“Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits of the Promised,” written by David Shipler is a marvelous book that analyses and dissects the mutual feelings of distrust and hate that are prevalent in Israel and Palestine. The biggest factor, according to Shipler is the extent to which the complete separation of Israelis and Jews fuels perceptions based on the unknown. The book, originally written in 1986 and updated in 2002, certainly deserves the Pulitzer Prize it won, but suffers from the curse of time.
Shipler looks at different themes and tries to objectively present the Palestinian and Israeli views in an attempt to juxtapose the attitudes of both. Shipler generally stays away from the official policies of both Palestine and Israel and prefers to speak with the ordinary people involved. In this way, “Arab and Jew” is more of a sociological work than an analytical political piece or an explanatory history. Indeed, while the brilliance of Shipler’s work is that he gives the reader a look into the lives of Palestinians and Israelis without the biases of politics, the work seems to lack any historical explanation of why his testimonials are given the way they are.
It is precisely this dedication to the political and social zeitgeist of the 1980’s that makes the book brilliant in 1986, but lacking in 2010. The attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians have changed dramatically since 1986: the first and second Intifada and the continued expansion of Jewish settlements as well as 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have colored the perceptions of everyone in the conflict.
[tweetmeme] While the updated version of the book did include a new prologue and epilogue, it still left the reader with a desire for more up-to-date information on the feelings of everyone in the region. Indeed, a more current version of this same book would be a tremendous read.
I enjoyed “Arab and Jew” tremendously and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That being said, Shipler could have tremendously improved his work with a more detailed analysis of the current situation. Yet, overall, the book is touching, amusing, sad and informative and should be passed from reader to reader for years.