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The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Susan Nathan


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Book Description

Sept. 6 2005

In 2003, Susan Nathan moved from her comfortable home in Tel Aviv to Tamra, an Arab town in the northern part of Israel. Nathan had arrived in Israel four years earlier and had taught English and worked with various progressive social organizations. Her desire to help build a just and humane society in Israel took an unexpected turn, however, when she became aware of Israel’s neglected and often oppressed indigenous Arab population. Despite warnings from friends about the dangers she would encounter, Nathan settled in an apartment in Tamra, the only Jew among 25,000 Muslims. There she discovered a division between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs as tangible as the concrete wall and razor-wire fences that surround the Palestinian towns of the West Bank and Gaza.

From her unique vantage point, Nathan examines the history and the present-day political and cultural currents that have created a situation little recognized in the ongoing debates about the future of Israel and the Middle East. With warmth, humor, and compassion, she portrays the daily life of her neighbors, the challenges they encounter, and the hopes they harbor. She introduces Arab leaders fighting against entrenched segregation and discrimination; uncovers the hidden biases that undermine even the most well-intentioned Arab-Jewish peace organizations; and describes the efforts of dedicated individuals who insist that Israeli Arabs must be granted the same rights and privileges as Jewish citizens.

Through her own courageous example, Nathan proves that it is possible for Jews and Arabs to live and work peacefully together. The Other Side of Israel is more than the story of one woman’s journey; it is a road map for crossing a divide created by prejudices and misunderstandings.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (Sept. 6 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385514569
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.9 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #606,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

When she was 16, Nathan, a British Jew living in South Africa, had sex with her aunt's black servant. "Sex between a black man and a white woman in apartheid South Africa," Nathan writes, "was not just a physical act, it was an act of powerful political dissent." Decades later, Nathan would again make a striking political statement with a simple physical gesture: she moved from her home in Tel Aviv and settled in a small Arab town in northern Israel, quietly but clearly renouncing the Zionist philosophy that had facilitated her citizenship in Israel through the Right of Return. Nathan matter-of-factly describes the impossibility of getting furniture delivered or an airline reservation made with an address that doesn't appear in any of the state's databases, although 25,000 Muslims live there. These quotidian details nicely illustrate her critique of Israel as a state that "enforces a system of land apartheid between... two populations," just as South Africa had. It is a shocking comparison, but Nathan goes further, drawing a parallel between the Holocaust and Israel's practices toward its own Arab citizens. Yet, even when throwing down a gauntlet, Nathan's writing is poised, emotionally candid and ultimately empathic to the plight of both groups. The Arabs' displacement mirrors the Jews' wandering, Nathan observes, and before the two groups can coexist peacefully, each must recognize itself in the other. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Almost invisible in the international media, the Arab citizens of Israel have found very few advocates among Israel's Jewish majority. By leaving Tel Aviv and moving into an Arab village, Nathan began the personal transformation that made her one of that small number. Living among Arab Israelis has engendered in Nathan a keen awareness of their fortitude and courage in coping with the adversity imposed by Israeli policies and practices. In Israel's schools and its legislative chamber, on its farms and its job sites, Nathan sees Jewish Israelis denying Arab Israelis equitable treatment, relegating them to second-class citizenship. And, unfortunately, the unmistakable parallels with South African apartheid fail to register even in the minds of Israel's progressive Jews, who insist that Israel's Arabs must surrender their traditional culture before they qualify for equal rights. Such moral myopia, Nathan warns, imperils not only Arab Israelis who lose hope in fighting against it but also Jewish Israelis who risk losing their national heritage by succumbing to it. Nathan's concluding appeal for a truly equitable and inclusive Israel will stir sharp controversy by forcing hard questions. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
63 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A walk on the other side of the railroad tracks. Sept. 22 2005
By OddsyGirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is an incredible look at how non Jews live inside Israel. Even though they are full citizens of Israel, the non Jewish population is treated as second class citizens. Without a constitution, there are no guaranteed civil rights for all citizens.

The author grew up with the story of how Israel was a land without people for a people without land, but after becoming a citizen of Israel through the Law of Return, she has seen how the Zionist movement created their own facts and stories about the creation of Israel. The author decides to move into an Arab village in Northern Israel. The Arab- Israelis believe that she could be a spy and the Jewish-Israelis believe that she has become the enemy.

The most enlightened part of this book is how the author describes the left side of politics within Israel. The lack of freedom of interaction between Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis, even within organizations that were created to foster open interactions, where the Arab-Israelis do not feel that they can truly let their experiences be known because the Jewish-Israelis will not stay and listen and the ever present threat of reprisals. While there are many political movements and human rights groups within Israel, the majority stop just shy of actually doing anything that would make a difference in the treatment and/or status of non-Jewish Israelis.

This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the inner workings of Israel. This book is about the forgotten Palestinians, the ones who stayed during the wars in 1948 and in 1967.
45 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In depth, and realistic March 15 2006
By B. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Susan Nathan does a great job at simply reaching out to the Palestinian population of Israel and lending an ear. Most of the book is not actually her story, but the retelling of the surreal stories of her palestinian neighbors. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the conflict on a sociological level. The Palestinians have a lot to say, and it's about time they were voiced.

In response to the reviewer who gave this book one star, I think you're completely missing the point of what she's trying to say about suicide bombers. Ethics aside, people don't blow themselves up unless it's the best option they've got. If the Palestinians were happy with the way they were treated inside Israel, then I doubt suicide bombing would be a problem at all. What Nathan is saying is that non-arabs look at suicide bombings as the act of crazies, without understanding what drives someone to do such a thing. The Jews in Israel have put the palenstinians on a subordinate level, and so they can easily shrug such violence off as the normal actions of the palestinians. But what would it take for you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow yourself up? How bad would your life have to be for that to be the best option? Palenstinians see suicide bombings as the great equalizer, in the same way that minorities in the Inner-cities in the US choose guns and gangs. Because the Palestinians are constantly being screwed by the system, they feel helpless, and they become irrational. Just notice how suicide bombings get the attention and strike fear in the hearts of Jews. That's what they want, to deliver unto the Jews the same pain that they've been feeling at the hands of the Jews for too long.

The answer isn't to call them crazy, or to accept suicide bombings as normal. The answer is to find out why they feel suicide bombing is an effective solution to their problem, and then fix that problem so there is no need for it. That's what Nathan is trying to say, to look at the bigger picture, because it's all relative. Her last sentences speak to exactly that; we're all the same people, and we all have a sense of rationality, and nobody wants to die. Let's find a way to live in Peace, and then the "crazy" suicide bombers will be out of the job. This isn't a case of one race against another, it's a case of subordinates wanting equality, and the dominants not wanting to give up their power.
39 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about the plight of Palestinians March 6 2006
By W.Q. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book that provides a dramatic and an inside look into the plight of Palestinians. For all the anti-Palestinians out there, this book cannot possibly be considered anti-semitic because it was written by a Jewish immigrant who had her eyes opened to the cruelty of the Israeli occupation.

A must read for anyone who still has any doubt that Palestinians suffer for no reason other than the fact that the racist Zionist regime believes that Palestinians are sub-human and should be pressured through force and inhumane treatment out of their home land.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Side of Israel Dec 28 2005
By S. Morton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book by Susan Nathan, a Jewess who lives amongst Palestinians in Tamrah in northern Galilee, is a must read for any person interested in the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. And a divide there certainly is, but one that could so easily be straddled if there were more people such as Ms Nathan in this world.

Whilst there may be many who might disagree with her, Ms Nathan's grasp of the Israeli socio-political nettle is honest, courageous,hard-hitting and thought-provoking. A person cannot read this book without being unmoved by the tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli divide whether Jewish, Muslim,Christian or any faith.

The fact that Ms Nathan is a voice from within the divide is highly significant. From her birthplace in Britain, to the sunny shores of South Africa and to the beautiful hills of Galilee, The "Other Side of Israel" is undoubtedly a seminal work of personal conscience.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book about Israel Dec 28 2005
By Ms. N. Dowson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An important and very readable book that starts with the author's personal story as a Jew who moved to Israel, believing in the Zionist dream, but fairly soon moved to live with Palestinians (who in Israel are relabelled Israeli Arabs), where she learnt more and more about the oppression of Palestinians within Israel itself - being confined to some parts of the land only and often living in third-world conditions in 'unrecognised villages' next to the westernised cities and kibbutzim. The book moves on to explore the version of history taught by Israel to its children, the parallels with South African apartheid and the various approaches of the Israeli left. A powerful call to face the real history. It is no good, Nathan says, to plant gardens to disguise the ruins of villages razed in 1948 and lament the wrongs only of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. For a real solution to the problems, there needs to be a call for equality of citzenship in Israel itself, and honesty about the systematic dispossession of the Palestinians since 1948.

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