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Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide Hardcover – October 3, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412349
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Not a light read, this memoir of the author, an American-bred Zionist, and his 15-year relationship with a Palestinian insurgent is bound to have detractors, in part because New Yorker Washington correspondent Goldberg is painfully honest—about his dreams, limitations and anxieties. "I wanted to... have it all," he writes, "my parochialism, my universalism, a clean conscience, and a friendship with my enemy." Goldberg lived in Israel as a college student, sharpening the contradictory emotions shared by many of his American peers and eventually watching his former certainty crumble under the weight of military service at Ketziot, an Israeli prison. Grounded in his relationship with a prisoner, Goldberg's book travels from Long Island to Afghanistan as he struggles to understand Israeli-Palestinian violence. His honesty is itself high recommendation; the book is also marked by beautiful turns of phrase and a forthrightness that saves it from occasional self-importance. Some readers will argue with some of Goldberg's assertions (such as his reading of Israel's offer to Arafat at Camp David), and the author's halting recognition of the role despair plays in shaping Palestinian thought. Like the warring nationalisms it presents, his book is complex and deeply affecting. (Oct. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With the Middle East ablaze again, a lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more distant than ever. So this timely and hopeful memoir reminds us that decent men of goodwill can strive to bridge even the widest gulf. Goldberg is an American-born Jew raised in a liberal, nonobservant family. He "discovered" Zionism in adolescence and immigrated to Israel as a young man. He had romantic dreams of fighting to defend the Jewish homeland. Instead, he spent his military service as a prison guard at Ketziot, a bleak desert jail where Palestinians, many who fought in the first Intifada, were warehoused. Goldberg provides incisive observations of various aspects of Israeli and Palestinian societies, including the decline of the kibbutz movement, ideological divisions between Fatah and Hamas, and, of course, the grinding monotony (for both guards and prisoners) of prison life. But the core of this story is Goldberg's evolving friendship with a prisoner named Rafiq.^B At first, they reach out warily toward each other, but the genuine warmth and affection that grow surprise and even unsettle them. Their friendship endures, even after Rafiq is released and returns to the political hothouse of Gaza while Goldberg becomes a journalist. Goldberg has no illusions that he and his friend, working at the "subatomic" level, have solved seemingly intractable larger problems, but his poignant account offers the possibility of reconciliation. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

It is very rare to find someone trying to find a prisoner he once watched over so that he can open his home to that person.
Joseph Lichter
As long as Israelis are in denial it difficult to see how Israel can survive surrounded by Arabs who know the real story and thus hate Israel even more.
Philip Collier
This is already an interesting story but Goldberg makes it all the more gripping with insightful, moving, and beautifully written prose.
J. Stern

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Linda H. on February 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Prisoners" is an engrossing book on many levels. It is a personal story about the author's evolution from an idealistic adolescent into a realistic, principled man, while simultaneously serving as a lucid chronicle of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Historical references abound, written clearly so that the reader does not need extensive background in order to understand complex issues. The writing is wonderful, with vivid scenes, memorable characters, and quite a bit of humor. The book begins in 2001, and after a suspenseful end to Chapter I, flashes back to the first Gulf war when the author, serving in the Israeli army, guarded Palestinians in an Israeli prison camp. The narrative moves seamlessly through time and across continents, detailing the tenuous friendship between the author and one of his former prisoners. I had to keep reading, and found the ending hopeful and very moving.

All in all, it is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is Mr. Goldberg's first book, and I hope he writes many more.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on April 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Self-categorized on the book jacket as "Current Affairs," this book had me expecting an analysis of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the word "prisoners" in the title no more than a metaphor. In fact, a large part of the book takes place in an actual prison, and while it has much to say about Israeli-Palestinian relations, it is more correctly a memoir of an American Jewish journalist attempting to understand the nature of the conflict that has prevailed in that part of the Middle East since 1948. Finding the political in the personal, he tells of his own beginnings as a youthful Zionist living on Long Island and his years in Israel as his ideals are put to the test working on a kibbutz and then serving in the military police at a desert prison, where he first meets and attempts to befriend a Palestinian prisoner, Rafiq.

Later, working as a journalist based first in Jerusalem and then in Washington DC, the author travels often to Gaza and the West Bank to talk with Palestinians, many of them released prisoners, including his friend Rafiq. His conversations with Rafiq become a commentary on an accompanying account of the interlude of hope for resolution in the Oslo talks, the eventual collapse of the peace process, and the rise of suicide bombings. On both levels, it is a search for common ground that is as elusive as peace itself. The author clings to the hope that where friendship is possible between two men who cannot agree on anything else, coexistence is possible between Arabs and Jews.

This is a well written book that immerses the reader in the deeply bitter and violent conflict that has raged in this corner of the world for decades.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By mbrandi on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
not only is this book deeply personal to the author but also to this reader.He put into the words that I never could the feeling that I have for Israel and the Jewish People.He explains Zionism for what it really is and means and not for what the pc crowd has twisted it to be.

Having also had dialogue with a muslim that I called friend for over more than 40 years I can attest to the great divide between us.it is hard for most people to understand that different cultures do not think alike regardless of what facts are presented.

other readers have found hope in this book which I am afraid I do not share.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LeopardBay on November 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Goldbergs' deep personal reflections about his experiences as a soldier in the IDF and his impossible friendship with one Palestinian prisoner he guarded provide lessons about religion, politics, redemption and one person's willingness to always believe in the possible. Despite their differences and the circumstances that brought them together, a friendship was forged that defied all expectations and reason. Goldberg shares his ambivalence, doubts and hopes with a poingiency and pathos the jumps off the page, grabs the reader by the shoulders and doesn't let go until the last page. For anyone who cares about the future of the Middle East, Prisoners is an unforgettable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Los Angeles Writer on May 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is the one book I would recommend reading about the Middle East. It explains so much. Jeffrey Goldberg's Prisoners is about a heavy subject, but it's really ultimately very uplifting. It is not just about the relationship between one Jew and one Palestinian, it is about the whole history and conflict of the Middle East, but he does it in a way that makes you unaware you're getting lessons in history and sociology and religion. It's a fast read, and very funny at times. Totally recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip Collier on August 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I thought some of the very negative reviews of this book were
unfair. Goldberg seems sincere in trying to understand other
points of view. I do think that fundamental issues have to be
considered. I was prompted to write because I saw an atticle in
today's (August 24, 2014) by this author about anti-Jewish
hostility in Europe. An interesting comment on this possibility
was made in 1944 by Hannah Arendt. It is on page 160 of Israeli acadrmic Idith Zertal's book "Israel's Holocaust and the
Politics of Nationhood" published by the Cambridge University
Press in 2005.

"Nationalism is bad enough when it trusts in
nothing but the rude force of the nation. A
nationalism that necessarily and admittedly
depends upon the force of a foreign nation
is certainly worse. That is the threatened fate
of Jewish nationalism and the proposed Jewish
State, surrounded inevitably by Arab states and
Arab peoples. Even a Jewish majority in
Palestine--nay, even a transfer of all Palestine
Arabs, which is openly demanded by (Zionist )
Revisionists--would not substantially change a
situation in which Jews must either ask protection
from an outside power against their neighbors or
effect a working agreement with their neighbors…
The Zionists, if they continue to ignore the
Mediterranean people and watch out only for
the big faraway powers, will appear only as
their tools, the agents of foreign and hostile
interests. Jews who know their own history
should be aware that such a state of sffairs will
inevitably lead to a new wave of Jew--hatred, the
anti--Semitism of tomorrow.
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