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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Perspectives & Observations, March 1, 2012
This review is from: Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel (Hardcover)
Author: Hadara Lazar
ISBN: 978-1-935633-28-0
Publishers: Atlas & Company

Hadara Lazar was born in Haifa and is the author of five novels, as well as non-fiction books that explore life in Israel and the British-Mandate Palestine. Her latest foray, Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel was published by arrangement with the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and translated by Marsh Pomerantz.

About twenty-five years ago, Lazar began interviewing witnesses and other participants to the events that brought about the 1948 Partition dividing Palestine into two separate hostile nations. As she succinctly sums it up, "The Jews and the Arabs had great dreams, but the carriers of those dreams, the British, woke up first." She further explains that it was a fragile coexistence in a land claimed by two people and yet it seemed that a military solution was not necessarily the only one. Her objective was to deal with this tumultuous period, which still exists today, in her own way and the culmination was Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel "where Jews, Englishmen, and Arabs lived in a historic time and neither wanted to nor could escape its significance."

Her interviewees include Palestinians, Arabs and various political figures from England that played in one way or another a role at the time of the creation of the State of Israel. As she points out in her introduction, she wished to know what people remembered about what had happened at the time the British Mandate was coming to an end and "to find some connections between their words and the myth of those days, to describe how their memories changed with time." These actors would include the British who left, the Arabs who fled or stayed, and the Jews, whom she states she knew first hand, as a native eager to hear their memories. Lazar informs her readers that she had no intention of dealing with this era in any methodical manner. The chapters are constructed according to what ever interested her where some are built around a certain subject or a certain meeting, while others pertaining to an earlier period or a later one. All of these chapters were dictated by the subject, the cast of characters, and the nature of the quest. It should be mentioned, that everything in the book is a direct quote. Lazar states that although she took the liberty of omitting some quotes, she never added to their words. The important element was to find out what people remembered when they confided in her and this the book is one of testimony- a work of remembrance and not history.

Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel is an ambitious endeavor containing testimonies that are replete with some fascinating perspectives and observations tendered by a cross-section of individuals where some are more accurate than others, but nonetheless important in helping us to make some sense of a decisive period in the history of the Middle East. Lazar has succeeded in weaving together an oral history of an era marked by dozens of contentious issues that still exist today.

Among the dozens of participants we meet are Shimon Avidan who headed the German squad of the Palmach and later commanded the Givati Brigade during the War of Independence and concluded his military service as head of military operations,. Khalil Daoudi, who was born in Jerusalem in the family's ancestral home on Mount Zion and who worked for the Mandatory Administration in Jerusalem. Daoudi left his home in 1948 and moved to Brighton, England. Sir Henry Gurney who served as chief secretary of the Mandatory Administration from 1946 until May 14, 1948. Gurney was later murdered in Malaysia in the early Fifties.

One of the shortcomings of this book is that although most of the information contained is engrossing, it is, however, unfortunately capriciously organized. In many instances there was an absence of any kind of separation as to whom Lazar was interviewing causing confusion that forced me to re-read sections to determine if she had moved onto her next participant. Nonetheless, as the promotional material states and I agree, it is an important book for anyone wishing to have a better understanding of the unresolved conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
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