Our reading list for the new Israel envoy

By James Lewis, July 15, 2010

If Matthew Gould has any spare time when he flies off to Israel to become British ambassador, the JC has helpfully compiled a reading list.

The idea was inspired by the coalition's Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who has asked Jewish, Israeli and Arab journalists for suggestions of essential books to read before he visited the region.

Mr Gould is the first Jewish ambassador to be appointed as Britain's man in Tel Aviv.

Stand-up comedian Josh Howie, 34, suggested Shalom Auslander's critically acclaimed Foreskin's Lament.

He said: "It is a fantastic read, which will help him understand the conflicting emotions of what it is like to be not just a Jew, but a religious one."

The novel is a lightly fictionalised account of Mr Auslander's upbringing as an Orthodox Jew.

More recommendations came from the writer Jeremy Gavron. He said: "The books I suggest for Mr Gould will give him a glimpse of the Jewish Israel that has been reduced to a small minority."

First up was Amos Oz's The Same Sea, which Mr Gavron described as "a beautiful, gentle and non-political read with lots of wisdom".

He also recommended If this is a Man by Primo Levi, the powerful account of the Italian chemist's time in Auschwitz.

Further ideas came from Professor Geoffrey Alderman who suggested Anthony Julius's History of Antisemitism in Britain, and from author Linda Grant who recommended her own novel, When I lived in Modern Times, set in pre-state Tel Aviv, a fiercely unsentimental portrait of the early years of Israel. She also suggested her non-fiction work, A Writer's View of Israel.

Now all that remains is for Mr Gould to begin packing.

Last updated: 12:24pm, September 17 2010