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Book News

Book offers an emotional roller-coaster ride

'Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories'

by Laurel Holliday

Pocketbooks, $23

Review by Robert Nebel

Web posted on: Friday, October 23, 1998 2:39:38 PM EDT

(CNN) -- If it has been impossible for so many years for Israelis and Palestinians to come together, author Laurel Holliday has found the answer to this never-ending conundrum: tell their stories equally in one easy-to-read volume. The result? Not a new Middle East Peace Plan, but an astonishing, truthful, often griping compilation titled "Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories".

Holliday accomplished the tedious task of compiling 36 stories from the point of view of those who lived and grew up in this troubled region. What makes "Children of Israel, Children of Palestine" so successful is that it puts a human face on life in an historically war-torn area.

It is in this book where we learn about 27-year-old journalist Nihaya Qawasmi, who bluntly fleshes out disturbing feelings in her essay, “Children of a Tenth Class of God?”

“Sometimes I think that the Palestinians are children of a tenth-class God; we don’t deserve to live and breathe, we are the scapegoat of the world, we had to leave our country to make space for the Jews who decided to establish their homeland and state on our land,” she writes.

On an opposite and somewhat optimistic note, “The Dark Villages” by author Reuven Miran recalls a childhood steeped in warmth, Jewish tradition and the results of the United Nations vote for the state of Israel in 1948. Miran vividly pulls the reader’s imagination back into his family’s kitchen when young Reuven asks his mother, “`What are they voting on in the UN, Mom?’ I asked. `On the Partition Plan, on the division of Palestine into two countries, one Jewish and one Arab,’ she answered.” When the final votes came down in favor of the state of Israel, Miran goes on to remember how he participated in late-night celebrations in his neighborhood, despite a childhood illness.

The voices of men and women ranging from age 14 through 76 paint a dramatic picture of what life has been like in Israel since 1948. Stories of survival and haunting images of death and despair fill the pages of the book from cover to cover. The biggest drawback to the autobiographical accounts seems to be the translation. It seems as if the essays have somehow lost their punch from the original Arabic and Hebrew writings to English. It is sometimes frustrating for the reader who only knows English.

This collection of autobiographical essays is not for the weak of heart, because "Children of Israel, Children of Palestine" gives the reader true doses of reality. Raw emotions expressing fear, hate, anxiety and revenge pour out in all directions. In fact, it may make you feel as if you have gotten off of an emotional roller coaster upon finishing. Most likely, that is what Laurel Holliday hopes for you.

If you plan on tackling "Children of Israel, Children of Palestine", don’t forget to take the motion sickness pills.

"Children of Israel, Children of Palestine" is filled with accounts of oppression, suffering and innocence lost to war by both Palestinians of Israelis. According to Holliday, the common thread throughout the book is a search for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question. Perhaps her compilation can inject human warmth and compassion into the debate.

Robert Nebel is a video editor at CNN. He is also an Atlanta-based freelance writer who specializes in theater, film and book reviews.

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