Book reviews - Conflict Resolution: Wider Middle East.
       

Teen Voices for the Holy Land
(Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007, 221pp.)

The authors introduce their book by writing “During the summer of 2004, we interviewed thirty-four Palestinian and Israeli teenagers. These teens were asked to share various aspects of their ordinary, day-to-day lives and their dreams for the future. We chose to interview young people between the ages of twelve and eighteen as we strongly believe this is an age group that can make a difference in the world…Even after a political solution has been reached, it may still be a matter of generations before demonization of the ‘other’ — Israeli or Palestinian — is replaced by an ongoing process of humanization.”

The interviews are presented in the alphabetical order of the first name of each person, and each interview has one or two photos of the person. There is some ambiguity in the term ‘Palestinian’ as all but two are Israeli Arabs, thus citizens of Israel. However, most live in Arab neighbourhoods and go to schools with mostly Arab children. Family relations play a large role in the lives of these Arab children; often relatives live nearby. Social services such as swimming pools or sports fields are less developed in Arab neighbourhoods. Some go to use ‘Jewish’ facilities, but others feel unwelcomed. Shopping malls seem to be one area for common use.

The book is part of an effort that the authors have created, the Global Oral History Project (GOHIP). “The mission of GOHIP is to foster synergistic relationships between cultural groups who regard each other solely through the lenses of their own dominant narratives. Such narratives most often serve to exclude or marginalize the other group. GOHIP encourages peoples in conflict to comprehend the experiences of those on the other side. Such understanding is not merely cognitive in nature. For peoples to live in peace, they must come to know one another with the whole of themselves…Although a primary audience for this book is young adults, people of all ages can profit from listening to and respecting the narratives of the other.”

I was struck in reading the interviews with how difficult it is to get to know the ‘other’ — how few opportunities there are for interaction, how few speak a common language. As with all interviews, one does not know how representative the views and experiences are. However, there are enough interviews and a fairly wide difference of background to get some picture of the joys and sorrows of youth in Israel. This can be a useful book for reading in secondary school as an introduction to the socio-political problems of the area.

Rene Wadlow