As correspondent for Ha'aretz from 1993 to 1996, the author was the only Israeli Jew in permanent residence among the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, then emerging from direct military occupation to its present semi-autonomous status. A daughter of eastern European refugees who raised her "on the epics of resistance, on the struggles of a persecuted people," she writes that to her the move was "normal and logical, ...like any other journalist sent to cover a foreign country," but one that provoked outrage among friends, family and even readers who believed her life to be at risk. Her humane, well-reported, iconoclastic book is filled with the understandings that developed as contacts turned into friends, and she began to share deeply in a life that to most outsiders is defined largely by prejudice and stereotype. She has organized the book topically, using research, interviews and first-person narrative, and she is insightful, even intimate, at every turn, as perhaps only one can be whose own roots lie so close.
I thought this was a remarkable book - for its compassion and for its insight. This is an essential book for anyone who is interested in the Middle East. Hass piles fact upon fact, and observation upon observation, to demonstrate how coldly Palestinians are treated by the government of Israel. Hass makes her case by describing the details of daily life - for instance, that people born in Palestine, before it "became" Israel, live with the constant indignity of having the place of birth on their papers marked .... Israel. I was particularly disturbed by the ironies detailed in the chapters "A Tax on Being Alive" and "We Are from the Same Village." The amazon reviewer comments that this book is unlikely to change minds. I disagree. This book changed my mind and I hope I don't forget the lessons I learnt from it.
For anyone who truly wants to understand the plight of Palestinians - in Gaza in particular, in Israel in general - this is the book to read. Compassionate and brave, the Israeli journalist Amira Hass holds up for examination the 1001 administrative rules which hold Palestinians back from the chance to live with dignity - rules which imprison and control every aspect of their lives. This book was a bestseller in Israel, read and discussed by all who cared about the nature of their developing country. It should be read with attention and admiration in America too.