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In Jerusalem
Cover of In Jerusalem
In Jerusalem
Three Generations of an Israeli Family and a Palestinian Family
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An entirely fresh take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that examines the life-shaping reverberations of wars and ongoing tensions upon the everyday lives of families in Jerusalem.
An American, secular, diasporic Jew, Lis Harris grew up with the knowledge of the historical wrongs done to Jews. In adulthood, she developed a growing awareness of the wrongs they in turn had done to the Palestinian people. This gave her an intense desire to understand how the Israelis’ history led them to where they are now. However, she found that top-down political accounts and insider assessments made the people most affected seem like chess pieces. What she wanted was to register the effects of the country’s seemingly never-ending conflict on the lives of successive generations.
Shuttling back and forth over ten years between East and West Jerusalem, Harris learned about the lives of two families: the Israeli Pinczowers/Ezrahis and the Palestinian Abuleils. She came to know members of each family—young and old, religious and secular, male and female. As they shared their histories with her, she looked at how each family survived the losses and dislocations that defined their lives; how, in a region where war and its threat were part of the very air they breathed, they gave children hope for their future; and how the adults’ understanding of the conflict evolved over time. Combining a decade of historical research with political analysis, Harris creates a living portrait of one of the most complicated and controversial conflicts of our time.
An entirely fresh take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that examines the life-shaping reverberations of wars and ongoing tensions upon the everyday lives of families in Jerusalem.
An American, secular, diasporic Jew, Lis Harris grew up with the knowledge of the historical wrongs done to Jews. In adulthood, she developed a growing awareness of the wrongs they in turn had done to the Palestinian people. This gave her an intense desire to understand how the Israelis’ history led them to where they are now. However, she found that top-down political accounts and insider assessments made the people most affected seem like chess pieces. What she wanted was to register the effects of the country’s seemingly never-ending conflict on the lives of successive generations.
Shuttling back and forth over ten years between East and West Jerusalem, Harris learned about the lives of two families: the Israeli Pinczowers/Ezrahis and the Palestinian Abuleils. She came to know members of each family—young and old, religious and secular, male and female. As they shared their histories with her, she looked at how each family survived the losses and dislocations that defined their lives; how, in a region where war and its threat were part of the very air they breathed, they gave children hope for their future; and how the adults’ understanding of the conflict evolved over time. Combining a decade of historical research with political analysis, Harris creates a living portrait of one of the most complicated and controversial conflicts of our time.
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About the Author-
  • Lis Harris was a staff writer at The New Yorker from 1970 to 1995. She is a professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University. In addition to innumerable articles, reviews and commentaries, she is the author of Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Rules of Engagement: Four American Marriages, and Tilting at Mills: Green Dreams, Dirty Dealings and the Corporate Squeeze.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    July 19, 2019

    Harris (Sch. of the Arts, Columbia Univ.; Tilting at Mills) examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lives and families of two Jerusalem women, one Palestinian and one Israeli. Niveen Abuleil, a speech pathologist, is from a family that left the Palestinian village of Lifta as refugees during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, reestablishing themselves in Jerusalem. The family of Ruth HaCohen, a professor of music, came to Jerusalem as stateless Jewish refugees from Germany before World War II. The two families do not know each other, and their stories unfold in separate chapters. The author's travels between Israel and the West Bank with her driver, Fuad, are interspersed throughout, adding more background to the complexities of life in the area. VERDICT The combination of historical research and conversations with these women and their families creates a distinctive account that shows the ongoing effects of the conflict on generations. Readers interested in seeing beyond stereotypes and political posturing will appreciate.--Laurie Unger Skinner, Highland Park P.L., IL

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2019
    A firsthand look at the continuing turmoil facing the citizens of Jerusalem. In interviewing families both Israeli and Palestinian, former New Yorker staff writer Harris (Arts and Writing/Columbia Univ.; Tilting at Mills: Green Dreams, Dirty Dealings, and the Corporate Squeeze, 2003, etc.) ably navigates between harsh criticism of the way Israel has treated the Palestinians and knee-jerk support. The author acknowledges the youthful inspiration she gleaned from summer camps in Israel, but over the years, she has also befriended displaced Palestinians affected by the "deep civic unrest engendered by the Occupation." On each side, she traces three generations, looking at the effects of the historical markers of Israel's creation in 1848, the Six-Day War of June 1967, the years after the Oslo Accords, and two intifadas of 1987 and 2000. Harris sought out the earliest settlers in some of the storied Jerusalem neighborhoods--e.g., a daughter of Zionists who had defied Hitler and the concentration camps, and the Abuleils, one of a few hundred Palestinian families still living in the disputed French Hill, refugees from the village of Lifta. Throughout the narrative, the author clearly portrays the enormous bitterness and fear on both sides. The author also weaves in sections of levity, "Travels with Fuad," in which she chronicles her wanderings with a fearless Palestinian driver, Fuad Abu Awwad, who recognized no boundaries and knew everyone, allowing her enviable access to further interview subjects. Ultimately, while Harris does her best to represent the Israelis' righteous struggle to succeed in the country, the stories of the Palestinians' daily strife to eek out a paltry living are some of the most memorable in the book. "Violence may haunt the average Israeli and loom large at the funerals of its soldiers and terrorist victims," she writes, "but for too many Palestinians its threat is a menacing, day-in, day-out presence." Fair, evenhanded stories of what life is really like in the riven state of Israel.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus Reviews "Fair, evenhanded stories of what life is really like in the riven state of Israel."
  • Library Journal "[A] distinctive account that shows the ongoing effects of the conflict on generations. Readers interested in seeing beyond stereotypes and political posturing will appreciate."
  • The Revealer "That Harris could immerse herself in this world and come away with a counter-narrative that overcomes the brutality, violence, and pain, and tells the story with great nuance and complexity, is a triumph of the power of stories and the perseverance of the storyteller."
  • Hilton Als, author of The Women "Lis Harris's epic and epically beautiful real-life tale about two cultures, two religions, two families, trying to survive difference in a shared world is a monumental work carved out of rock, truth, and love. The deep and complex realities of Israeli/Palestinian daily life has had no better observer and no more judicious participant. A work for the ages."
  • Anne Fadiman, author of The Wine Lover's Daughter "Lis Harris has written about a conflict in which the members of each side, acutely damaged by trauma, are so angry at the other that they can't listen. But Harris can. Wherever our sympathies lie, we have something to learn from this intensively reported and meticulously written account of two extended families who don't so much represent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as help us understand its toxic effects."
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In Jerusalem
In Jerusalem
Three Generations of an Israeli Family and a Palestinian Family
Lis Harris
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