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It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street: A Jerusalem Memoir Paperback – December 8, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...brilliant memoir...she succeeds like few others in her ability to view the situation through the eyes of Jew and Arab... Drawing our sympathy now to one, now to the other, she envies those with a `one-eyed view', undisturbed by the layers of complication... Her eye for detail conveys the situation more painfully than statistics... What she has produced is a human document; sensitive, compassionate and superbly written. The exemplary notes, maps and glossary... help to make this memoir more illuminating and instructive than many a pundit's tome."--Theo Richmond, The Spectator --Theo Richmond, The Spectator<br /><br />"A sustained masterpiece of the contemporary genre. It deserves to be read very widely, and almost certainly will be once it becomes more accessible in paperback and is translated, as it surely must be, into Middle-Eastern and European languages. Nothing I have read during the last decade about the Israel-Palestine conflict in journalistic reportage, political analyses, histories, personal stories, or novels comes close to its brilliance in exposing the accumulating human debris of this monstrous 'situation'. Williams' writing in this memoir displays the tenacity of Anna Funder, the intrepidity of a Ryszard Kapuscinski, the politically gendered sensitivity of Nadine Gordimer, the reconciliatory instincts of Desmond Tutu, and the literary competence of Joyce Carol Oates. It's a joy to read."--Les Rosenblatt, Arena --Les Rosenblatt, Arena<br /><br />"Short of a crash course in Nablus or a Gaza refugee camp, I recommend Emma Williams's expatriate memoir of Jerusalem in the second intifada as an initial exposure to the dispiriting reality behind the propaganda, theirs and ours... Israelis and Palestinians are like angry twins joined at the hip. [This book] is an engrossing exploration of what that means."--Eric Silver, The Jewish Chronicle --Eric Silver, The Jewish Chroncle<br /><br />"This book must be one of the most honest accounts of those terrible years. It's proportionate, subtle and comprehensive... biased towards nobody but the voices of moderation and hope."--The Guardian --The Guardian<br /><br />"superb memoir... If Williams is as fine a physician as she is a memoirist, I would entrust my own innards to her any day of the week. Spendidly crafted and passionately engaged, this is the most artistically delectable way of boning up on the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle that one could wish for."--Terry Eagleton, Times Literary Supplement --Terry Eagleton, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Emma Williams read history at Oxford and medicine at London University. She has worked as a doctor in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York, South Africa and Jerusalem. From 2000-2003 she was the correspondent for the Spectator and wrote for several other newspapers about Palestinian-Israeli affairs and her own experiences.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Olive Branch Pr; 58417th edition (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566567890
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566567893
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Lynne Reid Banks on September 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has been a committed supporter of Israel for most of my adult life, and who lived there for years and had all my children there, and wrote five books based on this commitment, I find this book one of the best, fairest, most involving, and the most painful on the subject of the Middle East today that I have ever read. The author (neither Arab nor Jew) lived in Jeruslem with her UN-worker husband and four young children (the last born, by her choice, in a Bethlehem hospital at the height of the seige) for three years, 2000-2003, in time for the second intifada, the period of the suicide bombings in Israel, and the IDF incursions into Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah. She crossed and recrossed the line, going to the West Bank and Gaza regularly, and faithfully reporting her encounters with everyone she met, including her neighbours in a Palestinian enclave of W.Jerusalem and her many Israeli friends as well as her husband's NGO colleagues, and journalists from both sides. Every Israeli - every Palestinian - and every American Jew, or at least all who are brave enough, should read it. I personally have never needed so much moral and emotional stamina to get through a book. I have to keep stopping to cry. Lynne Reid Banks.
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Format: Paperback
This is not your typical memoir. But that's a good thing- and actually probably pretty typical when your memoir is set in Jerusalem and you are as thoughtful as she is and have access to UN, doctors on both sides, and officials. There is a lot of politics and references to historical events and recent events, but I can see this as a memoir because she's honestly trying to sort this out while she's over there. It is one of the most honest attempts I've seen. It is a little hard to tell what her own views are, which is kind of strange in a memoir, but appreciated in anything attempting to explain the conflict.

When I first started reading the book, I interpreted the news items and her relating interviews and conversations with a pretty wide variety of people as her own, but she does occasionally insert her own views. My impression due to some of her commentary was that she related to Israelis most- that could be due to a suicide bomber blowing up outside her children's school and near it and in places she frequented. Unlike some who have a strong sympathy for Israel, though, she doesn't ignore or deny Palestinian humanity, rights, the fact that Israel is an occupier, the fact that Israel does wrong. I would be curious how she struck people she lived with in Jerusalem; there were a number of times when her friends would say something against Palestinians and she noted that she remained silent. She definitely seems pretty balanced in the book. She really seems to have sympathy for both people and understand the nuance of both sides' politics.
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A truly excellent memoir. I moved to Palestine just after the author left (I was based in Ramallah), and her experiences and reactions (and facts and citations) rang very true -- I was incredibly nostalgic as I read this.

I stumbled into Palestine first as a curious (and clueless) tourist (on my way to Istanbul), stayed on to volunteer with Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's political party, and ended up working as a journalist and the foreign press coordinator for Dr. Barghouthi when he ran for president of the PA in 2005.

I wrote a book called Fast Times in Palestine to try to get across the surreal atmosphere of the beauty and romance and humor that coexist with blood and hate and theft and attack helicopters, and dispel some of the gross distortions of facts that tend to happen here in the US. It was such a joy to find another book that also has this aim, just located slightly differently in space (Jerusalem instead of Ramallah) and time (the beginning of the second Intifada instead of the end of it).

I found her presentation very balanced, being very sensitive to Israeli suffering and fears, while at the same time not downplaying the brutality of some of the Israeli government's policies and the horrific suffering and fears of the Palestinians because of them. She never excuses violence or brutality, but she does explore why they happen. Her personal stories and discussions with friends and officials on both sides (and journalists and aid workers caught in the middle) were often very revealing, as were her own instincts at times to remain silent in the face of injustice so as not to offend certain people's sensibilities. I'm glad she was able to be honest about this, as it is very common among foreigners who have both Israeli and Palestinian friends.
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One of the best books I have read on the Israel/Palestine issue, and I thought that I had read about everything. Author is a British woman MD, married to a UN official. They spent three years in Jerusalem 2000-2003, lived in a Palestinian community, and her three children attended schools with children from diverse backgrounds. She worked as a doctor and as a public health researcher. She and her husband had busy professional and social life, knew and worked with Palestinians and Israelis. She experienced the fear of potential terrorist attacks, was close to tragedies. With her researcher's care she writes with impeccable documentation while vividly recording the events she experienced.
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