Geography 171: Geography of the Developing World.
In The Lemon Tree, Tolan tells the story of two interconnected families in the contested territories of Palestine and Israel. A great deal of the stories illustrates the specific and idiosyncratic relationship between two members of these families, Bashir Khairi, and Dalia Eshkenazi, that began in 1967 and lasted for decades after that. Tolan managed to tell this tragic and poetic story while leveraging it to explain the larger context it took place in and could not exist outside of. As he explains, "By juxtaposing and joining the histories of two families [he hoped] to help build an understanding of the reality and the history of two peoples on the same land."1 This story includes the usual focus on differences of opinion and history between Israelis and Palestinians, but it balances it with an acknowledgment of both their historical and twenty- first-century similarities.
Prior to the direct and widespread conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, which began in the mid-twentieth century, both groups had experienced oppression and violence. Arabs in what became Palestine had lived under the rule of Ottoman Turks for four centuries. Many suffered and died during an Arab revolt that was launched against the Turks, with the assistance of the United Kingdom and France, during World War One. After this period, the Arabs who had been promised British support of their independence movement learned that the British had also committed to carving out a homeland for Jews in this region. Arabs eventually revolted against British rule in the 1930s, leading to more suffering amongst both parties. It was during this period that the Palestinian Arabs' and the Khairi family's stories converge right around the time when hatred of the British begins to decline and specific Palestinian-Israeli animosity ramps up. The full context can be best understood by reviewing the history that led to this a second time, this time with a focus on the Jews that would come to live in this contested area.