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The Zoo on the Road to Nablus: A Story of Survival from the West Bankby Amelia Thomas
Synopses & Reviews
The last Palestinian zoo stands on a dusty, dead-end street in the once prosperous farming town of Qalqilya, on the very edge of the West Bank.
The zoo's bars are rusting; peacocks wander quiet avenues shaded by broad plane trees; a teenage baboon broods in solitary confinement; walls bear the pockmarks of gunfire. And yet the zoo is an extraordinary place, with a bizarre, troubling and inspiring story to tell. At the center of this story is Dr. Sami Khader, the only zoo veterinarian in the Palestinian territories. Family man, amateur inventor, and dedicated taxidermist, he is fiercely independent, apolitical, and resourceful in times of crisis. Dr. Sami dreams of transforming the zoo into one of an international caliber.
In The Zoo on the Road to Nablus, Amelia Thomas brings the reader into a world rarely glimpsed from the outside, weaving the stories of the zoo's animals, its staff, and its visitors into a rich, colorful chronicle of the indomitability of the human—and animal—spirit.
"This engaging and deftly told book shines a light on a lesser-known victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Palestine's last zoo, located in battle-ravaged Qalqilya, surrounded by Israel. British journalist Thomas recounts a year and a half in the life of the zoo, following zoo veterinarian Dr. Sami Khader's dogged — often futile — attempts to transform a neglected menagerie into an institution of international caliber. An enormously sympathetic portrait emerges of Khader's travails — his grief over the deaths of beloved animals and his struggles to secure funding from a distracted government. Thomas crafts richly detailed depictions of the zoo, and her animal anecdotes are prefaced with meticulous — often tedious — histories of their origins (the introduction to the lion touches upon Charlemagne, Cicero and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). Despite the lengthy historical asides, this book is a unique and fascinating account of one man's persistence and his fierce dedication to his animal friends. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
There were no zoos on the West Bank when I was a teenager growing up in Ramallah in the late 1970s and early 80s. The only zoo I had ever visited was in West Jerusalem. Most animals were kept in pairs, as though Noah had just arrived and emptied his ark. Seeing a lion and a giraffe especially made me happy, but I did not like the zoo because captivity was the reality of my life,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) too. If these animals — most displaced from their homes — had a language that people could understand, I thought they would be asking us all to leave. "Why is my captivity entertaining to you?" they would demand. I felt humiliated by my initial happiness. I did not want to ever visit a zoo again. In "The Zoo on the Road to Nablus," Amelia Thomas tells the story of the Qalqilya zoo, the only public zoo in Palestine, established in 1986. A town of over 40,000, Qalqilya until recently was famous among Palestinians for its fertile groves and its produce, which was distributed throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Now it is an economically ravaged town separated from most of its farm land and the world by razor-wire fences and a concrete wall that encircles it almost completely. And yet this bleak place has a zoo. The reader gets to meet the animal friends of the zoo's extraordinary veterinarian, Sami Khader. Inside this unlikely zoo many unlikely friendships occur. A hyena shares its food with stray cats; a hippo lives peacefully with strutting peacocks; a monkey named Rambo and a cat named Bussi become inseparable. And because of the zoo, Israeli veterinarian Motke Levinson and Khader learned to be friendly with each other, too. "The Zoo on the Road to Nablus" avoids much of the political strife, except when it relates to the animals. Thomas recounts the night when Brownie, the male giraffe, was killed during a raid on Qalqilya by the Israeli army. "As gunshot peppered the zoo's perimeter wall, Brownie lost his footing. He slipped and slammed hard into the shelter doorway. His head cracked against its metal lintel." "The Zoo on the Road to Nablus" is beautifully written and entertaining. And ultimately it is hopeful: The zoo, after all, remains open. Ibtisam Barakat is the author of "Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood." Reviewed by Ibtisam Barakat, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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In a unique zoo in one of the world's most turbulent regions, one man wages a strange and heroic battle for its animals' survival
About the Author
Amelia Thomas is a British journalist, working in the Palestinian Territories and Israel. She is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor ,Middle East Times, Lonely Planet and Egypt Today.
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