- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (May 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596913436
- ISBN-13: 978-1596913431
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (554 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East Paperback – April 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Tolan offers listeners an easy-to-follow journey through a maddeningly stubborn conflict that has infused global politics since the 1940s. Based on his 1998 NPR documentary, Tolan personalizes the Arab-Israeli conflict by tracing the intertwined lives of a Palestinian refugee named Bashir Al-Khairi and a Jewish settler named Dalia Eshkenazi Landau. The pair is connected through a stone home in Ramla, now part of Israel. Built in the 1930s by Bashir's father, the Al-Khairi family was forced to flee during the violent formation of Israel in 1948. The Eshkenazis, Holocaust survivors from Bulgaria, became the new owners. After 1967's Six Day War, Bashir showed up and Dalia invited him in and began an intense dialogue that's lasted four decades. Tolan's evenhanded narration imparts the passion of both sides without slipping into impassioned delivery. While at times his random emphasis of words makes for a slightly wavy cadence, his pronunciation of Arab and Jewish names and phrases is pleasingly authentic. One of Tolan's most moving passages chronicles Dalia 20-mile trip to Ramallah to visit Bashir. Their seemingly simple conversation, rendered with just the right amount of heart, crystallizes and humanizes the positions of each side. The Lemon Tree is a clear-eyed and steady ride into deeply felt and ever-volatile territory. Simultaneous release with the Bloomsbury hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 27).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
*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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
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. To call it the "exception" is casting the evidence in light as favorable to one side as possible. In other cases, he presents facts that are generally very well established and corroborated by neutral sources or even the Arabs as "Israeli assertions." For example, he mentions villages that the Israelis cleared after capturing them in the 6Day War because "Israelis claimed" they had participated in attacks on Jewish forces during the 1948 War. He does not mention that the NY Times and the Jordanian Army also confirmed that fact. To add the phrase "Israel claims" etc. indicates that the following may not be true; it can and should be used when there is real doubt but not when all reputable (Arab, Jew, and Other) sources agree on a fact. Nor does he mention that these villagers were compensated at the time. I am not saying that there was justification for that act, which is certainly debatable, but it is revealing that it was not mentioned. It robs several of the hard questions of balance
Other times, he ignores inconvenient evidence from highly reputable or significant sources. This is a pity because often I would have liked to see his assessment of the ignored evidence. One such piece of evidence that would go to the actual heart of his book was Israeli claims that they expelled the Arab inhabitants of Lyda or Lod (a town next to the one in central to his narrative and one he discusses on multiple occasions) only after they turned on the Israelis after having surrendered to them.
After that catalogue of problems, perhaps it is surprising that I honestly recommend this book as one of two that a person MUST read in order to understand the historical context of the conflict. The other, FYI, is O'Jerusalem which, I admit, leans a bit towards the Jewish side. I also do praise the author for attempting balance even if he does not always succeed. Ideally the two books should be read one after the other as they will give the reader a very balanced view of the problem with one leaning a little towards the Arabs while the other leans a little towards the Jews.
The Lemon Tree is a griping, if flawed, personal account of the struggle that continues to have terrible ramifications 60 years after the UN voted to create a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.
*The Jewish population of the region were commonly referred to as "Palestinians" or "Palestinian Jews" until the creation of the Jewish State in 1948, at which point they began to be referred to as Israelis. Sorry about the nitpick, but terminology is important.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The idea of telling the story of the creation of the State of Israel via the 2 families who lived in the same house is commendable.Read more