"CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, CHILDREN OF PALESTINE: Our Own True Stories" by Laurel Holliday


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While limited in scope, this anthology of childhood memories of adults shaped by the Arab-Israeli wars is often quite moving. Like her previous hooks Children of the Troubles: Our Lives in the Crossfire of Northern Ireland (1997) and Children of the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries (not reviewed), this volume anthologizes the eloquent testimonies of adults remembering traumatic wartime incidents they witnessed as children. Holliday, a Seattle-based psychotherapist, has an eye for choosing telling details, including both the communal and dramatic (nightmarish scenes of Palestinians forced to flee their homes at night, watching as their houses are burned and leveled) and the highly personal (the recollections of a young Arab boy imprisoned by Jordanians, ""beaten up and forced to sing loudly 'Long Live King Hussain' ""). The memoirs had to be written in English, somewhat limiting the range of contributors. Almost all of them express moderate views, thus offering a rather misleading portrait of Arab and Israeli societies, given the presence of violent extremists on both sides. While Holliday provides a sketchy history from the 19th century to the present, we're not told the political reasons for the region's most pressing human problems, such as why houses in the Rafah refugee camp, like Ahmed Younis's, ""were--and still are--made of one level of cinder block."" Holliday's Israelis are often condescending in their treatment of Arabs, viewing them as ""noble savages,"" illiterate, uncomplicated, easily led. Indeed, Ehud Ben-Ezer's colonialist father comes complete with a British ""pith helmet."" A powerful if somewhat incomplete sampling of voices, important especially for giving expression to those Palestinians whose stories are rarely heard.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1998
Page count: 392pp
Publisher: Pocket