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on June 3, 2005
For a person with little exposure to conflict in the Mid-East, this is a very good book. He mentions a couple of wars that I'd never known about because of my age, which sparked interest. But more than that, his emphasis is on the HUMAN ASPECT of these conflicts, which current affair venues skim over. Barghouti mentions the conflicts and assassinations he's seen and felt through his life only as a backdrop to the way the people he knows and loves have been affected.

This is not a light read. The author addresses emotionally draining topics. But there was a sense of healing through the journey and resolution of the book, and a universal spirituality that unites humanity. It is a very powerful book.

This book was given to me, and I'm very glad because I would never have sought it out on my own. It is a surprising story which tells of pain and loss, and still offers hope.
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on March 12, 2004
I had not heard of Mourid Barghouti before I chanced upon this book in the store, but the names of two people and a place on a beckoning Mediterranean blue cover, was enough stimulus to want to know more. The people - Edward Said and Naguib Mahfouz; the place - Ramallah. It took a couple of days to read and more than measured up to the high expectations raised by the cover.
This is not a book that can be slotted with the usual political commentaries that line the shelves. Mourid is first a poet and everything else comes next and this book confirms that. What you will find is a poignant and lyrical description of life as a displaced Palestinian and Barghouti's first hand account, tells of the struggle with a clarity of experience that is sure to shake the most cynical of readers. For, displacement is a journey that threatens with a new reality every day; an insecurity that forces frequent adaptation to its ever-changing circumstances. Situational adjustments are forced out of people for sheer survival and come with potent mixtures of confusion, shame, anger, grief and loneliness. Mourid's journey describes all this and more, compelling a new understanding that is heavy on the soul.
The text is interlaced with his translated poetry and in every instance where a poem is used to accentuate sensibilities, the blend with prose is seamless, fluid and successful. Aside from the overall impact of the book, two things that I would like to single out: the powerful metaphorical symbols of the bridge and the swing and the little anecdotes of growing up in Ramallah, the fig tree, Big Uncle Fakhri, Sanduqa bookshop. They left me marveling at the remarkable ability of the people to effect some small stab at normalcy and innocence and Mourid's dogged resolve to document that. Despite the knowledge that every attempt at resurrecting a life out of the debris, every effort at adaptation, will open itself up to a trivialising of the problem and demand a further stretching of the limits of tolerance.
There is politics here of course, but it is only directly addressed in the last few pages; everywhere else you will read and see the enormous damage the conflict has wreaked upon an unsuspecting people in daily terms. Buy the book and read it and then, read it again.
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on November 4, 2005
Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti tells of a brief return to the West Bank where he lived as a boy and now may visit only by permission of the Israeli occupation authority. It is a bittersweet homecoming told with a poet's sensibility, emotions reflected in what seem like fragments of free association, as he remembers the years between 1948 and 1967 and notes the many changes that have taken place during his absence, from the growth of Israeli settlements to the impact of liberation politics on a new generation.

Identified as a dissident in the aftermath of 1967, he was expelled from Egypt where he had been a university student, was married and had become a new father. Barghouti has since lived as a displaced person in several different countries, a member of the Palestinian diaspora. He writes of his particular kind of homelessness with poignancy and sharp clarity. Interwoven are accounts of the deaths of friends and his brother Mounif, lost to the dark forces of political strife. Not surprisingly, there is anger, as well, in Barghouti's book. Anyone with an interest in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine would do well to hear him out.
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on April 23, 2004
As a person who has lived in the Middle East for most of my adult life, and someone who has scores of very lovable Arab friends, yet married into a Jewish family with loads of Jewish friends, I was instantly drawn to this book. During these dangerous times, when the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians might well spark devastating nuclear war, it is so important for readers to understand both sides of this issue, for only with knowledge and understanding will this dangerous conflict ever be resolved. With "I Saw Ramallah" I thought about another book, titled "Ester's Child," which was required reading in a college class, (and many of my classmates agreed it was one of the best books we'd ever read), letting the reader into the lives of the Israelis and the Palestinians, yet inspiring understanding rather than hatred, which most books about these two nationalities do--its as though you are required to be on one side or the other--when instead we need to be on the side of humanity.
Now with this very valuable book, the reader comes to feel that he/she has been banned from their own home, and the desolation of the spirit at such a horrifying turn of events is sooooo painful.
I wish more people were reading this book. It's a beauty, written by a poet with enormous talent. It makes me wish more than ever that those who have lost their homes, could all return to the days once lived, and that peace would finally come to the land of Israel.
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on March 17, 2005
For anyone wondering how the livelihoods of normal Palestinians have been impacted by the long conflict in the Middle East, this is essential reading.

As a Palestinian, you grow up living several tales similar to the ones you read in this book. And as Palestinians we could not find a more eloquent poet than Barghouti to capture the essence of these tales with all their meaning and put them in a book the whole world could read, understand, and even relate to. I found myself laughing at some of Barghouti's inside family jokes with Americans as well as with my Palestinian grandmother, a distant cousin of Barghouti.

Barghouti manages to so eloquently and vividly portray the misery and beauty along with the despair and hope of being Palestinian, and of the eternal Palestinian malaise of being a stranger at home and abroad.

If you are thinking of reading ridiculous journalistic trash analyzing Palestinians from the comfort of American colleges like Dershowitz' "The Case for Israel;" read this book instead and you will actually realize you suddenly understand this conflict.

If you are Palestinian, then you must read this book to remind you of the incredible sense of humour, the delicious olive oil, and your family fights that you miss so dearly.
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on July 21, 2003
Mourid Barghouti's vivid memoir was a pleasure to read. "I saw Ramallah" describes the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of one of the millions of human beings and families directly affected by the conflict. We learn how the author was exiled because the 1967 war took place while he was studying abroad. We see how he was separated from his wife and kid by a second exile from Egypt due to his "Palestinianness". We get to cry with him when he hears of his brother's tragic death, also in exile. And we get a taste for his complicated feelings upon seeing his country for the first time in 25 years during the Oslo Peace process.
This book truly shows that nothing is simple about the Middle East Conflict. It spares no authority from criticism - not the Palestinian Authority, not the Arab countries, and not Israel. At the same time, the book shows that in fact the Middle East conflict IS simple: we are humans at the base of it. Enjoyable reading, and very thought-provoking.
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on July 25, 2003
Although I'm an ardent supporter of Israel, I deliberately picked up this book hoping to better sensitize myself to the enormous pain in the Palestinian community. Mr. Barghuthi's touching personal story did help to achieve that goal.
I'm not an educated literary critic, but I found the style and substance of his work to be engaging and difficult to put down. If anything, I concluded my read feeling a strong sense of accessibility in Mr. Barhuthi's personal journey and his humanity. I believe that important because of how penetrating the constant images of violence and suicide bombing are, and how easy it therefore becomes to forget that there are real, human families on the Palestinian side of the conflict.
I wouldn't be honest if I didn't make note of the few places in which Mr. Barghuti lashes out at Israel with political comments that seem to ignore or misunderstand the Israeli point of view. I couldn't help but also feel that as a person who grew up under totalitarian Arab regimes, he has a basic misunderstanding of classic, liberal society. I also wondered whether or how much his views might have changed since the time this book was written. Those political interludes are few and far between, though, and not at all the focus of this work, which feels intensely personal and excruciating.
I think that all such things deserve a critical eye, but I also believe that anyone deeply interested in this conflict would be well served by reading this touching work.
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on May 14, 2004
The title for my review is Mr. Barghouti's statement throughout his book and obviously of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict that it cannot be simplified. This great Poet's description of life in Palestine before and after his exile allows you to feel his nostalgia. His description of Jersusalem particularly was heartfelt, it allowed me to feel that I was walking with him down the cobbled streets smelling the sweet smells of this troubled walled city, yet, for a change, it is a discription that brings to light a somewhat normal life instead of the troubled life that Palestinians live day to day. In addition, his summary of the Palestinian conflict is symbolized in his description of how the winding roads to Ramallah around Jerusalem do not even allow you to view Jerusalem from your car window. The humour makes this heavy subject bearable, such as the many ways you can describe the word a 'slap in the face'. Read it, read it, read it.
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on March 26, 2015
This book is not fiction but it gives a point of view and is very expressively written. I read it along with My Promised Land by Ari Shavit and I am so glad I read them both. The styles are very different and they see pretty much the same picture from opposite points of view. I had no idea how much I didn't know about a place that's been in the news so much for so long.
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on September 23, 2005
I love this book! I read it first in the original Arabic and was thrilled to discover that Ahdaf Soueif's masterful translation renders the spirit and the language of Barghouti's prose beautifully. This book has fast become my number one recommendation as an introductory book on the Palestinian experience. Barghouti captures the experiences of exile, occupation, and less than optimal "return" as no one has before. I know so many fellow Palestinians who have experienced exactly the range of emotion he describes crossing the bridge from Jordan to the occupied West Bank, or receiving that phone call at night in a foreign country, with relatives scattered across the globe. Barghouti's book humanizes Palestinian life in all its complexity, grief, humor, and presents to the reader in sincere and lucid language. This book is a must read for anyone hoping to understand Palestine and the Palestinians.
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