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Book 40 of 80

July 5, 2010

Here we go!

When I’m done with this book, I’ll be 50% of the way done. (Or 50% of the way there — depending on how you look at it.) I’m also doubly excited to be embarking on the Middle East portion of my trip. There are so many opportunities to broaden my horizons while I read through this area of the world. We’ve got some eclectic options ahead of us: riveting non-fiction, Middle-Eastern chick-lit (I found some! How about that?), fiction by the premier writers of that area, a graphic novel.

Today we head to Israel — a country of incredible importance politically and spiritually. My sister-in-law just got back from a three-week trip through Israel and she was profoundly changed by that opportunity. It’s an area of the world that I would love to visit someday. Attie was honest about how hidden the fighting was from tourists — she didn’t get to see a nation in conflict — and she was cognizant that her experience was limited in that fashion. In an odd turn, I had a fascinating hour-long conversation with a young man from Israel while sitting by myself at the Venetian pool during our Las Vegas trip.

This guy — my age, living in America for three years, going back to Israel someday to find a wonderful Jewish wife — had an entirely different view of his country and his city. Firstly, he agrees that the Holy Land is powerful — there is no other city like Jerusalem for feeling closer to God. Secondly, his anger toward the Arab community was beyond palpable. I’m not an expert on Arab-Israeli relationships — despite my college class entitled “The Arab-Israeli Relationship”. But the guy I talked to by the pool couldn’t hide his hatred — he even apologized for appearing to be racist. At one point, he came close to tears, as he described growing up side by side with Arab children and then, one day, one of those children told him that his parents were forbidding him from playing with him because all Israeli children were pigs. This man said that his anger was born of decades of reverse-racism aimed at covering up his country’s political mistakes.

Our conversation was intense. It was mostly me listening and him talking, but I could have sat there all day in the 105 degree heat. I might have stayed longer– a burgeoning sunburn cut our time short.

Needless to say, I was riveted. In America, you are not allowed to stray from sympathizing with Israel without dire social and political consequences. Really — to my inadequate knowledge — only left-wing celebrities have come out in favor of Palestine without doing much damage to their careers.

So, it will be interesting to see how this current book portrays the current conflict over Jerusalem. I will be reading A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua. The general idea is this: A woman dies in a suicide bombing. Her body is unclaimed and unmourned. A newspaper discovers that she worked at a local company and lambasts that company for failing to recognize her death. The owner of the company tells one of his managers that they need to mitigate the damage done by the article by  finding out more about their dead employee. Thus begins a strange odyssey of putting the pieces of this woman’s life back together, after everything had been shattered from violence.

Yehoshua is a prolific and acclaimed Israeli and Jewish writer. His books are centered on capturing life in Israel — and particularly Jewish life in Israel. He has also suffered controversy for his statement that “Diaspora Judaism is masturbation.”

I think this will be a great start to this new area. Not really starting light — but would you expect much else from me at this point?

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