Friday, March 30, 2012

Arab & Jew - Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land (Book review)

It took me four grueling months to finish this book, and almost a month to contemplate on how I'm going to blog about this sensitive subject.

After having visited Saudi Arabia numerous times while my father worked as an airline employee in Jeddah, the spicy smell of sweet roasted dates, women and men clothed as they were centuries ago, and the solemn hum of salaam on the background as I daydream over the Red Sea has all contributed to my interest on anything Middle Eastern. The Middle East continues to fascinate me as much as (if not more than)  ancient Rome, Greece and the birth of the early colonial America. These countries are one of the (many) reasons for my wanderlust. Such civilizations of culture that thrived for centuries and have showcased how humanity has evolved, regressed, or stalled.

However, much of the beauty of this region has been torn apart by strife that began with inner tribal and religious conflicts which have escalated into a war on terror. This book happens to open up your eyes not just to the way of life for both the Jews and the Arabs sharing the land of milk and honey, but also on that paradoxical dream - the Jews wanting to have their own nation and the plight of the Palestinians that we have overlooked as well.

Given that the Palestinian credo is no stranger to the Western world based on their propaganda of hate, this book was able to touch in me a spot that seem foreign. That both races are people just struggling to live their lives but are being destroyed by greed, hate and malice toward each other.

The most poignant aspect was how David Shipler was able to redirect my views of the Palestinians from savage brutes to focusing on why they are what they are - without apathy. That if you have a group of patriotic people being driven from their land, they had no choice but to fight. On the other hand, the Jews even in ancient biblical times also has a right to that land. Why can't they all just get along? 

This book will clearly provide you not just information about the people's struggle but the beauty of two races that seem similar, yet quite so different. Also, the book displays:

1) The premise - Sharing the land was clearly not as simple as it looks. As the law of physics would dictate - two bodies can not occupy the same place at the same time.

2) The plight of Palestinians - they were initially compelled to leave and 'squat' with their Arab neighbors as they left the Jews with no other choice. Are they going to be Syrians? Egyptians? Jordanians? Think for a moment if the Filipinos were driven away, say, by the Chinese and we're advised to be relocated to either Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand.  How would we feel? Do we become Indonesians? Thai? Do we allow them to tell us who we are? We shall become neither for we become refugees in our own land.  That is where the conflict starts. It lies in the Zionists (Jews) views that there are no Palestinians. And the Palestinian's deranged vision to kill all the Jews occupying what they think is the land only for themselves.

3) How the Palestinians considered the Holocaust to be a bad thing  since the end point of the Holocaust was the creation of Israel - Palestinian Arabs see themselves as paying the crimes of the Germans. They consider themselves to be the final victims as the Jews clamor to have their own nation.

4) The plight of the Jews - How, even when they are being considerate and would just like to live in peace, their enemies still want them dead while they await the coming of their Messiah. 

5) A romantic intermingling of cultures which tragically ends fatal for both. 

6) Arabs and Jews' day to day encounter with each other. Hostile yet, ironically considering themselves as neighbors instead of strangers.

The author ends the book with a story that leaves the decision to the reader regarding the Jewish / Palestinian question. To be or not to be?

I simply see this as nothing more than a biblical brotherly tale - Ishmael and Isaac. The baby brother (Isaac aka 'Jews') wanting to have the toy, but the bigger brother (Ishmael - 'Arabs') not willing to share. The two brothers end into a fight that eventually broke the toy. Sadly, this centuries old saga is no child's play. 

There are no winning sides to this issue until both brothers put aside their animosity and be fair to each other. Either that or the bloodshed will pathetically continue costing more innocent civilians' lives as victims of their crossfire.
5 stars!


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