I came across this book when I met its author, the journalist Sandy Tolan, in Nashville for Isha Foundation’s World Peace Day Celebration in April 2013. Sandy was a panelist at the event for a discussion on world peace. When he told me about the book I knew I had to read it. It sounded like a heck of a story and a great way to learn about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I knew nothing about.
The Lemon Tree tells the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the stories of a Palestinian man, Bashir, and an Israeli woman, Dalia, whose lives become intertwined when Dalia’s family moves into Bashir’s childhood home (from which his family was ejected after the partitioning of Palestine). One of the things that I love about this book is how we’re given a window into both sides of the conflict. Through Bashir’s and Dalia’s eyes (and through a tremendous amount of research into the history of the conflict) we can see many viewpoints of Palestinians and Israelis. There are also notes that provide a great deal of historical context to help understand what led to partition and how the situation has developed since then. We’re also given a chance to see what role the U.N. and the U.S. played.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Lemon Tree presents the conflict as a human story, and not just from an historical and political frame of reference. Also, Sandy said it reads like a novel, which I’ve found to be true.