In The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan follows the lives of two people, an Arab and a Jew, who lived in the same house in Palestine/Israel – the Arab before 1948 and the Jew after. These people met in real life in 1967 and continued to interact, write, and see each other over the years up to the 2000s. They had hard discussions with each other over how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be resolved, and continued to stay in interaction with each other despite being on opposite sides of the issue.
Tolan does a good job presenting these two people’s story, and their story itself is one of hope, although it does not have a nice happy ending (clearly, since the conflict is ongoing). However, I felt that he spent far too many pages describing the historical context in great detail. I understand that some historical context is necessary to understand the story being told, but I think it could have been done much more succinctly. I found these sections boring and I skimmed some of them in order to get back to Dalia and Bashir’s story.
Overall the book is interesting, but not compelling. I did not come away from it with any new insights into this conflict – although perhaps that is because I am not the target audience, since I already believe that humanizing the other is the only way to move forward in an intractable conflict. I mildly recommend the book but cannot give it a strong recommendation.