'A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth’

Actress Noa Tishby gets personal in new history of Israel

Noa Tishby image
Israeli actress-turned-author Noa Tishby

Noa Tishby's book,  Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth  (Free Press), is a passionate, provocative, and personal primer about an often-misunderstood country. 

Tishby, born and raised in Tel Aviv, had achieved phenomenal success in Israel as an actress and singer. She moved to the United States in the 1990s to pursue her career. She became a trail-blazing producer who was the first to bring an Israeli TV series to the United States, In Treatment, which had an award-winning run on HBO.  

This same entrepreneurial drive compelled her to write the book-which comes out April 6-about her beloved Israel. In it, she seeks to correct misconceptions about the country shared with her by well-meaning American acquaintances. She also challenges misinformation and media bias against the country. 

"When it comes to Israel, people don't really know the facts, but they sure have a lot of opinions," Tishby said. "I searched for a way to explain to people what Israel is about, why is it there, why it needs to be, and why you should care…in a simple and easy-to-understand way."  

JUF NEWS: How did you find the tone for your book? 

Noa Tishby: People want to hear a personal story. My grandmother was one of the first founders of the first kibbutz in Israel. My great-grandfather moved to Jerusalem in 1926 and started the Ministry of Industry and Trade. He was Israel's first representative to the African continent. I realized through telling the story of my family, I could get people engaged in hearing about the establishment of the country.  

When people return from visiting Israel for the first time, they invariably say the trip changed their lives. Did you have to come to the United States to foster your own primal connection to Israel? 

Not so much the primal connection, but more the generational responsibility toward the peoplehood that Israel represents. A lot of today's young generation in North America take Israel for granted, thinking it has always been there and always will be there. Only when I took a step away was I really able to appreciate it. My personal activism (on behalf of Israel) has become an actual calling. 

Did writing the book bring you closer to your Jewish identity? 

By the time I started writing this book, my friends were already saying 'Noa is Jewish enough for everyone.' But it definitely brought me closer to my family, especially through finding my grandmother's diaries from the kibbutz. Those were mind-blowing. I felt this immense responsibility to memorialize her. It was an incredible process.  

What are some fun activities you'd recommend first-time visitors to Israel do to get an authentic taste of the country? 

I always err on going to Israel in the spring and summer; it's got among the best beaches in the world. There are beautiful wineries in the mountains. And I dare people to go to Israel and find a bad meal. You have an entire country that is farm-to-table, so whether you eat in the most high- or low-end restaurant, it will be fresh and special and have native flavors. A friend of mine told me he had found his favorite restaurant in the world. I asked what it was, and he said, "Israel."  

Donald Liebenson is a Chicago writer who writes forVanityFair.com, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, and other outlets. 

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