Either Side of the Divide
By Lydia Aisenberg
Maarechet Publishing House – Kibbutz Dalia, 2016
Paperback, 336 pp.
Available from Givat Haviva
Cost NIS60 ($15). To purchase, call 052 447 5450; or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by Pnina Moed Kass
The clear prose of journalist, Lydia Aisenberg, in this collection of articles and observations of life in Israel, as it is, and as many hope it would be, is an illuminating reading experience. The people Aisenberg describes with incisive clarity, their stories and her encounters, engendered in this reader many pauses. I would stop, hold the book, ponder the narrative I was reading and then with a continuing curiosity, go on.
Using Route 65, the Wadi Ara highway, as the linchpin of these pieces, she describes the rising and falling tide of events that have overwhelmed the Israelis - Jews, Arab Israelis and Palestinians, those that have lived them, from 1998 to June 2014. These are meticulously drawn profiles of lives, and perceptive insights into a particular area and its inhabitants, as in this short excerpt from "Pride and Prejudice in Wadi Ara, November 2010".
It would take some doing these days to find an Israeli flag flying in an Arab Muslim village in Israel. However, in the Wadi Ara village of Arara there are two – and if one knows where to look they are visible, a few meters apart from the heavily congested Route 65 that cuts between the Menashe Hills and Amir mountain range. Around 14,000 Arab citizens of Israel reside in Arara . . . Very few came to the funeral. . . when Yousef's son Sa'id fell in the line of duty, blown up by explosives packed in a tunnel dug by Palestinian terrorists under a sentry box in Rafiah Gaza in December, 2004. Sa'id died alongside four other IDF soldiers, all of whom were Muslims.
The book, with color photographs highlighting Aisenberg's pieces, is beautifully produced. This is the rare book that allows a reader entrance into the lives and events of people who are the heartbeat of today's headlines.
For the reader, the author's choice of a particular geographical area to illuminate aspects of almost a century of problems makes for gripping narratives, easily grasped. As opposed to many of the current books on the Arab-Israel-Palestinian conflict, this is a book with a measured, humane and even-handed approach to the conflict. It is enthusiastically recommended for your own bookshelf and for readers outside Israel.