STILL SMALL VOICES by John & Janet Wallach Wallach


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Twelve scrupulously objective (perhaps too objective) portraits of contemporary Palestinians and Israelis--by the foreign-affairs editor of the Hearst newspapers (he) and a feature writer for the Washington Post Magazine (she). Basing their work on interviews conducted during two visits in early 1988 to the war-ravaged West Bank, the authors manage to have their subjects tell their stories in (more or less) their own words. The result is a series of vignettes that is frequently moving but also frequently frustrating. Take, for example, the story of Miriam Levinger, a Bronx-born Jewish fundamentalist who came to Israel at age 18. Since then, she and her rabbi-husband, who made their home in the Arab city of Hebron, have been central figures in the controversial Jewish settlement of the West Bank. Their presence there has been a matter of concern to both Jewish and Arab authorities. The reader, however, may very well admire Levinger's determination and, at the same time, have reservations about many of her methods. Then there is the life-story of Yasser Obeid, a Palestinian doctor accused of ""collaboration"" by the PLO. Obeid's links to the Israelis extend back in time--his grandfather had hidden Jews during the 1929 massacre carried out by the Arabs in Hebron. Meanwhile, Obeid has been untiring in his efforts to improve medical facilities in the area. Reviled by PLO extremists and subject to the repressive policies of the Israeli occupation, he is a man of moderation caught in a vise of conflicting national interests. Also of note here is the heartwarming tale of Rabbi Schlomo Riskin, the Jewish-American founder of the town of Efrat, a community in which both Jews and Arabs have a voice in the decision-making. The Wallachs allow their subjects' stories to unroll without editorial comment. Such reportorial evenhandedness, though, minimizes any overall sense of the relevance of the varying political positions and their relationship to one another. Finally, the interviews tell us only what we already know--that there seems to be little hope for an imminent solution to this tragic situation.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1989
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich