The Jews and the nation of Israel.  I don’t know about you but most of my conversations about modern Israel have been in the context of theology – particularly eschatology.  What does the bible tell us about the Jewish nation in the end times?  This week I realised that I have never considered the issues thoroughly enough. 

Because this week I have been confronted with a Palestinian perspective.

I have just read Mornings in Jenin – a really powerful, passionate debut novel by Susan Abulhawa that tells the story of the conflict through six decades of a Palestinian family’s history.  It stands alongside Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns for its impact.  It is simply stunning.

And suddenly the issues are not abstract becasue they involve real people’s experiences, tragic and horrific and unjust experiences.  The suffering of tens of thousands of people and the brutality of the settlements and the refugee camps.  The forced removal of people from a way of life they had known and loved for hundreds of years.

Abulhawa, herself the daughter of Palestinian refugees, writes with a truly authentic voice.  Of Jerusalem her heroine says, “It sparks an inherent sense of familiarity in me – that doubtless, irrefutable Palestinian certainty that I belong to this land.  It possesses me, no matter who conquers it, because its soil is the keeper of my roots, of the bones of my ancestors.  Because it knows the private lust that flamed the beds of all my foremothers.  Because I am the natural seed of its passionate, tempestuous past.  I am a daughter of the land, and Jerusalem reassures me of this inalienable title, far more than the yellowed property deeds, the Ottoman land registries, the iron keys to our stolen homes, or UN resolutions and decrees of superpowers could ever do.”

Then Abulhawa employs a stunning literary device – she quotes actual news reports and historical works to demonstrate the force of her case.  And having detailed the graphic horror of the slaughter of refugees in their camps in 1982 she simply asks the question, “How does an Israeli soldier, a Jewish man, watch a refugee camp being transformed into an abattoir?”

It is a question without answer. 

I’m not suddenly pro-Palestinian and I’m certainly not anti-Semitic.  I simply abhor violence in all its forms and whoever its perpetrator is.  What has changed this week is my perspective of this conflict.  The anonymous news on my TV screen has become personalised and I am changed because of it. 

I highly recommend this book to you.

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