By Abdullah Khan.
Before the Zionists came to stake claim on Palestine as ‘a land without people waiting for a people without land’, Palestine was a cosmopolitan, multicultural and multi-religious society with Christians, Muslims and Jews living together peacefully. The creation of Israel in 1948 was the catastrophe for the native Palestinian Christians and Muslims as most of them were either massacred or were forced to flee. Later, in 1967, the Israeli forces occupied whatever was left as the truncated version of Palestine. The interesting part of the story is that despite being the victims of the Israeli atrocities and brutal military occupation, the Palestinians are seen as the antagonist of the Middle East conflict. The pro-Israeli writers and media managers so far have been able to convince the west that the Palestinians are responsible for the violence in the Middle East. But, things are changing fast as manyPalestinians as well as Jewish writers and artists are coming with the Palestinian counter -narratives of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Recently published novel The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is going to be a very significant book for changing the way Americans look at the Israel- Palestine issue. Jewish American Michelle had studied at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. And after spending seven years in Israel, she could know about the Middle Eastern history and was moved by the pathetic conditions of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. And in order to tell the story of Palestinian people to the world, she decided to write this novel. In her own words, she wanted to shine a light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and show that there was a better way. .
Told in the voice of a gifted Palestinian boy called Ichmad Hamid (read Ahmed Hamid), the novel opens with a heart rendering scene of Ichmad’s little sister running after a butterfly when she is blown to pieces as she steps on a landmine planted by the Israeli forces. Later, Ichmad’s father, Baba, who is an incorrigible believer in the idea of peace and non-violence, is jailed by the Israelis when a cache of arms buried by the Palestinian freedom fighters, is discovered in the backyard of their house. Their humble house is also blasted by the Israeli soldiers making them homeless. In absence of their father, Ichmad and his brother, Abbas, have to work as construction workers for Israelis where a fanatic Jew pushes Abbas from scaffolding making him crippled for the rest of his life. Even, after losing everything and even after facing all the possible adversaries in his life, Ichmad doesn’t give up, and continues to pursue his dream to educate himself. And against all constraints, he succeeds. Abbas on the other hand takes a different route and joins a political group which is fighting against the Israeli occupation.
The Almond Tree is a story of the triumph of human spirit. It is also a story of a man’s unshakeable faith in humanism and his refusal to hate someone who has been the cause of his miseries. The story is spell- binding with universal appeal and has potential of becoming an international bestseller and can do for Palestinians what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan. It humanises a culture and brings characters from a distant land to life, with a family united by love but divided by their individual beliefs. From Ichmad Hamid’s traditional mother, to his father, Baba, who believes in the power of education, the crux of the family’s story lies in the growing dispute between two brothers, Ichmad and Abbas, who choose very different paths in order to create a new future.
Finally, the message the author wants to convey through this book is how strong the Palestinians and Israelis could be if they worked together to advance humanity. She also wants to remind the Israelis of what Rabbi Hillel (30BC-10AD), one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era had said two millennia ago. Rabbi Hillel had said, ‘That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.’