The Lemon Tree – Based on a True Story

This is a book review

The plan was to read a completely different book for the month of May. However, I had to scheme through this book for some work I am undertaking and found myself captivated. I tried to fast read it within three days, but the more I read, the more I found myself slowing down and reading full pages.

The Lemon Tree is a wonderful book about a true Palestinian Israeli conflict. Different than the book I read in April, this book zooms into one significant story that took place in Palestine/Israel, and brings to us the sorrowful truth of the current situation.

The story has two main characters; obviously, one is Palestinian and the other is a Jewish Israeli who is originally from Bulgaria. The Palestinian man, is someone I myself have interviewed and therefore, I have pre knowledge of the story only from his side, whereas the book, is a complete research made from both sides. However, the story I know, is the same story written with differences in some details. I could not possibly say my version of the story is the exact one, for it is not so much different. Besides, memory, translation, and personal reflection, can always differ, from storytelling, to story-comprehending.

The author,  Sandy Tolan, includes in his book a flash back to pre 1948, when Bashir (the Palestinian man) was living in the house his own father has built, while Dalia (the Jewish woman)s parents decided to make Aliyah (immigration) to Palestine in response to Ben-Gurion repeated call in 1945, demanding at least three million Jews to make Aliyah within the next five years. Dalia’s parents, decided to make their move in 1948, when Dalia was only a year old, while Bashir, who was about five years old, was forcibly expelled along with his family from his home, his city, and his country.

The story, recites the transition, where Bashir went, and how Dalia moves to his empty house. It later encounters their first meeting, when Bashir went to visit his house for the first time in 1967, and since then, their conflicted relationship begins, bringing to us facts behind the conflict, that any two people from both sides will encounter, from misunderstandings, differences, and the possible will and want to finding peace and comprehension.

In this world, we all have similarities, but we can only find them when we open the door to one another. Dalia, opened the door to Bashir, and Bashir accepted the door open and entered. They both created a relationship, that reflects the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a human based experience.

I believe The Lemon Tree book succeeded, to bring forth an adequate way to comprehend how the conflict is foreseen from both sides. The book might not articulate a 360 degree coverage of both situations, but it nonetheless, collects enough information to bring forth, the struggle and survival factors of individuals who decide to live the conflict. And I use the word ‘decide’, because it is a decision to make to live life with open eyes, rather than to shut them, and live without noticing the apparent struggle. Nonetheless, the Palestinians, whom in this conflict are the oppressed, might not always have the luxury of the choice to decide.

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Book Review: Struggle & Survival in Palestine/Israel

‘Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel’ book is an incredible read by all means, I actually can not wait to start reading it all over again and copy out the quotes that I found to be informatively mind changing.

For those of you who wish to lean about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and for those who know enough but wish to learn more ethnographic stories collected from pre Ottoman to the recent situation, this book is highly recommended. It is a collection of stories/essays about individuals who set an example of many who follow, be it Palestinian or Jewish, the authors are mostly scholars, anthropologists and specialized in the Israeli Palestinian conflict as well as Middle Eastern studies and they bring together a wide perspective juxtaposed to form a some kind of 360 historic view upon the situation. Israelis who were immigrants and how their immigration reflects upon them and how it slowly translates into their recent development into different ideologies and perception, sided with vis versa stories of Palestinians and their evacuation making them refugees or revolutionists or with shattered identities. This book is massive explosion of information, and what I love mostly about it is the diversity in its selection to collect stories that include the refugee, holocaust survivor, the zionist understanding in different perspectives from murder fanatics to just lovers of the land, the person behind Rabin’s assassination and the Leftist who bought a Palestinian home to the humanitarian who joins Palestinian protests and revolutionists, while stories of the Palestinians include, the modernists, the educated, the farmer, the refugee, the suicide bomber, and the activist. The book ends with the tragedy of the present day, the ongoing injustice and blind folded Zionists who continue to make this reality and long living tragedy.

On May 15 the world all together will remember the Nakba; marking 70 years this year for the 700,000 Palestinian made refugees who have become today around 7,000,000 stateless, homeless, with minimal to no human rights and we still continue to live recognizing the state of Israel who happen to be the reason behind this catastrophe.

This book, helps us understand a better picture of the conflict, a sided view of understandings, and a to understand the stories in this book is a step closer to a more free humanity.

From the book:

Page 93: ‘From then on, Yizhar seemed to have lost his naive faith in the wisdom and sound judgment of political leaders… Page 95: There seems to be no doubt as to his innocence, and the storyteller hopes his commander will let the man go, yet ‘security’ has the upper hand, and at the end of the day the shepherd is taken away. There is no big drama in the stories; they are but a glimpse into the reflections of a single soldier who sees things differently.

Page 117: ‘Canaan’s biographers underline his nationalism and the connection between his ethnography and his political involvement during the mandate, linking his interest in popular culture with a desire to defend Palestine against the political, demographic, and cultural challenge of Zionism.’

Page 145: ‘Abul Rahim became aware at a still young age of the danger the Zionist project in Palestine and the British Mandate’s commitment to support it. Jewish colonies were built on the coastal plains not far from his lands. He saw peasants evicted from sold lands becoming homeless and unskilled laborers in towns.’

Page 166: ‘In American Hillel discovered that nations were in fact political and civiv entities rather than organic cultural communities, as they were understood to be in Eastern Europe and Palestine; one could, for example, be both American and Jewish without the one identity threatening the other. For Hillel, distinguishing between Jewish as a religious adulation and Hebrew as national affiliation both reflected reality and provided solution to the problem of dual loyalty. The Jews in America were Jewish by religion and American by nationality. In Palestine, they were Jewish by religion and Hebrew by Nationality. The tragedy of European Jewry was that they were denied the liberty of choosing their nationality and were frequently not accepted into the body politics. The entire raison d’etre of Zionism became cleat to Hillel: to grant this freedom of choice to Jews.’

Page 193: ‘Walid told us what had happened to him. We knew that he had fled his village as a boy in 1948 amid the chaps and dear and found himself alone in Lebanon. He thought his family had preceded him there, but instead they had hidden in the mountains and returned to their village after the fighting stopped, becoming citizens of the Israeli state… Page 194: ‘In keeping with his greater life philosophy, his struggle for him as a Palestinian was about positive change, redemption, and humanity.’

Page 234: ‘My mother came running from the kitchen to find an Israeli army unit handcuffing her children and dragging them into the street. The event was customary. Soldiers often stormed into homes people’s homes and broke the arms and legs of men and boys so as to send a stern message to the rest of the neighborhood that they would receive the same fate if they continued with their intifada.’

Page 302: ‘Israeli advertisements for homes in Abu Tur and other formerly Palestinian neighborhoods of West Jerusalem henceforth employed this tern as a means to identifying the value of the property in question: “authentic Arab-style house in Baka… with original tiled floors and high ceilings”; “superb Arab house completely refinished in the heart of New Tzedek”; “Arab house for sale in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem… with lots of arches.”…Page 393 ‘I just want to make a Zionist statement before I go on, in terms of living in an Arabic house. This did not bother me in the slightest. I mean, if it had bothered me, I wouldn’t have made aliya. And because we had contact with the Kurdish family who lived here before us, I actually associate the house more with their period than with the previous Arab owners, none of whom I had any contact with. This isn’t to say that I am not interested in the history of this house, the question of why there was a cistern underneath the property, and so on. As an archeologist and ancient historian, I’n very interested. But politically speaking, it’s not a problem for me.’

*Aliya in the above context mean immigration to the State of Israel

What about Human Rights? A post on the real world behind one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan.

Gaza-Refugee-Camp-Portrair-Green-Eyes-1
It was a Saturday, one freezing Saturday, rained half of the day, I was in a car with 3 people, followed by another car and a small truck. We drove into a rustic area, filled with mud, and it looked so squishy and pale. A place that screams out poverty, as sadness walks into our hearts. We parked our cars and started walking towards a blue door, a United Nations school, as we walked into the school, I saw simple drawings on the walls but the drawings felt lifeless. I tried my best to keep my thoughts inside my head and be patient to see and learn more about this place. We were welcomed by a very sweet lady that had the hijab on and worked for the PCRF, she warmly welcomed us and seated us, and another 2 men walked into the meeting room as they all started to tell us about the camp and the unjust and unfair living situation. With every word that came out of their lips, they managed to yet keep a positive energy around them, words of hope and wisdom. They sarcastically spoke about the basic human rights that they are unfortunate to, they are so hopeless yet have accepted their conditions and living standards and continue to “silently” demand the respect of simply being human. They spoke about the discrimination towards them and what they encounter in their daily lives as refugees living in refugee camps “of-course not by choice” and are not entitled to any nationality and have no rights to own a passport “also not by choice”. As they were speaking, I drifted in terrified wonder, I suddenly realized that I can no longer feel my nose for it felt frozen, and so I started gazing with my eyes wide open at the people who came with me if any of them seemed to be experiencing the same cold. I then noticed the smoke coming out of their mouth while they spoke. It was freezing in there.

I then started to hear voices of children, running around, and playing, sounds of laughter, and answers to questions, I started to think about what could the reasons be to have a United Nations school function in the cold with no heat. I started to question myself about who would be responsible for this school? Is it just an architecture with no supervision? Are schools supposed to be mandatory warm when it is cold outside? Or did I just happen to misunderstand the full concept of life and human rights?

It was last weekend, when I joined a beautiful group of people who took part of the project To Rebuild Gaza that aimed and succeeded in collecting and fundraising blankets, winter clothing’s and gas heaters for the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jordan.

It was my first time to go and visit the Gaza Refugee Camp or what is also known as “the Jarash Refugee Camp“. At first I thought most people were from Gaza, “a city in Palestine” and so are called the Gaza Refugee Camp, but to my surprise I learned that those are refugees of the occupied territories in Palestine “Unfortunately what is known today as Israel” who were forced like many other families to leave their homes and cities, and so those Palestinians ended up refugees in Gaza during the 1948 nightmare of the Israeli occupation. In the 1967 conflict those families had to leave Gaza to Jarash, and this, is how the Gaza refugee camp was formed in Jordan.

“What about Human rights?”

Palestinian refugee kid

While the group I was with started organizing the items and calling in families to give them what they needed for winter, I decided to stay and play with the kids. The kids were incredible, so much energy, and laughter, they were all in slippers and with no jackets, and did not seem to feel cold or complain at all. They seemed to be so happy to meet new people running around from one person to another. There were already few foreign volunteers there playing with the kids. I had my camera with me, and the kids started to play with it and pose for me to photograph them.

Those kids are adorable, not only adorable, they are beautiful, they want to have fun, they want to color, and draw, they want to communicate, they want to challenge one another, they want to be part of life. They are Human. Why is it that things are not the same for them? Why is it that they have no rights to feel belonging? Why is it okay for the people who were responsible for them being refuges to never ask about them?

Palestinian Refugee camp

I understand that the universal deceleration to Human Rights was created by the United Nations back in 1948 exactly when Palestine went through “Al Nakba” where over 700 thousand Palestinians were forced to leave their homes during the Israeli war of independence. I understand that the United Nations was established in October of 1945 during the time the British were helping thousands of Jewish immigrants enter Palestine from the World War II without taking into consideration the results of all the refugee Palestinians. I understand that the United Nations was established with a goal to prevent another conflict to happen like the World War II while they were the ones behind the resolution 181 that ended in allowing Palestine that was fully inhabitant by Palestinians “Muslim, Christian and Jewish” to become a Jewish state and the state of Israel. I understand that the above is the result of 2,097,338 registered Palestinian refugees in 10 refugee camps in Jordan, 449,957 registered Palestinian refugees in 12 refugee camps in Lebanon, 526,744 registered Palestinian refugees in 11 refugee camps in Syria, 762,288 registered Palestinian refugees in 19 refugee camps in the West Bank, and 1,258,559 registered Palestinian refugees in 8 refugee camps in Gaza that were all setup and are all running by the United Nations. What I don’t understand is how the United Nations have failed to find a solution for all the refugees they have set up, and how the Palestinians until today do not have the basic rights to return to their homes, and how the United Nations is one of the factors for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian war that defeats its own purpose.

What about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created by the United Nations in 1948 exactly when all those refugee camps were also setup? What about all those refugees who are not entitled to any of the following:

  1. All human beings are free and equal.
  2. No discrimination.
  3. Right to life.
  4. No slavery allowed.
  5. No torture.
  6. Everyone around the world has the right to recognition as a person before the law.
  7. Everyone is protected by the law.
  8. Everyone is entitled of fair treatment by fair courts.
  9. No unfair detainment.
  10. The right to trial to everyone.
  11. Innocent until proven guilty.
  12. The right to privacy.
  13. Freedom to move and travel.
  14. Freedom to immigrate or move to another country.
  15. The right to nationality.
  16. The right to marry and have a family.
  17. The right to own property.
  18. Freedom of thought.
  19. Freedom of speech, opinion and expression..
  20. Freedom to meet and assemble.
  21. The right to Democracy.
  22. The right to social security.
  23. The right to work.
  24. The right to play.
  25. The right to basic needs: Bed, clothing, food, housing, medical care, new born care..
  26. The right for education.
  27. Culture and copyrights.
  28. To live in a free world with fairness.
  29. Everyone is entitled to duties towards the laws and must be responsible for when they exercise the contrary.
  30. No one can take these rights and freedom from anyone.

For original link and full articles of the above Human Rights Click Here. And I repeat…..What about the people in refugee camps? What about the kids who were born in refugee camps? or are they not part humankind?

Gaza-Refugee-Camp-UN-School-Group-Photo-Portrait-Yellow-Girl

Believe it or not, but speaking from what I know of the Palestinians living in refugee camps, they are not entitled to 80% of the above human rights declared by the United Nations and yet all the refugee camps are set up by the United Nations…

So is there an exit plan to your business plan? Do you have a solution? Or maybe a solution to the problem you created? Or are those who create the rules are really permitted to break them?

Gaza-Refugee-Camp-UN-School-Group-Photo-Portrait-Kid-boy

For more information on To Rebuild Gaza who are fundraising towards building a pediatric cancer department in Gaza with the PCRF “The Palestinian Children Relief Fund” and also are creating a great awareness campaign towards the last attack on Gaza that killed over 2000 Palestinians from Gaza, visit their website or facebook page. To read more facts and information about the Gaza Refugee Camp click on this link SamarTravels.

Gaza-Refugee-Camp-Portrait-Kid-1