This may be a "young adult" novel, but the reader reads it with the voice that adults use to imitate a 6 year old when reading to 6 year olds. The narrator of this novel is supposed to be 26 years old; a strong person with a lot of suffering in her background. The reader gives her a kind of breathless, mincing, naivete, with inappropriate emphases on every third word, irritating beyond belief. I'm not going to be able to finish listening. It only gets stars at all because of Le Guin.
Like many other reviewers I am bailing out on listening to this. Not only is the pronunciation awful (why on earth use the Israeli pronunciation for Israel ("Yis-rah-el" in an English edition? not to mention slaughtering most of the other Hebrew words), but the reading is ponderous, inappropriately emphasized, and somehow completely mismatched to the tenor of the work. Tom Segev is an important Israeli "new historian", but I'm going to have to read rather than listen to this. The background he gives to the crisis in the part i've listened to- the socio-economic state of Israel at the time- is really interesting, so I suspect that this will be worth reading.
This was one of the first audiobooks I bought, and i listened to it in 2005 before my second visit to Israel. I'm writing a review now because I was a little shocked that its overall rating was so low: I found it excellent. The book is not a history of the israeli-palestinian conflict. Rather, it is the attempt of a journalist living in israel to explore the mental images that israeli jews and israeli-arabs/palestinian-israelis/palestinians have of each other, in an attempt to understand how this influences their behavior and discourse. This seems to me to be a critical exercise: if you go to the websites of Al Jazeera or the New York Times or Haaretz you find pretty similar reporting of events in the region, and yet people take such enormously different messages from the same events. I found Arab and Jew to be really helpful in giving me a hint of the mindset from which people were coming.
Other reviewers have commented that there seems more emphasis on the wrongdoings of the Israelis (i.e. jewish israelis) than the palestinians, and by my recollection this may be true, although the Palestinians come in for plenty of flack as well. The authors stated intention is to make everyone uncomfortable- at least the extremists on both sides. I personally don't believe that an objective view of the middle east exists... how could it? whose would it be? ... and the best we can hope for is honest explorations, which is what i found this to be. At least, I felt that it helped me in my own exploration and interactions with Israelis, by giving me some sort of a sense of where they were coming from.
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