Although this book is classified as fiction, it gives a sense of the recent history of Palestine from the point of view of the Palestinians. It is particularly relevant to the current Gaza situation and I think that everyone should read it. Rather like in the Vietnam war, the West is being fed an Israeli and American viewpoint and this needs correcting. The book deals with the period from 1940 until 2002. We should ask the question “why are Palestinians still living in refugee camps since 1948”?
The book starts in the Palestinian village of Ein Hod in harvest time in 1941. It was a farming village and it sounds very productive; presumably the climate may have been better before global warming. The villager’s ancestors stretched back eight centuries. A young Bedouin girl marries into the family and produces two sons. The second son acquired a scar on his face from being dropped and catching a nail on his crib.
Meanwhile, many Jews were coming to Palestine from war-torn Europe intending to settle. Unfortunately, the incoming Jews have modern weapons and the Palestinians are unarmed. The Jews also wanted to get rid of the British rulers. In 1947, the first bombs were used on Ein Hod, which was followed up by more aggression (after the British had departed).
The villagers held a peace supper at which they entertained Israeli soldiers. The Israelis then rounded up the villagers forcing them to give up their valuables and then marched them to what became the refugee camp of Jenin. During the march, Dalia (the Bedouin woman) loses her second son (the one with the scar on his face).
The child was stolen by an Israeli soldier, whose wife couldn’t conceive because she had been in one of the Nazi camps. In the rest of the book, the Palestinian family gradually learn what happened to the child with the scar and later meet up with him. He was called David in Israel and he becomes an Israeli soldier – at a time when he doesn’t know the story of his birth.
Later Dalia gives birth to a daughter, Amal (or Amy) and she manages to get an education in Jerusalem and ends up at college in the USA. Meanwhile some of her family and friends have moved to Lebanon and her brother joins the Palestine Liberation Force. Amal’s brother then finds where Amal is living and contacts her. She decides to visit them in Lebanon and then marries a Palestinian medical doctor who is her brother’s best friend.
While she is in Lebanon, the Israelis keep up operations to try to provoke the PLO to retaliate. They decide that the women and children should be moved to another country for safety, but Amal’s husband and her brother’s family remain in Lebanon. She makes her husband promise to live in the confines of the hospital whilst there is warfare, and then to follow her overseas (to the USA).
Israel then attacks Lebanon with dire effects for this family. The author’s purpose seems to be to show in fiction the grief-stricken lives of Palestinian families who have been driven out of their homeland by the establishment of the state of Israel.
The author is of Palestinian descent. Her father was killed in East Jerusalem. She was moved around several countries in the region as a child and has ended up living in the United States, where she is active in Palestinian causes.
Not only is this book a gripping story, it also shows how traumatised people turn to armed conflict. While Jews with their families suffered horribly in the holocaust, Jewish refugees and settlers went on to wreak violence on the innocent Palestinians. Will this conflict go on and on? Will there always be refugee camps in the area?
Kent and Surrey Bylines welcomes submissions which may show other perspectives on the history and current events of this part of the world