The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, by Sandy Tolan, is quite the historical endeavor. History is depicted in all of its modes throughout the pages.
Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian and Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, both occupied the same house, at different moments in time. Despite its title, the book had very little to do with them, within the scheme of the author’s investigative journalism regarding the Middle East and its ongoing conflicts.
As a historical effort, it is well researched, documented and well written and extremely compelling. As a story of two individuals and their families, it left me wanting more ((that story is why I initially wanted to read the book). I was interested in an exploration of both sides of the issue, Jews and Muslims and their commonalities and their differing perspectives. I wanted to know the history behind those particular individuals and their inhabiting the same house, although separate from one another.
I realize that in order to connect the stories, more in depth, the author had to depict some historical background, and that it was a necessity to do so. But, in my opinion, a shorter summary of the events of the past almost one hundred-years, would have cemented the foundation, and let the familial stories unfold more vividly. The addition of so much historical information into the story made the book more tedious for me to read than need be. This is not to say that the book should not be read-it should, especially for those who want to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and the history behind them.
The pages are filled with immense documentation, journalistic approaches and investigation, and the historical aspect is invaluable. Future readers will gain a better understanding of events and issues, pertaining to both sides of the conflicts. The cultural and social aspects are educational in all of the masterful depictions within the book.
I expected more than 10-15% of the book to be devoted to Bashir Al-Khayri and Dalia Ashkenazi Landau and their families through the decades. In that respect, it was disappointing. Blending the families into the pages of the conflicts was a good idea, on Tolan’s part, but it was too small a percentage for me to become illuminated regarding their lives.
For me, the story line would have been better served as two separate books-one strictly historical regarding the Middle East and its conflicts, and one specifically related to the two individuals and their families.
This is not to say that The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, by Sandy Tolan, is not a worthwhile read, it is, historically speaking. Middle East history is shown in all of its facets, from Israeli’s statehood beginnings to the social and cultural components, to the mindsets of all sides involved, and to constant warring. Sandy Tolan has written a definitive account that encompasses all facets of the conflicts that are still ongoing, to this day.