The Lemon Tree

The Lemon Tree

An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East

eBook - 2010
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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. Sandy Tolan is the author of Me & Hank: A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later. He has written extensively for magazines and newspapers, and has produced dozens of documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. 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 teaches international reporting. Praise for The Lemon Tree: "No novel could be more compelling...This book... will haunt you long after you put it down. And it will certainly be one of the best works of nonfiction that you will read this year."-Christian Science Monitor "A graceful, compassionate and unmuddied presentation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lives of an Arab and a Jew, strangers who forge a connection and a reconciliation while never veering from their passionate desires for a homeland."-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Quite simply the most important book I've read f The tale of a simple act of faith between two young people - one Israeli, one Palestinian - that symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2010
Branch Call Number: Overdrive
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc
ISBN: 9781596919228


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Feb 02, 2018

The story follows Bashir, an Arab whose family was forced to leave the home his father had built when he was six, in 1948, and Dalia, whose family emigrated to Israel from Bulgaria that same year and moved into Bashir's home shortly thereafter. While Dalia was raised to believe that the Arabs had willingly abandoned their homes because they were cowards, she began to question that narrative because it simply didn't make sense to her.

The focal point of the book is the meeting between Bashir and Dalia at what she comes to think of as their home. They remain divided in outlook throughout their lives: he believes that the Palestinian right of return is something that can't be compromised and is ambivalent about what should happen to the Jews who now live there; she believes that Israeli Jews need to acknowledge what happened in 1948 and even apologize for it, but she stops short at a full right of return, arguing that this would mean the end for Israeli Jews. Indeed, although Bashir is undoubtedly Dalia's friend, he and members of his family insist that the Jews either return to "where they came from" or go to America. However, at other points, he offers a one-state solution in which both Palestinians and Jews could live together. But for Dalia this is a non-starter.

It's fair to say that Tolan's interpretations of events are sympathetic to Palestinians and critical of Israelis. Perhaps it goes further, as he also offers what sometimes sounds like apologias for Nasser and the kings of Jordan (even though no such explanations are offered for the Syrians). The fact that he references a historical record of independent American assessments that would back up his readings of Nasser should, however, give people pause before assuming an out of hand bias. Even at their most sympathetic, those men look like leaders who choose propaganda to hold onto their people.

The many accounts of torture at the hands of Israeli forces are truly disturbing. (Should we be comforted that the accounts of Syrian detention sound worse?) Tolan does a good job of conveying both the terror the Israelis felt (feel?) during the Intifadas and the seething sense of injustice Palestinians felt as they were punished en masse for acts only some of them committed. It's easy to appreciate how both the terror and the humiliation fed into a cycle of continued violence and acrimony that continues to this day.

The book is unsettling because it provides insights but doesn't point to solutions. Worse, it seems to imply that the best Dalia, Bashir and their peers can hope for is a dialogue without resolution. It will be for the next generation- the one that doesn't remember?- to truly resolve the conflict, if such a resolution can be found.

Uncomfortable but recommended.

Oct 16, 2016

Interesting connection between the Jewish woman, and the Arab man. However, I finished the book with the feeling that the conflict there will never be settled, as the Arabs are insistent that they want their land back, and if not, it is not a negotiable situation. I was also overwhelmed at the number of times, so called supporters of the conflicts, we're playing both sides against the other.
I think this is an important book, giving a realistic overview of Middle East problems without favouring the position of either side. Highly recommend.

ser_library Jun 24, 2015

a moving and well written history of personal reconciliation

Feb 02, 2015

A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist - Tolan writes in his introduction, “…precious little light had fallen on the human side of the story, the common ground between enemies, and genuine hopes for coexistence.”

He shines a lot of light in this book. Highest recommendation.

Dec 04, 2012

Very informative. Appeared to be an unbiased, very factual (nothing has been created for this book, all thoroughly researched - nearly half the book related to references) book. I valued the information I received from reading it.


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