Geography of the Developing World
The Lemon Tree Book Report
The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan, gave great insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The story follows a twenty-five-year-old Palestinian man named Bashir Khairi whose family was forced out of their home, which caused them to become refugees in al-Ramla, during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Years later after being forced away, Bashir decided to return to is families old home, curious of who was living there and what the area would surprise him with. Bashir knocked on the door of his home and met nineteen-year-old Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, who lived there as a current resident with her parents. Dalia’s family were Jewish and Holocaust survivors. They fled Europe to Israel to successfully seek safety during that time. To his surprise, Dalia invited Bashir in to see the home. This was the beginning of a close connection and friendship between Bashir and Dalia. Bashir offered Dalia to come visit his home in al-Ramla, to which she did by his surprise, and she was shocked about the generosity and hospitality of his family.
Throughout the story, their friendship was tested multiple times, but maintained a strong connection despite differences in opinion, values, and actions. For example, Bashir at one point, got in trouble for acts of terrorism, which was against Dalia’s beliefs. Dalia believed in peaceful protests and non-violent forms of change. Despite this, they wrote to each other and still maintained the utmost respect for each other. Throughout the story, the lemon tree in the backyard of Dalia’s home is mentioned. It was originally planted by Bashir’s father when they first built the home. The lemon tree comes to represent many things including their property, their heritage or their family’s roots, growth, death, unity, and many more things. By the end of the story, Dalia’s parents have passed, and Dalia wonders what to do with their home. Bashir and his family cannot return because it is still too dangerous for his family to be there, so Dalia and Bashir decide to donate the home as a school so that Israeli and Palestinian children can learn together side by side. This story shows a wonderful, yet rare connection between these two people in a time after war. It allows people to see that despite the conflict and terrible things that may be happening, there is still room for hope and shared connections within people.
After reading Chapter 7 (chapter 6 of the textbook edition I have) of our textbook Regions, de Blij’s maps and descriptions of the Arab-Israel conflict helped to improve my understanding of The Lemon Tree story. The section titled “Israel and the Palestinian Territories” was most useful in this along with the map provided on the following page explaining the complex issues regarding this conflict. The text and map combination helped clarify the territory in which Dalia’s family settled following their successful flee from the Holocaust as well as where Bashir’s family settled as refuges. It also helped me see Israel’s victory following the six-day long war in 1967, when they gained territory of Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, as well as the whole Sinai Peninsula before Israel returned it following peace agreements (Nijman, Muller, de Blij, 259). The text also helped me in understanding the size of Israel as it was talked about many times in the story. Nijman et al., stated, “Israel is approximately the size of Massachusetts and has a population of 8.2 million (including its 1.5 million Arab citizens), but because of its location, it’s powerful military, and its strong international links, these data do not reflect Israel’s importance” (259). I also learned from the textbook that Israel has received massive amounts of financial aid from the United States while American foreign policy is working to help seek an accommodation between the Jewish and Palestinian people (Nijman et al., 259). It is pleasant to see the U.S. assisting in this matter.
While the de Blij text helped me better understand The Lemon Tree story, the story also helped be better understand the textbook information. Following the story of Bashir and Dalia, I was able to interpret how the Isreali-Palestinian conflict seemed through the eyes of the people in a storyline rather than the generalized textbook information. The two books, The Lemon Tree and the textbook Regions worked hand in hand in providing information to better understand the material and regional areas being talked about during the conflict.
From what is understood by the textbook, one of the things that the Israeli’s and Palestinians have in common currently, although not being pushed by the U.S. (they’re trying to push a two-state solution), is the one state solution. There are many problems that could arise while going for a one state solution such as the ending of Israel as a Jewish state, or, the pushing out of Palestinians or the denial to vote for them (Beauchamp). Regardless of what has happened with the Israeli’s and Palestinians in the past, one can only hope for a future of unity for them.
Lastly, I wanted to mention a quote in the beginning of The Lemon Tree that really stood out to me and I often thought back to as I was reading the story. This quote was found in the introduction of the book on page xvii, and it said “Not everyone is comfortable hearing the story of the Other” (Sandy Tolan, xvii). When you think about it, we are often only comfortable within what we know, and our side of the story. In the case of Bashir and Dalia, coming from different backgrounds and being the “other” for each other, was often times difficult but also allowed for them to understand one another, form a friendship, and be empathetic despite different backgrounds. If only everyone was willing to be empathetic for one another and be open to the “Other”, it could help resolve many present conflicts in this world.
Beauchamp, Zack. “What Are the ‘Two-State Solution’ and the ‘One-State Solution’?” Vox.com, Vox Media, 31 Mar. 2014, www.vox.com/cards/israel-palestine/two-state-one-state.
Nijman, Jan, et al. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. Wiley, 2017.
Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: an Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. Bloomsbury, 2015.