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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The Blue Sweater for March – Book Review

So I went ahead with the Blue Sweater book for the month of March. It has been dragged along with me everywhere for the past year waiting for the moment I decide to go for it. It is an intriguing book telling the story of the founder of Acumen Fund, an organization established focusing on finding solutions to poverty. They attract investors who are philanthropists to invest into entrepreneurs who are bringing sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty.

The book tells you the story of how Acumen was born by the founder herself. It starts with a compelling story of finding her own blue sweater that she has given away for charity worn by a kid in Africa. And using this as the beginning of her story intrigued me. Few pages down the book I was getting a little bored and started flipping until I reached half way and read:

“I’m supposed to be an anthropologist, so what am I doing studying vector analysis and the Black-Scholes theory?

He reminded me that I’d come to learn the skills I needed to change the world- at least that was my mantra. The developing world needed management skills. It needed people who knew how to start and build companies, not just people with good intentions. It was growing clear to me that those who sought power and money made the rules; yet power alone could corrupt and corrode. “Power without love,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his last speeches, “is reckless and abusive,” and, he continued, “love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

This passage is what made me want to finish the book reading and not skimming. For to be an anthropologist one needs to be concerned with the other as an equal human being, and to have a goal or a mantra to change the world, that I resonate with as cliche as it may sound. So how did Jacqueline Novogratz the author of the book The Blue Sweater (bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world) make it happen starts only after half the book has been read.

The first half is also of importance as to how she has reached the second half. But personally I felt it was too long. I only was excited about the second half. It discussed her experience with the aftermath of the genocide that took part in Rwanda. How she forged an understanding to how silence can feel criminal. It is an interesting book that explores how the need to help others overcome their difficulties, enable them to find the way to secure their basic needs turned from an empathetic approach to a business oriented approach generating millions in number to serve the world to become a better place.

She also tries to bring to the readers attention the power of listening and how that can strengthen relationships and foster abundant joy. Which I find to be also important to share, for listening I have myself come to learn is a work in progress. And in many situations where we ignore the power of listening, listening can actually be the source of making a difference in the present moment.

“Just start. Don’t wait for perfection. Just start and let the work teach you.” Is how Jacqueline was able to succeed, and it is how I was able to make it work once. But it is easier said than done. For to start something new requires goal setting, more like goal specification. And it does not necessarily require a full goal drawn, but a clear step visualized before approaching, a step that can latter take you to many steps, and the most important factor here is to imagine yourself not five years down the line, but twenty and forty and even after your death, where will what you plan to do be, take the world, the people, where will it leave them, influence them, inspire them? Those questions might make a difference before starting, but starting should not be disabled just by being afraid of imperfection. As I agree with the quote in the book that imperfection is only perfected through practice.

After all, the book is a great read for all those who plan or are in the process of starting something humanitarian or not, for having a humanitarian approach in everything we do, can be life changing for many. And to start somewhere even if that is nowhere close to where you see yourself is still considered a good start. Jacqueline started in the finance world when she knew she wanted to be in the humanitarian world, and through banking she learnt how to bring it to benefit the poor through micro-finance, philanthropy and investment. And as she started small, she made many mistakes that are only human mistakes and one can only learn to grow and to form bigger ideas only through living the full journey. Allow yourself to try and fall as many times as you need to, and in the end something bigger than all those that have fallen will take place. And if you have failed enough, than that bigger thing might over live you. And to the world the benefits can be infinite.

I recommend this book.

We choose to use the language that we want people to understand

Book Review.

“Culture is interpretation. Facts are made, and the facts we interpret are made and remade. They cannot be collected as if they were rocks, picked up and put into cartons and shipped home to be analyzed in the laboratory.” Refelections on Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow was my book choice for February.

It is a great book for people who wish to get a little deeper insight on anthropology and the work anthropologists can do. It is also insightful to how interpretations can take place between different cultures, how perspectives and situations matter, where our eyes are set to be seen from and how the person seen chooses to present his subjects. It is quiet mind moving, and gets us thinking about the way we view new cultures when we first get introduced to them, and since today we live in a cosmopolitan world through the internet if not through the cities we live in, the way we perceive new cultures lies on the hands of both the viewer and the viewed. And I personally think, it is becoming more important today, to open up the spaces between our understanding to the tool of communication.

Bourdieu in his afterword in Reflection on Fieldwork in Morocco said, “But, as is usual with these matters involving much more cognitive understanding, we must not believe too quickly in our own comprehension.’ And I believe this does not only go to Anthropologists per se, maybe Anthropologists should just be more aware of their comprehension since they tend to later communicate their comprehension of their study, but at least we need to highlight to ourselves and to others, that our comprehension is according to the situation we were in, and different comprehension is always possible.

Bourdieu also compares our communication relationship with what Jean Piaget once said, “it is not so much that children don’t know how to talk: they try out many languages until they find the one their parents can understand”, and this opens up a wide spectrum to our reflection on what we encounter, for truly, I for one, would communicate differently depending on the person who is of my opposite. How I predict their level of understanding of my world will affect my choice to how I wish to communicate it to them.