1913 was the crucial year for these conflicts: the year that the Palestinians held the First Arab Congress and the first time that secret peace talks were held between Zionists and Palestinians. World War I, however, interrupted these peace efforts.
Dockser Marcus traces these dramatic times through the lives of a handful of the city's leading citizens as they struggle to survive. This is a current-events must listen in our ongoing efforts to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict.
©2007 Amy Dockser Marcus; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Marcus masterfully brings a Jerusalem of almost a century ago to pungent life, and her political dissection of the era is lucid and well-meaning." (Publishers Weekly)
First the positive. This book largely achieved balance and an even handed approach to its subject. It fairly evaluates a little known and almost universally ignored piece of the back-story of the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely the late Ottoman period of 1898-1917. Maintaining neutrality in anything around Israel is a triumph in and of itself and the book can be celebrated for that alone.
The author sets out argue that 1913 was the turning point in history that made conflict between Arab and Jew nearly inevitable and that we can draw valuable lessons from 1913 Jerusalem. She more or less fails utterly to do this. More importantly, I ended the book without knowing what the “lessons of 1913” that she extolled actually were. It seems that she argues that Jews and Arabs can co-exist… when they are both oppressed minorities in a larger empire. I might not have been so disappointed had she not badly over hyped her thesis in the introduction. It created very unreasonable expectations.
The style was alright. It jumped around a bit and could be hard to follow at times and other times was rather dull, delving into the minutiae of personal details. Unfortunately the narrator mispronounced several common words -particularly "sepulcher". She put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLAble often. I can give her a pass on foreign words but there really was too much. She also seems to have ran over chapter breaks making it very hard to follow the flow.
While I do not recommend this book as an introduction to the subject, it fills a necessary gap in the historical narrative by shedding light on the Ottoman rule of Jerusalem which is generally totally neglected elsewhere. If Jerusalem has been your study then by all means read this book, just keep your expectations reasonable. (also make sure you start with O'Jerusalem and The Lemon Tree first)
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I have long been searching for a good book on the origins of the arab-israeli conflict, but this is not it. It seemed like a good premise: going back to the origins of the Zionist movement and studying the historical consequences. However, Marcus never rises above the historical insight of a grade school history text. Leaders show up on the scene, but we never understand how they achieved prominence or what their real significance was in creating the situation we have today. I suppose Marcus thought she was being neutral and objective. Maybe she lost sight of her original target as the pages piled up. The result reads like an extended encyclopedia article, devoid of insight, inference, analysis, or even informed speculation. There has to be a powerful story buried under all these dry historical facts. Maybe someday someone will write it.
It certainly filled in some gaps that I had in the history of that time period. The narrative is very well written, and the reader is quite good.
It is sad to think that the current mid-east crisis is now nearly 100 years old, and while she may be off by a year or two in either direction, the turning point in the incident seemed to be when both sides decided that to negotiate some kind of peace was not in their best interest. That that one point in the whole history, deciding they had nothing to talk to each other about could lead to so many deaths and so much suffering sort of points out the Buddhist belief that attachment leads to suffering. Both groups feel some kind of attachment to that particular land, and both groups now thoroughly hate each other.
This would be a good lesson for others to hear and learn from. That avoiding the painful issues when they are new is not always a good thing to do.
-----------------------I would like to add that the inability of Audible to have a decent review system is very disappointing, considering the parent company (Amazon) was one of the early leaders in web sales, and makes you wonder at the ineptitude of the current management.
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