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GAVRIEL AND JEMAL: Two Boys of Jerusalem by Brent Ashabranner

GAVRIEL AND JEMAL: Two Boys of Jerusalem


Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1984
Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Worth doing, and well-done. Ashabranner and Conklin (Morning Star, Black Sun; The New Americans) have selected two likable, credible Jerusalem families, Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab, to personify the Middle-East divide--and, in young Gavriel and Jemal, the possibility at least of rapprochement between two boys of the city walls unlikely ever to meet. The sense of a family culture, inseparable from religion, is strong in both cases. Gavriel's family is Orthodox; his father came from South Africa, his German-born mother grew up in St. Louis; they moved within Israel to be close to the Wailing Wall; there are twelve children; each morning, the boys go with their father to the Wall to pray; chores are shared and so are Shabbat preparations. Photo after photo shows a pile-up of comely, active children--almost magnetized by their short, chunky, gray-bearded father (an accountant) and their glowing, earthy mother (a social worker). Jemal's Palestinian Arab family is a contrast: two children, space and calm, a once-prosperous businessman father (his mother teaches Hebrew in an Arabic school)--but here too are morning prayers and weekly visits to the mosque. Jemal's religious initiation, interestingly, has come mainly from his mother; he and his father make a ritual weekly trip to Ramallah, to shop for vegetables (his father was a produce-merchant before the Six Day War). Alongside the narrow, teeming streets of Old Jerusalem, the boys' homes come across as sanctuaries--contrasting, and complementary. Ashabranner's text is tactful in framing controversial issues, and more suggestive than assertive as regards the two families. The vitality in the pictures makes you warm to both, and hope, with Ashabranner, that ""these two ancient peoples who have their roots in the same ancient land can find a way to lasting peace.