The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Bashir had never been able to understand how another people’s ancient longing – their wish to return home from a millennial exile – could somehow be equated with the actual life of generations of Palestinians who lived and breathed in the land, who grew food from it, who buried their parents and grandparents in it.  He was skeptical that this longing for Zion had much to do with Israel’s creation, “Israel first came to the imagination of the Western occupying powers for two reasons,” he told Dalia.
“And what are they?” she asked in reply, now feeling her own skepticism grow.
“First, to get rid of you in Europe.  Second, to rule the East through this government and to keep down the whole Arab world.  And then the leaders started remembering the Torah and started to talk about the land of the milk and the honey, and the Promised Land.”
“But there is good reason for this,” Dalia objected.  “And the reason is to protect us from being persecuted in other countries.  To protect us from being slaughtered in cold blood just because we are Jews.  I know the truth, Bashir.”  … “I know that my people were killed, slaughtered, put in gas ovens.  Israel was the only safe place for us.  It was the place where the Jews could finally feel that being a Jew is not a shame!”
“But you are saying that the whole world did this, Dalia.  It is not true.  The Nazis killed the Jews.  And we hate them.  But why should we pay for what they did?  Our people welcomed the Jewish people during the Ottoman Empire.  They came to us running away from the Europeans and we welcomed them with all that we had.  We took care of them.  But now because you want to live in a safe place, other people live in pain.  If we take your family, for example.  You come running from another place.  Where should you stay?  In a house that is owned by someone else?  Will you take the house from them?  And the owners – us – should leave the house and go to another place?  Is it justice that we should be expelled from our cities, our villages, our streets?  We have history here – Lydda, Haifa, Jaffa, al-Ramla.  Many Jews who came here believed they were a people without a land going to a land without people.  That is ignoring the indigenous people of this land.  Their civilization, their history, their heritage, their culture.  And now we are strangers.  Strangers in every place.  Why did this happen, Dalia?  The Zionism did this to you, not just the Palestinians.” (Page 160-161)

To me Zion is an expression of my very ancient longing, for me it’s a word that symbolizes a harbor for my people and our collective expression here.  And for him, it’s a regime of terror.  Something that’s an obligation to fight.  And to resist in every way.  Because for him if Zionism is a reign of terror, then terrorism is an appropriate answer!” (Page 219)

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