The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East
By Sandy Tolan
The tale of a simple act of faith between two young people – one Israeli, one Palestinian – that symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East.
Description: In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramle, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir Al-Khairi, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in.
This poignant encounter is the starting point for a true story of a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Bashir sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are swept up in the fates of their people, and their lives form a personal microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history.
What began with a simple act of faith between two young people grew into a dialogue of four decades that represents the region’s hope for peace and self-determination. The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible.
Click Below To Look At Further Questions Suggested By The Author
Further Questions Suggested by Readers
- Why does a book which is the personal story of two families and reads like a novel need 67 pages of source notes?
- Why is this clear picture of history emerging only now?
- Why have we been so confused for the past 60 years?
- Were there historical resources available to Sandy Tolan that were not available to earlier authors?
Excerpts of letters from readers
“You’ve provided a handbook to understanding that conflict through a narrative arc of the story that connects two extraordinary individuals– it’s literally the single book I would hand to any American correspondent going out to cover the region now…I’ve made sure the guys in TIME’s Jerusalem bureau are reading it…”
- Tony Karon, New York, NY “I’m a South African Jewish writer/editor at Time magazine, a teenage Zionist turned activist of the ANC for the last decade of the struggle, who maintains a vaguely obsessive interest in Israel and the Palestinians (largely because of that background and experience)…”
“… brilliantly written… two of the hardest histories, held together with so much kindness, compassion, balance and respect… a beautiful treasure and a gift to the world… Thank you… A thousand Shukrans…”
- Ibtisam Barakat, firstname.lastname@example.org, author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, – Columbia, Missouri – USA
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Blog Discussions on The Lemon Tree
“… a great piece of literary non-fiction. …Dalia and Bashir’s story encapsulates the conflict in a way that has never been told before. Fears and hopes are confronted when the two discover how much they belong, yearn to remain in and love the same home, the same land. The book is a must read not only to understand in more human, and humane, terms the roots of the conflict, but also because it shows that co-existence is possible if people are free from the power structures of oppression that damage both sides.”
“You may know Dalia’s story from The Lemon Tree, the powerful, must-read book by journalist Sandy Tolan.”
“…The history of the conflict is condensed in the clearest of manners… even the smallest of details has been checked for accuracy… There is a segment on the Clinton-Arafat-Barak talks that is extremely interesting, with details that are fascinating, fully verified and quite surprising. Tolan’s presentation of this event is the best I have yet read…”
“the most important book you may ever read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....Dalia Eshkenazi, like me and hundreds of thousands of other Jewish kids around the world, grew up believing that the Palestinians had simply fled their homes in 1948, miraculously making way for a Jewish State…”
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Peace Groups and Congregations
…like the branches and leaves of a tree, no one person stands alone. Manifestly linked with all who have gone before and all who will come after, joined to those who may seem remote, indeed, humanity itself branches and spreads, never losing the essential rootedness that connects us all. Trees themselves serve as a wonderful symbol for this human connection. The seed planted today bears fruit not for me, perhaps, but for my children, and theirs. And, as Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East makes beautifully clear, the tree that “belongs” to me may well “belong” to someone else, as well.
- “Tu B’Shevat: Tree of the Field” Rabbi John Friedman, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.
“The Lemon Tree illustrates the Palestinian and Israeli narratives, and shows how inextricably tied they are. For some this is heresy, for many others it is the long overdue beginning of doubt, reflection … and honesty. The Lemon Tree is honest enough to remain politically ambiguous and does not propose a happy ending. On the personal level, it is fresh and heart-warming, with a hint of hope. The real lemon tree died. But the home, now Open House, remains. We are left to fill in the blanks.”
- “One House, Two Families” Allan Solomonow Director of the Middle East Peace Program in the Pacific Mountain Region of the American Friends Service Committee, Peacework, October 2006.
The Lemon Tree, The title of this moving, well-crafted book refers to a tree in the backyard of a home in Ramla, Israel. The home is currently owned by Dalia, a Jewish woman whose family of Holocaust survivors emigrated from Bulgaria. But before Israel gained its independence in 1948, the house was owned by the Palestinian family of Bashir, who meets Dalia when he returns to see his family home after the Six-Day War of 1967.
- Journalist Tolan (Me & Hank) traces the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the parallel personal histories of Dalia and Bashir and their families. Episcopal Peace Fellowship
I have recommended many books over the course of the years to JRC members, but I must tell you I can scarcely recall a book recommendation that has inspired as many passionate responses as this particular book…In its way, I think this image of the open door might be a powerful spiritual metaphor for own disempowered age. That regardless of the rise and fall of the events of the world outside – and if history is any guide, they will continue to rise and fall – we can still choose to open the door to the possibility of connection, of healing, of peace in our world.
- The Open Door: A Sermon for Rosh Hashanah, Shalom Rav, Blogthoughts by Rabbi Brant Rosen
If you are using The Lemon Tree in your congregation or peace organization, please write us about your experience.