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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
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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.

Customer Reviews:

  • Excellent
    The book arrived in a timely fashion and in good condition. I am pleased...more info
  • Interesting story, but no solution
    I just finished this book in audio form. It was a interesting story that gave unique perspectives, but it was a let-down in the end. No solution is offered and the characters never come to a conclusion either - I does reflect realty though....more info
  • Ignore this book
    This is a deeply flawed, biased , and even dangerous book as it has a veneer of credibility. Some aspects of history are accurate and the beginning of the book presents some almost balanced ,parallel views of what happened to the lives of two families who inhabited the same house after the War of 1948 . However,at the end of the book, the author lapses into a slanted polemic that is strongly biased toward the Palestinians. Throughout, the author recounts the imprisonments of S. Khairi the Palestinian protagonist as though he is an innocent , wrongly imprisoned by the Israelis. Real details of his work in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian and its terrorist activities are not provided, and would be instructive . The authors selective inattention to detail is deplorable. Don't waste your time reading this book. ...more info
  • History lesson
    I read this for a book club. If you are looking for a history lesson, then this is your book. Lots of names, places, dates, and facts to keep straight. Reads like a textbook. I did found the overall theme interesting given the times we are in right now, but this is definitely not a pleasure read....more info
  • Great service! 5 stars! * * * * *
    The seller had what I wanted and packaged it well. I highly recommend this seller!...more info
  • The Lemon Tree
    "The Lemon Tree", a is a very compelling book about the Middle East conflict. Sandy Tolan presents a comprehensive history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with meticulous documentation of sources at the end of the narrative.

    The history is weaved around the personal stories of two families who lived in the same house, and specifically two individuals in those families. We are first introduced to Bashir, whose father built the house in the town of El-Ramla and which his family occupied until they were forced out by Israeli soldiers in 1947.
    we then meet Dalia, the daughter of Bulgarian parents who emigrated to Israel in 1948, and who lived in the house from 1948 on.

    Following the 6 Day War in 1967, Bashir travels from Ramallah, where his family now lives, to Ramla to see the house, and is greeted by Dalia, who, after hesitating a moment, invites him in. This first encounter spawns a life-long relationship between the two, despite their ideological and political differences, and despite the widely divergent paths that their lives take.

    The Lemon Tree is a powerful book. As a critical but strong supporter of Israel, I felt that the author sometimes shifted the sentiment in favor of the Palestinian cause, giving somewhat short thrift to Israel's legitimate security concerns, and to the dark policy choices it must often face given the fact that it is a tiny country surrounded by hostile nations and peoples. Nonetheless, it is difficult for even the most ardent Zionist to condone some of the tactics used by Israel to try to quell the social and political unrest both within and outside of its borders.

    In many ways, The Lemon Tree is a disturbing book, insofar as it sometimes leaves the reader feeling that the chasm between the two sides will never be bridged. So long as the Palestinians insist on the right to return to the lands which they once occupied, even at the expense of dismantling the Jewish state and uprooting those who now occupy the houses and lands once belonging to Palestinian Arabs, peace seems virtually impossible to achieve.

    In any event, despite the fact that the book tends to justify and rationalize the violent actions of the Palestinians fighting for their perceived rights, while taking a condemnatory view towards Israeli actions, the chief heroine of this book is Dalia, who remains a voice of compassion, empathy and reason in a sea of madness. It is a book well worth reading.
    ...more info
  • Moving, Tragic, Real
    This is a sublime work of art, made all the more so by its complete factual accuracy. Sure, Sandy picks and chooses the facts he'll present, as any historian does, but every thought, every moment, comes only from historical records and interviews. And perhaps it's this plain "just the facts, ma'am" approach that makes the story so much more filled with pathos and tragedy.

    I know of no other book on this subject that so clearly shows the suffering on both sides of the aisle. Most books are either clearly Zionist or focus on al Nakba and the suffering of the Palestinian people. Sandy doesn't take the easy road. He presents the longing and angst- and hopes- of both peoples. He shows us the struggles and poverty of Dalia's family, and their rejoicing on finally finding a home. He shows us Bashir's family's delight in the land, and the horror of seeing it stripped from them. And he shows us the greater suffering of the Palestinians in the last 50 years, as more and more land, life, and dignity are stripped away.

    Through this history we see the Principle of Violent Mimicry, where we become that which we hate, as first the Israelis model Nazi practices, and then the Palestinians learn from the Israelis that only violence and terrorism can solve their problems. We see a clash of cultures, with Dalia locked in European Cartesian paradigms of "I think therefore I am,", and Bashir birthed into a narrative of "I reside therefore I am." And through it all we wonder- can there be any hope for change, for peace, for justice? Sandy gives us some glimmer of hope of reconciliation, but it is clear that it is not an easy hope- for this is real life, and not a Saturday morning special. This is gritty historical narrative, and more than ever, after reading this book, I think our only path out of this morass is the one blazed by South Africa....more info
  • A Must Read but deeply flawed
    This book is both a "must read" and at the same time it is deeply flawed. If you are seeking an emotional and decidedly gripping account of the Middle-east conflict this is an excellent choice. It will also serve admirably to put a face on both sides of the conflict. It should challenge the everyone who already associates themselves with a position on the matter to question their beliefs and to seriously consider the point of view of the other side in a meaningful way.

    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.
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  • Everyone Should Read This Book
    If you want to understand the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel, this is the first book you should read and you should recommend it to everyone you know. If you have any compassion, you cannot read this book without gaining both a true and heartfelt historical perspective on both the Zionist and Palestinian narratives on the origins of the conflict and the reasons the conflict continues. This is a complex and brilliantly compiled story that should force the reader to question old and inaccurate assumptions and challenge efforts to look for real solutions. One of the most important books I have ever read....more info
  • The Lemon Tree, An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
    Though the telling of the true personal story of the intersecting lives an Arab man and a Jewish woman, the complexities of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict come alive in a way that political/statistical books can never achieve. This is a story of real people - good people who are trying to make their way in a world that makes no sense to either of them. The author has managed to remain true to the story in an unbiased way leaving the reader to grapple with the controversial and convoluted issues. This book is a wonderful way to learn about the complexities of this small geographic area that affects the hearts and minds of millions of people on our planet. A must read for all those who care about peace and justice in our world....more info
  • Well written but profoundly biased
    I picked up this book because of reviews that indicated it would fairly depict both side of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am torn between the 2 sides - whether Palestinians should have the "right to return" or whether the Israelis deserve their own homeland above all else and at all costs. Thus, I was disappointed to find that although this book is well researched and well written, it is skewed toward the Palestinian version of each and every event depicted throughout....more info
  • biased and unfair
    this book is asymmetrical warfare: a ludicrous spinfest that rewrites history by simply omitting all inconvenient facts.

    for shame....more info
  • Experiencing human conditions in conflict
    (Also in audio book by High Bridge Audio and read by author)

    The struggle between Israel and Palestine has been going on so long, it's easy to forget that before 1947, there was no state called Israel, no Palestinian refugees. But there were Palestinian Arabs. And there were Jews. And the events that led up to the creation of Israel threw individuals from both of these backgrounds together, their lives forever entwined over a common heritage on a piece of land, once called Palestine.

    Sandy Tolan gives us a chance to experience the human dimensions of this bitter conflict. Through interviews and extended research, he follows the lives of two individuals: Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian Arab whose family was forced at gunpoint to flee their home in al-Ramla, and Dalia Eshkenazi, a Jew whose family fled the Nazis and took up residence in the very home which Bashir's family left behind. The two eventually met in 1967, when Bashir made a brave pilgrimage from the refugee camps of the West Bank to see his childhood home. Dalia, unlike many of the Jews in the area, invited him inside, and the two struck up an unusual friendship that has survived decades, ideological differences, and even war.

    Tolan details Palestine's history, including the creation of the state of Israel, the role of Britain and the UN in partitioning up the land, and the series of wars that followed, in which Israel slowly acquired nearly all of what was once called Palestine.

    -- He explains Zionism, the desire of the Jews for their own homeland, free from persecution, and how that desire led the Jews and the Western world to claim lands in Palestine.

    -- He examines the Palestinian refugees' equally strong desire for the right of return to their family homes, and how that desire led to the creation of organizations such as Hamas, considered "terrorist" organizations by the West, but considered by the Palestinians as their only hope to draw the world's attention to the injustices done to them.

    The incredible thing about this fantastic book is its ability to show both sides with empathy and understanding, to highlight how complicated this conflict really is.

    Armchair Interviews says: Author Tolan is a veteran print and radio journalist who teaches international reporting at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and has appeared on NPR....more info
  • Putting a Human Face on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict
    This is a readable account of the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian situation during most of the 20th century. It uses a brilliant device of following a Palestinian who left his home as a refugee child when the Israeli state was established, and an Israeli who moved into that same house and grew up there. Of comparable ages, the two turned out to be exceptional individuals who established a long lasting if improbable friendship. The evolution of their lives, and the final use of the house with the lemon tree as a center for Jewish-Arab dialog, provides a counterpoint to the more traditional history focusing on politics and conflict. Those who are looking a peace-bringing solution to the conflict will be disappointed with this book, but those seeking ways to understand and empathize better with both sides of the conflict will like this book very much indeed!...more info
  • Lemon Tree Provides Hope for the Future
    Tolan provides seeds for hope to the seemingly endless fighting between Palestinians and Isralis today. Dalia's family history is full of courage for a displaced people. Bashir's family story is ripe with cultural relevance and beauty. These two wonderful people demonstrate the richness and toil of their peoples. Yet, together they find the commitment and determination to render some hope for the future in the troubled land they share. A beautiful story drawn with genuine strengh and tenderness.

    A wonderful read! ...more info
  • If You Want to Understand the Middle East, This is the Book for You
    At last, something that enables one to understand the Middle East conflict from a human standpoint as well as a political standpoint. It's a messy, emotional quagmire--on everyone's side. An argment could be made for either position...and Tolan does this, in my opinion, as well as anyone ever has...

    This book is not a book about is a book about two families caught up in the politics, emotionalism, religious fervor and fundamentalism of the Middle East. I shall never look at that unfortunate situation the same again. Mr.Tolan has, at last, helped me understand.

    This book explains the politics against the backdrop of individuals. An excellent read and an excellent book. Highly recommended....more info
  • The Lemon Tree
    THE LEMON TREE is written in narrative prose, describing the relationship between an Arab and Jew and the lemon tree that brings them together. Peace through understanding is demonstrated in Sandy Tolan's nonfiction account of a meaningful dialogue. As I explained to my sixth-grade students, peace can come through a meeting of the minds when conpromise is present. Read this intrinsic optimistic piece, giving the world hope in the 21st century. ...more info
  • It's an old story
    Although the cover and title make it look like another Romeo and Juliet story, it's not. It is the age-old story of belonging to the land-- possessing the corner of the world that belonged to our ancestors. It's the story of needing to avenge our fathers for injustice they suffered, be it the recent expulsion of the Palestinians or the expulsion of the Jews earlier, or their devastation and humiliation as a result of the Holocaust. It's two painful stories: one is about a Palestinian man who fervently believes that wrongs can be avenged; the other is about an Israeli woman who believes compassion and understanding can heal all wounds. Sad and noble as the latter may be, it has not been enough. Only time will take care of that.
    In the words of one Palestinian who has turned away from the intifada: "I can't draw the map of the world in two hundred years. ---Before one hundred years there was no Soviet Union. Two hundred years ago Ottoman troops were in Vienna. Before two hundred years, there was no Germany. Who is to say what the next hundred years will bring?"
    This book gives us an in-depth look at the Middle East, and, from a larger perspective it looks at war and draws the sobering conclusion that sometimes there are no perfect or quick answers. ...more info
  • Everyone looses
    This book ia breaking my heart. It tells the story of two families and one house during the Israeli/Palestine War. The Arab family built the house in the 1930s and began to raise a large family in it. Then in 1948 they were driven out by the Israeli army to live in exile and then the house was taken over by a Jewish family. The house and the lemon tree planted by the origin owners are a constant in the story with both families connecting emotionally to the land, the house and the tree. It is a very effective device to help us see this intractable problem. The author follows both families during the decades of war that follow. The reader gets the story from both sides with more sympathy given to the Palestinian position. This is useful because we are filled with stories from the Jewish side. The author shows how the Jewish people start out in their pursuit of establishing Israel as fugitives from the Holocaust and people who have the sympathy of the world, then change into aggressors in Palestine and become war mongers who use torture and corruption to maintain the land that the Arabs lived on for centuries. This book will break your heart, too....more info
  • No Easy Answers
    This thought provoking book tells the story of one house, one lemon tree and the two families that occupied the house: the original Palestinian family that built the house and the Jewish refugee family that bought the house as "government surplus". The daughter of the Israeli family becomes acquainted with the family her parents unwittingly displaced. The book gives the reader a deep understanding of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are no easy answers, but peace is definitely possible....more info
  • Very well written
    This book provides a well-balanced and comprehensive history of the Israel/Palestine conflict. It views the past 50+ years through the eyes of a Jew and a Muslim who are linked together in a very personal way. The book is a great way to get an understanding of how the Israel problem came about. It presents the issues from both the Palestinian and Israeli viewpoint. I've been told that it is not available in Israeli bookshops. I would strongly recommend it for anyone who want to get a better understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine. ...more info
  • A Courageous Friendship
    The Lemon Tree is a true gem amid the harsh cacophony of literature surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This compelling true story weaves together two histories--at once the histories of two families and two peoples--connected to the same house and the same land.

    In 1936, Ahmad Khairi built a home for his young family in the Palestinian town of Ramla, which was then part of the British Mandate. As Ahmad's children, including his eldest son Bashir, grew up in this lovingly built house--with its majestic lemon tree in the backyard--the Eshkanazi family faced an uncertain future in Nazi-aligned Bulgaria. Though they could not have imagined it at the time, the two families' lives would become deeply connected even as history places them on opposite sides of a volatile conflict.

    The encounter begins when Bashir, who as a child was forced to flee Ramla during the 1948 war, travels back to his childhood home following the Six Day War in 1967. To his surprise, he is warmly welcomed inside by Dalia Eshkanazi, an Israeli college student whose family of Holocaust survivors immigrated to the newly formed state when she was an infant. It is the beginning of an incredible friendship that perseveres in spite of the impassioned political disagreement and painful history that stands between them.

    Tolan takes no liberties with the history, basing the story on extensive interviews and archival research. The Lemon Tree reads part like a vividly detailed novel and part like a history text, placing the moving stories of Dalia and Bashir within several decades of rich historical context. By blending these personal and historical narratives, the story offers a unique window into the conflict, beyond the political complexities and ideological abstractions. Tolan's retelling is sensitive to both narratives, empathetically portraying the traumas, insecurities, and yearnings of each side.

    While The Lemon Tree offers inspiring proof that reconciliation and dialogue are possible, the book leaves open the question of how much these personal connections can impact the conflict. Although she sympathizes with Bashir and other refugees, Dalia fears an influx of Arabs and clashes with him over the right of return. Bashir, for his part, never recognizes Israel and insists that recent Jewish immigrants should "go back where they came from." Accused by Israel of being in the PFLP, Bashir is arrested in connection with a terrorist bombing; he denies involvement and is eventually released, but Dalia believes he is guilty. Later, Bashir reveals a hidden childhood trauma that sheds light on his enmity toward Israel. Both, especially Bashir, continue to show a fundamental mistrust for the other side.

    Almost miraculously, they are able to sustain their friendship despite all this, and the affection and caring between them is genuine. While giving no easy answers, their story stands as a ray of hope for the possibility of coexistence in spite of a difficult history. ...more info
  • A Must Read
    This is a fantastic read, well documented and escpcially profound about one of the most intractable issues of our time.

    If you have ever wanted to understand the Isreal/Palistine conflict, this book will give you a thorough understanding of the the basic human emotions involved on both sides of the issue. It will also leave you crying for both.

    Be very skeptical of negative reveiws as being politically motivated. This is not a biased book. ...more info
  • Excellent book
    This book should be required reading for whoever becomes President, or anyone else who needs to understand what happened between Israel and Palestine. This is the fairest accounting that I have ever read....more info
  • Compassionate, moving and thought-provoking
    Much of Sandy Tolan's book reads like a novel, and yet it is a true story. (The rest of the book reads like a well documented -- which it is -- history book.) I absolutely loved it! Tolan goes out of his way to be even-handed in terms of not favoring the Jewish or Palestinian 'side' of the issue. He just tells the story from both perspectives as it was told to him and according to his extensive research. It's a beautiful, informative, and very well written book. I highly recommend it....more info
  • floored by this book
    yes, after 1948 there were many conflicts between jews and arabs, but what some reviewers here fail to highlight is the very critical timeline of the conflict: no arab ever had a problem with jews prior to 1948, prior to when israel took what was without any interpretation arab land and declared itself a country. did the reviewers even read what they wrote? the grouping of the arabs against the jews was nothing other than solidarity with their kinsmen for losing their land to a newly-, arbitrarily-created country. imagine if a group of muslims joined the significant muslim population in an american city, suddenly declared themselves a country, then cried about the injustice of "all the american states unifying against them"...ludicrous to expect otherwise. Of course this book doesn't portray EVERYTHING, but if it portrays the conflict somewhat favorably towards palestinians, it is because that's the way the facts played out. Some israelis think that an unbiased report means a neutral report, most are willing to accept some fault for starting the whole mess. ...more info
  • Excellent and informative
    This book is very easy, enjoyable and moving to read despite being filled with historical fact. Extremely balanced and accurate; the author does not fall prey to the temptation (pressure) to privilege the Israeli view of events and explodes many common myths about the founding of the state of Israel. ...more info