The Story of a Palestinian Family in Israel
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 Steering clear of propaganda, Gorkin (Border Kibbutz, 1971), an American psychologist living in Jerusalem, presents a refreshingly balanced portrait of a Palestinian family in Israel. Feeling ill-equipped to serve his Arab patients at Hebrew Univ., the author spent two years in unusually close contact with a fellaheen (peasant farmer) family--working with them, sharing their celebrations and sorrows, and preserving their testimony in simple, nonjudgmental tones. Like the other 700,000 Palestinians in Israel, the family of Abu Ahmad must deal daily with the paradox of being Israeli citizens yet detached, legally and socially, from the larger workings of the country. Viewed as Arabs by Israelis and as Israelis by other Arabs, ``we have reason to be afraid,'' remarks one. Although Gorkin provides helpful commentary on the confusing revolutions of Middle Eastern politics, he is strongest when allowing his subjects to speak in their own words. These are fully rounded, independent characters who dream of a Palestinian state but dislike militant fundamentalists; who form business relationships with Jewish Israelis yet sympathize with the Intifada. Most startlingly, they manage to combine old and new in odd, apparently peaceful juxtaposition: live sheep purchased for slaughter to mark the end of Ramadan are stuffed into the trunk of a Mercedes; a 70-year-old patriarch relaxes in the traditional diwan (men's sitting room) as his children watch R-rated American videotapes in the next room; free to pursue higher education and their own careers (publisher, social worker, teacher, farmer), children (both male and female) avoid physical relations with suitors and consent to traditional marriage arrangements. Widening the picture are other village voices--a Communist teacher, a Muslim-Jewish couple, Intifada activists. Ordinary people made heroic by their insistence on surviving despite extraordinary challenges, they are complex, multifaceted, and real. A subtly persuasive work, proving that straightforward, unbiased reporting can be far more powerful than monolithic pronouncements. Excellent and unusual.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8070-6902-7
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991