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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Committee Of One: Making a Difference, One Life at a Time
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on January 20, 2016
Patricia Martin Holt has written a heartwarming book about an inspiring woman Leila Wahbeh who takes time away from her own family to try and address the needs of people in the Palestinian refugee camps. But Leila does more than address needs. She works hard to help the refugees help themselves, finding outlets where women can sell their embroidery, for instance. Her efforts on behalf of others hurt her own health but she did not give up, earning the deep gratitude of the refugees. This is a wonderful inspiring book about a subject that is still current.
I highly recommend it.
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on July 9, 2018
Provocative assessment of the plight of the Palestinian people removed from their homes after the 1967 war. Holt witnessed the hazardous living conditions in the camps and provides a heart-wrenching account of Leila Wahbeh’s efforts to help the refugees.
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on July 6, 2015
I bought this book because I know the author. I felt it was very one-sided. I have not recommended it to anyone.
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on March 3, 2013
This book opens your eyes to conditions of the palestinian people. Everyone should read it, I highly recommend it.
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on November 23, 2016
A beautiful book written with much compassion and understanding of what one person can accomplish.
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on April 26, 2013
Great Work! I enjoyed reading all about Pat's experience in the refugee camps in Jordan and the inspiring story of Leila Wahbeh and her devotion to help her Palestinian People in need.
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on December 13, 2012
A review of A Committee on One.
I liked it! I thought the stories of the palestinians were enlightening. Leila is a wonder. More Americans should read it.
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on November 27, 2012
This is a book about the struggles of a people. Thousands of Arabs fled from Palestine during the Israeli-Arab wars of 1948 and 1967. They had hoped to find new temporary homes in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab nations but their fellow Muslims refused to let them integrate into their populations and the people were herded into horrid refugee camps and left there. Left there seemingly forever, forgotten, out of sight, out of mind.A displaced person in a refugee camp seems to belong nowhere, having no country but living in limbo in a brutal existence, crowded into abysmal huts or tents with accumulated garbage two stories high. It is really as though these people had been thrown away, discarded as garbage themselves.

There is a Greek word "Diaspora" which means a displaced people, segregated from the country of their birth. It means a scattering, a migration, with people settled far from their homelands and spread around hither and yon like leaves in the wind, like chaff.

Imagine a ghetto choking with squalid cement houses. There are no gardens, no trees, flowers or plazas or stores, or pavement, there are rats, though-thousands of them, and the children play amid the rats and the garbage, if they can play. Some are so weak and malnourished they will soon disappear, plowed under by a society that just doesn't care.

There is a knight on a white horse coming to the rescue only he's a she and her horse is a run-down blue jalopy. "Committee of One" is the true story of an incredible woman, Leila Wahbeh, who although with a family herself and who suffered deprivations and hardships in the past, gathered her strengths of courage and determination and pure charisma to help her fellow Palestinians help themselves.

Author Pat Holt had first met Leila when Pat, who with her husband, was living in Amman, the capitol of Jordan. Pat was searching for examples of the beautiful needlework on canvas and cross-stitched onto full length gowns, the patterns and colors reflecting the tradition and heritage of each family, that the women in the refugee camps produced with love. Mrs. Holt's introduction to Leila changed her life, as Leila driving like a maniac with horn blaring, brakes screeching (her driving was an extension of her enthusiastic personality) bombed into the nearest camp to visit some of the huts where the women, often sitting on the floor, in windowless shacks, always surrounded by hoards of malnourished children, eked out a pathetic existence by their beautiful stitchery.

Holt writes well and you learn of her immersion, at the side of Leila, into the lives of the camp refugees, who although in desperate circumstances kept their dignity intact. Women were located who did the embroidery so that Pat could see the designs and Leila could arrange to have thread and canvases sent to the craftswomen who could weave beauty out of the browns and grays of their desert.

But Pat unknowingly had taken an irrevocable step far beyond the embroidery. As Leila took her time and time again into the refugee camps, where she could see Leila in action and the results of those actions, Pat was hooked. She couldn't stay away. There is a United Nations charity that endeavors to help the displaced Palestinians, but like all charities, red tape is inevitable. But Leila in action meant avoiding red tape and even avoiding money. What the people needed she got. A garbage truck, containers for the garbage and even sanitation centers built to replace refuse dumps. Asphalt, cement, trees and flowers, medicines, a wheelchair, a roof, rice and olives, all the goods and labor donated free because Leila asked the providers.

Leila was greeted with joy whenever she drove into camp. One group of ladies presented her with a beautiful hanging, part of which said "we would give you are blood." She herself described her own motto: "you must never say 'impossible'". The reader will meet many of the camp residents and you will hear their stories which will touch your heart. Leila in "building bridges of happiness" helped them far more than money donations would have helped. She restored the dignity and pride of many of those heavily burdened.

Pat and her husband returned to the States in 1985. Twenty five years later Pat (her husband had died) returned to Amman and found Leila again and they hugged as though they had never been apart. Much had changed in the landscape around Amman, but the camps were still there and a lot had not changed. Yet there was a new horizon -the new horizon was hope. Families without education, the parents illiterate, started sending their children to college on scholarships. And they recognize, these people in the refugee camps, that education is their ticket out of the slums.

Leila's buddy, author Pat Holt, did her share of helping the displaced Palestinians by lecturing to various groups and finding buyers for the hand-worked embroidery which tells so eloquently the story of a forgotten nation. I think it could be said that in her efforts to inform people in America of a civilization lost- and in writing this book -there is a Committee of Two.
8 people found this helpful
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This book could hardly be more timely in its release. With the changes that happen daily in the Israeli Palestinian conflict and now the recognition by the United Nations of Palestine as a state there is obviously going to be even more focus on that sector of the Middle East.
Few realize that as a result of the Arab/Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 countless Palestinian citizens fled to refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon and to this day many of tem subsist in poor shelter with inadequate food. They remain isolated refugees, out of sync with the countries harboring them - people without true homes, scattered families, or the minimal standards for existence.

What Patricia Martin Holt has accomplished in this interesting and heartwarming book is to bring this situation to light. Holt ventured to Amman, Jordan in 1982 and there, searching for information about the variations in cloth and embroidery and styles of clothing that differ significantly in the various countries of the middle East she met Leila Wahbeh. This is Leila's story - and what a transformative story it is.

Leila Wahbeh has devoted her life to visiting the refugee camps to aid the refugees in improving their lives by fending for their own needs, becoming self sufficient, and thus surviving against horrendous odds. Her instructions and support have restored dignity and health to countless people whom the world has forgotten. Holt has not forgotten the impact of her friendship with Leila Wahbeh and her admiration for the task she has made her life's own. That is what this book is about - the `committee of one' is Leila Wahbeh and the goodwill and life-supporting and faith-restoring actions she has made. It is a humbling and at the same time a near hallowed look at what a difference each of us can make in a world crumbling in chaos. This book is regenerative and well worth reading. Grady Harp, November 12
4 people found this helpful
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Patricia Holt has written an important tribute to one woman whose energy and dedication made a difference. Her name is Leila Wahbeh, a Palestinian who was forced to flee with her family from Jerusalem to Egypt in 1947. She returned in 1951. She was to marry a doctor, Yahya, who was deported by the Israelis in the 1967 war, splitting the family. Thereafter, reunions were always dependent on those elusive "permission" slips of paper. Patricia Holt, and her husband, a hydrologist, went to Amman, Jordan in the early `80's on a work assignment. Holt's interest in the arts, and in particular, Palestinian dresses, led her to Wahbeh, since most of their production was currently being done in the refugee camps, and Wahbeh had established numerous contacts in them. Wahbeh takes Holt "under her wing," and shows her a reality that so few of us in the United States have ever experience: the grim world of Palestinian refugee camps.

The reality of the camps is depicted in the background; in the foreground is the one woman dynamo that is Leila Wahbeh, who is determined not to simply whine and complain, but to undertake direct personal action that brings positive change into the lives of those she encounters. First and foremost, she stresses the necessity of education, and arranges for books, paper, and pens for those in need. Equally important is the human dignity that is derived from meaningful work; one chapter is entitled: "Don't teach my people to beg." And this is where the dresses that are woven, coupled with Holt's marketing efforts in the States, are important. Wahbeh is a gadfly to the leadership of bureaucratic agency whose responsibility it is to administer the camp, specifically, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). In one vignette that Holt relates, Wahbeh berates a UNRWA dentist who is doing nothing. In another vignette, she is determined to improve the sanitation in one of the camps, and that involves obtaining a front-end loader to ensure the trash is buried, promptly, and in the right place.

Holt relates how Wahbeh could be a bit overbearing... with the hint that at times that might be counterproductive. And she does remark on her wild driving, which seems to be an occupational hazard in the area, given the number of serious and disabling car accidents that occur. In terms of "doing no harm," simply changing one's personal driving habits could be at the forefront. And in terms of committee meetings, I've suffered through more than my share: sometimes they really are necessary, for there is only so much one human dynamo can do.

After a 25-year hiatus, Holt decides it is now or never, and goes back to Jordan to visit her friend. Time has taken its toll on Wahbeh body (she had had a stroke), but not her spirit. She was still able to drive, and took Holt to her first passion: a local school. The book includes number pictures of the Leila Wahbeh, and the people that she works with. The book is an important documentary on one of the world's most intractable problems: the Palestinian refugee camps. And the role of one woman who has dedicated her life to bringing positive change. 5-stars.
4 people found this helpful
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