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13 June 2012

Book Review: The Lemon Tree


The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle EastThe Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whenever I read books like this, I wonder about the men who sit around in secret rooms, redrawing the world's boundaries.  It never goes well but people keep doing it.  The founding of Israel is one such moment in time.  

This book focuses on one house and two families that call it home;  this is the microcosmic metaphor for the whole larger quagmire.  The Jew acknowledges that she stole the Arab's home but cannot go so far as to say he can have it back.  It is not enough for the Arab to hear that the Jew admits that wrongs were perpetrated;  nothing short of return is good enough.

There is no middle ground.

And if there is no middle ground, there is no resolution possible.

The Lemon Tree presents the history of the land interlocked with the smaller histories of two families caught in the whirlwind sociopolitical change told through the lens of a house that means so much for so many reasons.

The book is eminently readable.  It gives no answer.

But at the end, the Jew plants a new lemon tree in the courtyard of the home which used to be the Arab's home but was then the Jews home and is now a school for Arab children in the heart of Israel.  "This dedication is without obliterating the memories.  Something is growing out of old history.  Out of the pain, something new is growing."

And that is all we can hope for.


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