5 short novels about Palestine and Israel

If, on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, you’d like to read more fiction from Palestine and Israel (in English), here are a few suggestions for readers short on time. 

The first two are particularly suitable for teenage readers and students of Arabic at A-level who would like to read a short novel in Arabic alongside the English version.


Where the Streets Had a Name by Australian Palestinian author Randa Abdel-Fatah. This great novel about 13-year-old Hayaat is available in Arabic as حينما كان للشوارع أسماء. “There are a lot of things I admire about this book but it’s the humor I particularly respect,” says Elizabeth Bird in School Library Journal. “This book is chock full of situations that are not funny. Curfews are not funny. Dehumanization of citizens is not funny. But between these bad times are moments of levity.”



Code Name: Butterfly by Palestinian author Ahlam Bsharat, translated from Arabic by Nancy Roberts. The Arabic title (also published in a matching edition by Neem Tree Press) is اسمي الحركي فراشة

Described by Arabic teen-lit researcher Sousanne Abou Ghaida as “Full of humour, brave and honest… by far the best young adult novel from the Arab world I’ve ever read,” this short novel spans a summer in the life of a teen in the West Bank


Khirbet Khizeh by Israeli writer S. Yizhar. 

A haunting novella of the 1948 war and one which “still stirs intense controversy” – review in The Guardian of the English translation from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck

Men in the Sun & Other Palestinian Stories by Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani – in English translation by Hilary Kilpatrick. 

The 1962 novella Men in the Sun was also the basis of the film المخدوعون (The Deceived or The Dupes) by Egyptian director Tawfiq Saleh


Touch, by Palestinian author Adania Shibli 

This novel is set at the time of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and is told from the perspective of a young girl. Described by ArabLit blogger Marcia Lynx Qualey as “a gorgeous novella from a young Palestinian author Ahdaf Soueif says is the ‘most talked about’ writer on the West Bank.”


But why stop at 5? Check out this list of recommended fiction and poetry by Palestinian authors on ArabLit blog


About Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Literary translator from Arabic, German and Russian into English
This entry was posted in Israel, Literature, Literature/poetry/fiction, Palestine, Reading, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 5 short novels about Palestine and Israel

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