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The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East is a true story of two young people - one an Israeli and one Palestinian. The writer's intention is to show that there is hope for peace in the Middle East.
The lemon tree is in the garden of what was Bashir -Al-Khairi 's home as a child. He and his cousins have ventured into the town of Ramle from which they were driven with their families, as children..."For nearly two decades...Bashir had been preparing for this journey....return." To Bashir who had left there when he was only six it is " this alien world called Israel."
They are met with mixed receptions. At Yasser's home, they are treated suspiciously and nervously, leaving Yasser feeling as if "he had no soul." The most promising reception is Bashir's home. They are greeted and invited in by Dalia, whose family were Holocaust survivors who arrived here in 1948 from Bulgaria. Dalia had only been a baby. Dalia had never questioned the reasons why the Palestinians had left the area . They had simply "ran away."
The relationship that develops represents the differing viewpoints - the despair and dispossession of the Palestinians contrasted with Dalia's hope for the future of her people. What is known to the Israelis as the "War of Independence" is known to Palestinians as "The Catastrophe" clearly indicating the complete opposite perspective.
Sandy Tolan set out to tell a story of the things that inextricably link the two sides in the conflict, outside of the many newspaper reports and journals of events. He knew there must be families - human stories that showed the similarities between the struggles of these people. Outsiders wo saw the terrible pictures of events had become almost immune to the tragedy. Tolan came across these two families, connected by their lives in the same house:
This promised to be not simply a recounting of decades of pain and retaliation
Tolan was anxious to present a fair view and expose the world to the "whole" story. Stories of the Jewish struggle and the Holocaust had been told but , for Westerners especially, stories of the effect on ordinary Arabs were not readily available. From the responses Tolan received, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East is a fair representation of history and is relevant not only to this family but many others. By opening "up the mind and heart to the history of the Other," endless possibilites for a better future become believable.
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