1. The Almond Tree begins with a death. Why do you think the author chose to open the story with that scene?
2. Why do you think a Jewish American woman would chose to write in the voice of a Palestinian, Muslim male? “Before you judge a person, try to imagine how you would feel if the same things had happened to you.” Do you think the author adopted that philosophy? Did you think she was convincing? Do you think it’s helpful to put yourself in the other’s shoes in conflict resolution? By doing so, do you think theJewish author learned any valuable lessons?
3. Discuss the significance of The Almond Tree. Why do you think the author chose The Almond Tree as the title?
4. This is the story of two brothers. One who lets go of hatred and reaches the height of success and the other who holds onto it and reaches the depths of despair. Why do you think the brothers took different paths? Were they able to reconcile inthe end? What did each brother learn from the other? Ichmad was able to succeed, among other reasons, because he possessed a gift. What happens to those who aren’t as lucky?
5. Which wife do you feel was more appropriate for Ichmad, Nora or Yasmine? Why do you think that Ichmad changed the way he saw Yasmine after she gave birth to his son? Do you think his feelings for Nora were bound to change had she not been killed?
6. Do you think that the Palestinians and the Israelis can find a way to live together in peace? If so, what would need to happen? Could the US help? If so, how? What other peoples have overcome conflict to live together? How have they done so? Do you think that it’s possible to overcome religion, history and politics?
7. What do you think the author hoped to achieve in writing this novel? Do you think she was successful?
8. By taking Baba’s advice of forgetting politics and making something with his life, do you think that Ichmad left people behind? What could he do to help his people at the end of the book? What do you think he should do if anything?
9. Discuss the differences between Ichmad and Abbas. How do the brothers, Ichmad and Abbas, react differently to the tragedies they experience and how do their decisions affect their lives? What about the lives of their children?
10. Discuss the differences between Baba and Mama.
11. Why do you think that adversity makes some break records while it breaks others?
12. The Almond Tree shows humanity at its worse and at its best. Can you give examples to back that up?
13. Do you think that we should celebrate differences and focus on our commonalities or do you think that religious differences are insurmountable?
14. What hopes and dreams does Ichmad have? Has there been a price for his dreams? Who paid the price? Do you think it was worth it?
15. Why do you think that Khaled became a suicide bomber? What were his alternatives?
16. Why do you think that the author portrays Nora and Justice as beautiful and brilliant and Professor Sharon’s first wife as nasty?
17. Why do you think that Professor Sharon was able to be transformed and his first wife wasn’t?
18. Why do you think that the author decided to show that there was a better way and that peace is possible rather than ending on a hopeless note?
19. If at all, how has the story changed how you view the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Were you able to gain any new perspective?
20. How much of the story do you think is fictionalized reality and how much is fiction?
21. “You cannot go back and make a new start, but you can start now and make a new ending” How was Ichmad able to do that?
22. “Hatred is self-punishment. Do you think they’re feeling bad because you hate them?” Do you think it is beneficial to hold onto hate? Is it possible to let go? Who benefits from that? How is it possible to let go?
23. “Many great men can attribute their success to the fact that they didn’t have theadvantages other men had” Can you think of any such men? How were they able to do so?
24. “Courage, I realized, was not the absence of fear: it was the absence of selfishness; putting someone else’s interest before one’s own.” Do you agree with that definition of courage? Which characters demonstrated this definition of courage?
25. “People hate out of fear and ignorance. If they could just get to know the people they hate, and focus on their common interests, they could overcome that hatred.” Do you think that is true? What examples do we see of this in the book?
26. “He looked me directly in the eye. “So you live in America?’
‘We do.’ I smiled.
He stopped, opened his backpack, pulled out an empty tear gas grenade and handed it to me.
‘I believe it was a present from your country.’ Majid smiled. ‘Tell your friends thanks. We got their grenade.” Why do you think the author included that exchange?