The Lemon Tree tells many stories. It is the story of Bashir Al-Khairi, a Palestinian Arab born in Ramla (West Bank, Israel) just before the termination of the British Mandate, and who, throughout his life, devotes himself to the cause of a free Palestine for Palestinians only to wind up permanently maimed in battle, detained and torchered by occupying forces, imprisoned for over half his adult life and ultimately made a refugee in exile, forbidden ever to return to his homeland. It is the story of Dalia Eshkenazi, a Bulgarian Jew and Holocaust survivor who, while still a child in 1948, resettles in Israel with her family during the UN Partition Plan in the same Ramlah home Bashir and his own family were forced out of. It is the story of millions of people displaced by war and politics and of millions more divided by partisan causes. Ultimately though, it is the story of an age-old, still-simmering and unlikely-to-cease conflict, of a war which has waged for centuries between Jews and Arabs, Judaism and Islam, Israelis and Palestinians, though it has really only been infused into the global conscious for the last half century.
While the Arab-Israeli conflict is a complicated one, embittered with hate and recrimination, Bashir and Dalia's lifelong friendship, linked by coincidence but proliferated through trust and love, is an enlightened union. The pair's unlikely friendship is one which endures despite the maddeningly stubborn socio-political debacle defining their age, the constant wars and violence causing many sad and troubling times of grief, isolation and despair, not to mention each's unchanging personal convictions. Tolan, a UC-Berkely professor and NPR syndicated journalist has written a compelling book on a very touchy, very saddening and very volatile situation of our time. (956.9405 TOLAN)