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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East [Kindle Edition]

Sandy Tolan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR's Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.
With a new introduction by the author.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The title of this moving, well-crafted book refers to a tree in the backyard of a home in Ramla, Israel. The home is currently owned by Dalia, a Jewish woman whose family of Holocaust survivors emigrated from Bulgaria. But before Israel gained its independence in 1948, the house was owned by the Palestinian family of Bashir, who meets Dalia when he returns to see his family home after the Six-Day War of 1967. Journalist Tolan (Me & Hank) traces the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the parallel personal histories of Dalia and Bashir and their families—all refugees seeking a home. As Tolan takes the story forward, Dalia struggles with her Israeli identity, and Bashir struggles with decades in Israeli prisons for suspected terrorist activities. Those looking for even a symbolic magical solution to that conflict won't find it here: the lemon tree dies in 1998, just as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process stagnates. But as they follow Dalia and Bashir's difficult friendship, readers will experience one of the world's most stubborn conflicts firsthand. 2 maps. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* To see in human scale the tragic collision of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, Tolan focuses on one small stone house in Ramla--once an Arab community but now Jewish. Built in 1936 by an Arab family but acquired by a Jewish family after the Israelis captured the city in 1948, this simple stone house has anchored for decades the hopes of both its displaced former owners and its new Jewish occupants. With remarkable sensitivity to both families' grievances, Tolan chronicles the unlikely chain of events that in 1967 brought a long-dispossessed Palestinian son to the threshold of his former home, where he unexpectedly finds himself being welcomed by the daughter of Bulgarian Jewish immigrants. Though that visit exposes bitterly opposed interpretations of the past, it opens a real--albeit painful--dialogue about possibilities for the future. As he establishes the context for that dialogue, Tolan frankly details the interethnic hostilities that have scarred both families. Yet he also allows readers to see the courage of families sincerely trying to understand their enemy. Only such courage has made possible the surprising conversion of the contested stone house into a kindergarten for Arab children and a center for Jewish-Arab coexistence. What has been achieved in one small stone building remains fragile in a land where peacemaking looks increasingly futile. But Tolan opens the prospect of a new beginning in a concluding account of how Jewish and Arab children have together planted seeds salvaged from one desiccated lemon tree planted long ago behind one stone house. A much-needed antidote to the cynicism of realpolitik. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1964 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (December 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002UM5B8C
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,632 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
282 of 310 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lemon Tree May 9, 2006
Format:Hardcover
In my 56 years, I've read several books that have changed my life--brought me greater understandings, taught me things I didn't know, mesmerized me so much that I took the books with me everywhere I went--even reading at stop lights! The Lemon Tree is right up there with The Haj, Hawaii, and Night. This history fills in all the gaps of my previous knowledge. So many people have questions about the Middle Eastern conflicts and all of those questions are answered in this book. My friends and I agree that we all SHOULD know more about the Middle East situation, but rarely do we want to sit down and study a history book. This book is full of facts, but it's a page turner!I could hardly put it down. My life was on hold. One day I was reading The Lemon Tree and I actually started crying. There were heart-stopping moments, too. Very exciting! A thriller! I want to meet the real people in the book so much. They are so brave, both Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews. I love how Sandy Tolan showed Israel through different view points, e.g. al-Ramla through Arabic eyes and Ramla through Israeli eyes. It helped shift my thinking as I was reading. Everyone simply has to read this book, both sides, all sides!
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167 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion, History, Documentation, Hope May 3, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Who has a heart large enough to contain compassion both for the longing for Zion, for sanctuary, for homeland, of the Jewish survivors who emigrated to the nascent Israel after WWII, and at the same time the longing for return, for justice, for homeland, of the Palestinians who were expelled from the homes they had occupied for generations to make room for what was to become Israel?

Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree, has, and when you read this remarkable book your heart, too, will stretch until it is large enough to encompass the whole.

If you don't know the history of Palestine and Israel, read this book. It is a true story, but it reads like a novel. It's a page-turner that tells "Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Israel and Palestine, but were afraid to ask."

If you know the history, but you find the subject difficult to discuss with others, read this book for back-up. Every event is documented in the extensive source notes. Arab accounts of what occurred around 1948 have long been available. Israeli Army reports of the same events were declassified only 50 years after the fact. Only since then have the disparate narratives begun to intertwine into one coherent story of what happened in 1948 and after. All of the historic phenomena are documented here from both Israeli and Palestinian sources.

If you follow the news of the region, and therefore you despair, read this book. You'll discover that hope prevails -- in the care of those who sneak across borders to knock on doors, and those who, having considered and rejected more conventional responses to presumed enemies, instead answer, "Yes. Please come in."
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262 of 303 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read but deeply flawed December 27, 2006
By M. Reid
Format:Hardcover
This book is both a "must read" and at the same time it is deeply flawed. If you are seeking an emotional and decidedly gripping account of the Middle-east conflict this is an excellent choice. It will also serve admirably to put a face on both sides of the conflict. It should challenge the everyone who already associates themselves with a position on the matter to question their beliefs and to seriously consider the point of view of the other side in a meaningful way.

That said, where this book falls down is in the objectivity department. Put simply the author clearly attempted mightily to be unbiased and balanced but still allowed personal bias and spin to infiltrate the book. In its weakest form, the author's bias makes him much more likely to credit accounts favorable to the Palestinian Arabs and hostile to the Palestinian Jews* (Hereafter "Israelis"). He often sites sources and historians with a known and recognizable agenda, as well as "fringe" sources. However, this is largely forgivable because he sometimes also provides a balancing point of view to compensate or at least admits when facts are in significant dispute.

However, a worse failing is the tendency to systematically "spin" information to the determent of Israel. For example, in a later chapter on the 2nd Indefada (the riots, or uprisings, or terrorist acts, or insurgency -depending on who you ask- of 2000 and following years) he mentions the Israeli accusation that Palestinian gunmen operated from behind a screen of civilians, usually children. He goes on to say that a UN investigation revealed that this was "the exception rather than the rule." This is a case of "spin" when one considers that the UN actually confirmed that the Israeli accusation was founded in fact.
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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FROM A LEMON SAPLING A MIGHTY ___?___ MAY GROW July 19, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Sandy Tolan's THE LEMON TREE encapsulates the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma better than anything I've read to date. It does so by telling the true story of two families who occupied and loved the same house in the West Bank town of Ramla: the Palestinian Khairis who built it and lived in it up until 1948 and the Bulgarian Jewish Eshkenazis who lived in it from 1948 until 1984. It is the perfect metaphor for the intractable problem of two peoples who have historical claims to the same piece of real estate.

Tolan's central figures are Bashir Khairi and Dalia Eshkenazi who meet for the first time in the aftermath of the Six Day War and maintain a tenuous friendship into the 21st century. His narrative has a distinctly novelistic style. (In fact another Amazon reviewer refers to it as "a trashy, bitter novel") Tolan begins by introducing the reader to Bashir's and Dalia's parents in the 1930's and describing the societies in which they lived. As with Austen or Tolstoi, one absorbs social, historical, and political context while trying to guess where the story is leading.

For example, I learned in passing that Axis member Bulgaria did the best job of any nation in Europe of protecting its Jewish population from the Nazi death camps. One also encounters future leaders of Israel and of Fatah in unexpected places in Tolan's narrative. The order to expel the Arab inhabitants of Lydda and Ramla during the 1948 War was given by Lt. Col. Yitzhak Rabin. Abu Jihad, Arafat's right hand, who helped launch the first Intifada, was among the children expelled from Ramla.

THE LEMON TREE is not a feel-good book. Other reviewers have drawn hopeful conclusions from the relationship of Bashir and Dalia and from the planting of a new lemon tree at the house in Ramla.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Painfully honest
I just returned from a trip to Israel as another war has started. As a result of this book, I can no longer go along with the Israeli line. Read more
Published 41 minutes ago by Carol Frank
4.0 out of 5 stars Educated and Hopeless
We read this book as part of a book study at church. Many of were surprised at how much we didn't know. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend
I love this book, have been trying to get family and friends to read it. I think the writer tried very hard to be impartial and really succeeded. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Linda Vinecour
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting look into the personal lives of those affected.
Published 4 days ago by B. D. McCarthy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Continues to be extremely relevant.
Published 4 days ago by Isabel B. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars How it all came to be as it is in the Middle East
Except for the fact that I became depressed in the second half of the book, this is just about a perfect non-fiction book about the Palestinian-Israeli differences and all the... Read more
Published 8 days ago by louise
4.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing issue
This is a well written book, but I find it disturbing. If two people, on two sides of an issue, can become good friends and still cannot agree on possible solutions to the... Read more
Published 12 days ago by ann wheeler
4.0 out of 5 stars It gave me a new insight to the problems in ...
It gave me a new insight to the problems in the middle east. I should have read it before I traveled to Israel last April.
Published 13 days ago by Jeannie Bunn L Geddis
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book for shedding light from two perspective.
I found this book very enlightening. It helps an outsider see two sides to the same story.
I highly recommend the book
Published 14 days ago by Jodie M Keahey
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This book helped me understand why the conflict goes on and on.
Published 17 days ago by Julie Lee
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More About the Author

Sandy Tolan is the author of Me & Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-Five Years Later. He has written extensively for newspapers and magazines, and has produced dozens of radio documentaries for NPR and PRI. His work has won numerous awards. He was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I. F. Stone Fellow at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the schoolÂ’s Project on International Reporting.

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