In this brilliant book “The Lemon Tree” that takes place in 1967, a Palestinian man named Bashir Al-Khayri returned to Israel to see the old stone house he and his family had left behind 19 years earlier. To his surprise, he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a college student.
Despite their different backgrounds, they formed an unlikely friendship that endured over the next 35 years.
The book, based on extensive research and a documentary aired on NPR, brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a human level. It tells the story of hope and reconciliation amidst the challenging political realities. The narrative is humane, literate, and dares to suggest that the future of the Middle East doesn’t have to be violent.
The central symbol of the story is a lemon tree in a town claimed by both Arabs and Jews. The tree, planted by a Palestinian family and later cared for by a Bulgarian family, becomes a powerful metaphor for peace in contested territory.
The author, Sandy Tolan, skillfully reconstructs the histories and stories of both families, highlighting their displacements, losses, and the impact of war.
The narrative begins with the aftermath of the Six Day War, when three Palestinian men visit their former homes. Only Dalia Eshkenazi, a young Israeli woman, allows them inside her house, sparking an unexpected friendship.
The story unfolds through various timelines, portraying the evolving relationship between Dalia and Bashir, despite their increasing differences in views.
The book culminates with a return to the lemon tree, symbolising the potential for reconciliation. Tolan’s narrative is sensitive and fair-minded, presenting a touching story of an unlikely truce between Palestinians and Israelis.
Overall, “The Lemon Tree” offers a hopeful perspective on the possibility of peace in a conflicted region.
Ahmad Nazir is a UAE based freelance writer