It is 20 years since the original hardcover edition of Children of Israel, Children of Palestine first appeared. Why it was suddenly offered as a brief, free Kindle promotion some weeks ago is unclear. I hope it was not a vain attempt to bolster the HAMAS-led bogus ‘March of Return’.
Part of the ‘Children of Conflict’ series edited by American psychotherapist turned writer, Laurel Holliday, the volume comprises a selection of largely adult-written memoirs of living as a child on either side of the divide during the modern Arab-Israel conflict.
After its initial publication, it reappeared in paperback in 1999 and then in digital format in 2014, barely months before Operation Protective Edge – the Israel military’s last full campaign in Gaza.
Holliday’s 1997 introduction remains unchanged, so taking no account of the huge changes - including Israel’s total withdrawal from Gaza, four wars and innumerable acts of violence that have occurred during the interim – whether inside Israel or the Palestinian Authority and Gaza.
This would be ridiculous if the book did not serve to underline the grim reality that on both sides, the more facts and figures have changed – the more they have stayed the same!
Unlike the Holocaust and World War 11 or indeed ‘the troubles’ of Northern Ireland, the ongoing conflict between the modern State of Israel and its nearest Arab neighbours continues and what we witness now are but the latest episodes in a story whose beginning is easily traced to the earliest tales of the Hebrew bible.
So what are we left with here?
Many of the Jewish stories leave a whiff of lingering patronising elitism, while too often, the Arab response is one of unreasonable, hatemongering resentment. It is obvious, reading a couple of the memoirs of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands that they find it much easier to empathise with their new non-Jewish neighbours because they literally and figuratively speak the same language. The sponsors of Israel’s new Nation State Law should consider this.
But on the whole and as ever, Jews and Arabs take contrary views of perceived disaster. While too many Arabs refuse to see that their displacement from ancient communities dragged them kicking and screaming into modernity, Jews, as ever, have treated similar experiences as a golden opportunity to make over – make good.
When will anyone ever learn?
Children of Israel, Children of Palestine – Our Own True Stories, edited by Laurel Holliday is now available only at full price at Amazon @ $15.99 (Kindle); $23.35 (Hardcover); $20.56 (Paperback).
© Natalie Wood (18 August 2018)