Saturday, March 14, 2009

Review of From Beirut to Jerusalem

I saw this book on my friend Elie's night table when I was visiting her in San Francisco at the end of January, and was inspired to pick it up. I found a copy in the SF airport and got through the first 100 pages on my flight to Vancouver. It took me until last week to get through the remaining 470, not because the book wasn't good, but because I made sure to read it slowly enough to maximize my comprehension.

From Beirut to Jerusalem is Thomas Friedman's "take" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He worked as a reporter in Beirut from 1979-1984 and then moved to Jerusalem, where he worked from 1984-1989. The book is written in two parts corresponding to these times and locations.

As someone who really did not know any of the history (except in broad brushstrokes), this book was a fantastic read. He describes the history, relationships, and personalities of all of the major players in the conflict, and for the first time I found myself understanding more than just the basics of this very complicated issue. It's a very well-written book, and the combination of historical facts peppered by his personal experiences and relationships because of his time living there kept it from being dull or too hard to understand.

For the most part, I don't agree with Thomas Friedman's views, especially on Iraq or the economy -- he always seems like too much of a Hawk to me. But his take on the conflict in the Middle East as he writes it in this book was something I found myself nodding my head to. Not only was he more 'dovish' than 'hawkish', but his sense of compassion really comes through.

There were several passages that resonated for me in this book, but I am going to end the review with the one that I liked the most:

"The Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once remarked that if you ask a man how much is 2 plus 2 and he tells you 5, that is a mistake. But if you ask a man how much is 2 plus 2 and he tells you 97, that is no longer a mistake. The man you are talking with is operating with a wholly different logic from your own."


1 comment:

Buzby said...

Great review. What has happened to War and Peace? Are you still on track to finish it?