Understanding Israel is a challenge that Scharfstein (The Story Haggadah, not reviewed, etc.) meets admirably. This mini-encyclopedia takes us from the history of the Jewish people in the time of the patriarchs through the recent peace negotiations between the PLO and Israel. Fact-filled, but not tedious, the volume has colorful photos, maps, and illustrations that bring the details to life. Scharfstein divides the book into nine sections, which include the land of Israel, its people, government, religion, culture, economy, archaeology, history, and the current politics of peace negotiations. Although naturally limited by its broad scope, a good quick study for anyone interested in this engrossing subject.