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IN JERUSALEM by Lis Harris


Three Generations of an Israeli Family and a Palestinian Family

by Lis Harris

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8070-2968-8
Publisher: Beacon Press

A firsthand look at the continuing turmoil facing people in Jerusalem.

In interviewing families both Israeli and Palestinian, former New Yorker staff writer Harris (Arts and Writing/Columbia Univ.; Tilting at Mills: Green Dreams, Dirty Dealings, and the Corporate Squeeze, 2003, etc.) ably navigates between harsh criticism of the way Israel has treated the Palestinians and knee-jerk support. The author acknowledges her youthful inspiration, but over the years, she has also befriended displaced Palestinians affected by the “deep civic unrest engendered by the Occupation.” On each side, she traces three generations, looking at the effects of the historical markers of Israel’s creation in 1848, the Six-Day War of June 1967, the years after the Oslo Accords, and two intifadas of 1987 and 2000. Harris sought out the earliest settlers in some of the storied Jerusalem neighborhoods—e.g., a daughter of Zionists who had defied Hitler and the concentration camps, and the Abuleils, one of a few hundred Palestinian families still living in the disputed French Hill, refugees from the village of Lifta. Throughout the narrative, the author clearly portrays the enormous bitterness and fear on both sides. The author also weaves in sections of levity, “Travels with Fuad,” in which she chronicles her wanderings with a fearless Palestinian driver, Fuad Abu Awwad, who recognized no boundaries and knew everyone, allowing her enviable access to further interview subjects. Ultimately, while Harris does her best to represent the Israelis’ righteous struggle to succeed in the country, the stories of the Palestinians’ daily strife to eke out a paltry living are some of the most memorable in the book. “Violence may haunt the average Israeli and loom large at the funerals of its soldiers and terrorist victims,” she writes, “but for too many Palestinians its threat is a menacing, day-in, day-out presence.”

Fair, evenhanded stories of what life is really like in the riven state of Israel.