Subtitle: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
A friend recommended this book on her blog quite a long time ago. I finally got around to reading it and it is worth the time. This non-fiction book is about the history of the formation of Israel. The history is told by examining the lives of two individuals and their families. Dalia Eshkanzi immigrated to Israel at the age of 1 from Bulgaria. Bashir Khairi is a Palestinian whose family was forced to leave their hometown when he was around 6 years old in 1948. Dalia’s family ends up in the house that Bashir’s family has left.
I found myself referring to the three maps in the front of the book over and over again. First is the 1936 map of Palestine under the British Mandate. The second map shows the United Nations Partition Plan in November 1947. The town that Bashir’s family lives in, Al-Ramla, is in the Arab State, but borders the Jewish State. This is only a technicality as almost immediately this town is taken over by Israeli forces. The 2005 map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories shows Ramla as clearly being part of Israel.
This book really shows the impossible situation that anyone who lives in this area is in. Bashir is almost constantly being arrested and put in jail as he insists on the 1948 United Nations right of return plan. Yet, how can he return to a place where someone else is now living? And, for many Palestinians their homes no longer exist. Dalia meets Bashir and over many years they have many discussions, yet can never resolve anything. Dalia cannot go back to Bulgaria and she wants Bashir to accept the idea of Israel. Once her parents die Dalia even turns the house into an Arab kindergarten called Open House to foster Arab Jewish interactions.
I’d encourage you to read this book, if like me, you’ve read about the violence in Israel, but don’t really understand how it came about.