The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East

Bloomsbury. Nov. 2020. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781547603947.
Gr 6 Up–In this young readers’ adaptation of the 2007 book, Tolan details the true story of the unexpected friendship between Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian man of Arab ancestry, and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, an Israeli woman of Jewish descent. These two individuals found they shared a connection. Their families lived in the same stone house at different time periods. Nineteen years before Landau’s family moved in, Khairi’s family lived in the house. During the formation of Israel in 1948, six-year-old Khairi and his family were forced to flee their hometown. Landau and her family relocated from Europe to Israel after World War II. In 1967, soon after the Six-Day War, Khairi and Landau met as young adults. For a time, they maintained a tenuous friendship and an openness to conversation. Tolan deftly explores both sides of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He connects news stories to real people and describes the mental, emotional, and physical impact of violence, occupation, and forced relocation. Although the text would have benefitted from a time line and a little more explanation about Zionism, the compelling narrative provides readers with insight into an impossible situation. Front matter includes territorial maps and information about Tolan’s research methods; back matter features an annotated list of books, articles, and films on the topic, as well as an extensive list of sources.
VERDICT Tolan makes an incredibly complicated topic comprehensible, creating empathy and understanding for people on both sides of the conflict.

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