Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman

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“When laws are irrational, and paranoia is rampant, and ancient hatreds undergird both, life becomes a series of frustrations and humiliations, and humiliated people are either broken spiritless or, with nothing to lose, are driven to acts of violent desperation. The young people tasked with enforcing these dehumanizing laws and regulations become, too,  less human- they become callous, irrational, finding perverse pleasure in the willful exercise of power.”  

As someone that grew up in America, I can’t begin to scratch the surface of understanding the conflict between Israel and Palestine. That former Israeli soldiers break their silence, speaking up about injustices they witnessed while serving in occupied territories is nothing short of moving and of vital importance in understanding what is going on. I had to read these stories in spurts because it was too disturbing, and how lucky for me that I can remove myself, unlike the people living under occupation. The closest I have come to understanding how occupation affects people is through my own father and his family, who fled communism. What happens when you’re on the land that is occupied, simply by the happenstance of your birth and the world doesn’t listen, or if they do, doesn’t seem to be able to change much? How do we get to the point where we dehumanize each other? At the heart of all human beings, we want to build families, to see our children educated, healthy… simply to thrive, to worship as we see fit and yet, we deny others that human right.

I was shocked, nothing short of shocked and horrified by what I read. It truly is grim, and who better to give voice than those living within’ the chaos? I felt numb, but I feel it’s vital to try and listen to people, to understand, to open our eyes. What good are words if we cannot speak them, our stories are witness to all human experience, there isn’t a story in the world that doesn’t have something to teach us about ourselves, and each other. That on both sides there are people that want peace, that see the wrong and are willing to stand up for what they believe is right gives me hope for humanity as a whole. There was so much I didn’t know, and putting myself, my family in the stories of the people within,  I spent quite a few sleepless nights  wondering how do they survive? Resilience is a necessity, one even children seem to have. Children for me is always the gut punch, I had to catch my breath at times. I don’t want to dissect any of the essays in this collection, I feel people need to experience what they read in their own way. I am reeling, and wondering what is the answer? What can be done? What role does the Western World have in all of this? It’s an incredibly detailed insight into the occupation. In The End Of Reason by Eimear McBride, this really stood out to me. ‘But “I don’t need your tears” a woman in Nabi Saleh said, after I’d watched a home video of one of her relatives dying horribly, bloodily, from a tear gas canister being fired in his face. And it’s true, the emotion of well meaning outsiders like me is of no worth.” It’s something that can be applied to so much of the world, what good are tears? It won’t fix anything.  This is heavy reading, it weighs on me still though I am a fast reader, I found myself at times needing a break, luckily for someone far removed from the realities others live with I could put the reading down and tune out.  Writers that contributed to Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Colum McCann, Jacqueline Woodson, Colm Toibin, Geraldine Brooks, Dave Eggers, Hari Kunzru, Raja Shehadeh, Mario Vargas Llosa and Assaf Gavron,  editors Chabon and Waldman  

Publication Date May 30, 2017

Harper Perennial

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