s against American Christians. Wolfman gets in a hilarious bit where a self-identified American Christian thinks torture is totally un-Christian. It’s an inappropriate laugh, but a fine observation. There’s another point about the regular annual taxes Israelis pay. It’s hard not to roll one’s eyes at the American complaints.

The book is separated into three parts, tied with a narrative about a university class studying Israel, its history and its culture. The first part is through the formation of the state itself in 1948; the second generally covers culture, and the history from 1948 on; the third is a summary of other relevant topics. As a history text, Homeland’s very strong. It’s actually dense enough it could use a study guide, especially during the pre-1900 material.

Mario Ruiz’s combination of art and graphic design is effective. The overall transfer of information is important and Ruiz facilitates it.

Homeland is educational reading… but the package is so compelling, it also serves recreational purposes.

2 Comments

  1. Vernon Wiley

    When I talked to Bill Rubin about the book, I said I went into it hoping for as much an unbiased accounting as possible, considering it was written to be absorbed by everybody, not only readers of the Jewish faith. He told me how they struggled at various points of the book, not just about keeping an even presentation on the history of Israel, but how to portray the many violent periods of it’s formation and not make it too overwhelming of an obstacle to appreciating it. The last chapter was filled with necessary recent details to the point where it’s presentation seemed like it might drag down the narrative. They succeed, because while the book is chock full of events, it’s success for me was in being able to take it in in about three sessions, and wanting to come back for more. Talking about the book with him made me think it would be nice in future editions if they could explain more about it’s evolution. To hear Bill explain it, the process of creating such a historical document was an experience in itself worth sharing, especially to others who might try to create such graphic narratives on their own. Future books on relating history could take a lesson from this on keeping the details lively,
    moving, and encourage those curious to hunt for more.

  2. Vernon Wiley

    Also, when mentioning the taxes Israelis pay, don’t forget the mandatory two years of public military service after high school. I can just see hordes of aimless American teenagers heading for the Canadian border now. Hmmm, maybe not a bad thing…

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