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Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israelby David Grossman
Synopses & Reviews
The Yellow Wind, David Grossman's firsthand inquiry into the predicament of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, was an international sensation in 1987; Nadine Gordimer called it "a revelation of the Israeli-Arab tragedy...a work by a writer of passionate self-honesty, unafraid to ask terrible questions". Now, in Sleeping on a Wire, Grossman brings into the open the perilous balancing act of the "Arabs of '48", those Palestinians who live as citizens within Israel's borders.
Fully eighteen percent of Israelis are Arab; indeed, some areas of the Galilee and the south are almost entirely populated by Arabs. The intifadah has given these individuals a renewed awareness of their identity as Palestinians, yet their acquiescence in Israel's sovereignty sets them apart from their cousins over the Green Line. Who are the compatriots of a Palestinian Arab who is also an Israeli citizen? His or her fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are embroiled in an uprising that both hope will result in an independent state - a solution, however, that takes no notice of the Israeli Arab's situation. With Jewish Israelis, on the other hand, Palestinian Israelis share national elections, a plumbing system, welfare and social security and medical insurance, but the majority's insistence that Israel is the Jewish State and the national homeland for the Jews of the world leads inevitably to the discrimination that makes Palestinian Israelis second-class citizens in their own place.
Grossman has recorded conversations among Israeli Arabs as well as their encounters with other Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, letting them articulate their own tortuous search for some third way. He bringsus Muslim fundamentalists who have energetically taken to municipal politics as a route to virtual self-rule; displaced villagers who plead for official recognition of their new settlements; intellectuals like the novelist Anton Shammas who, claiming all equal right to Israeli citizenship and the Hebrew language, demand the "de-judaization" of both; and inspired - and frustrating - dialogues between Jews and Arabs yearning for peace yet still locked into intractable positions. These fascinating confrontations, interspersed with Grossman's own uniquely perceptive commentary, present painful dilemmas which both Palestinian and Israeli establishments have yet to face, but the answers to them may be pivotal in the search for an enduring peace in the Middle East. Once again, Grossman is asking the new and unsettling questions that go straight to the heart of the Israeli paradox.
"What sets this book apart from others about the Palestinians are the harsh questions Israeli journalist-novelist Grossman asks and the blunt answers he elicits." Publishers Weekly
?Eloquent...gives voice to a community that rarely makes itself heard outside Israel and is largely ignored within that country...An old Yiddish saying maintains that it?s hard to be a Jew. Recent history has also taught us that it?s hard to be a Palestinian. But to be a Palestinian in a Jewish state seems the very definition of being caught between the rock and the hard place.? The Philadelphia Inquirer
?David Grossman is a brilliant and passionately honest young Israeli novelist whose clarity of vision and sensitivity to language inform his work as a political commentator.? San Francisco Chronicle
Torn between conflicting identities — Arabs in the eyes of Jews, and Israelis in the eyes of the Palestinians — the Israeli Arabs live in a painful dilemma. Grossman's account of his personal journey into their world is the story of this painful, convoluted state of affairs, about ferment beneath the surface, and an intensifying bitterness that led to the current open conflict.
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