NPJ Book Review: Arab and Jew, Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, Rev. & Updated by David K. Shipler


Arab and Jew, Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, Revised & Updated by David K. Shipler (2015)

Some works are read over weeks and not days. This is one of those journeys. It’s a substantial, poignant, disturbing, accessible work that reads like a journal. It’s in the category for which Pulitzers are given and been awarded.

Allow me to begin with the “end,” in which the author asks, “Who is the victim?” Voices are offered on all sides of the issues. What is the story that leads up to such a question?

In a heart wrenching and searing narrative that reads like a diary of people’s intimate lives and the uneasy and complex relationship between diverse cultures of Arabs and Jews, there exists the meaning of among other things, property – land that is viewed as personal, cultural, community and core to a national identity and interlaced with the movement toward nationalism and religious fundamentalism and the search for reconciliation in which any number of Arabs and Jews claim they are the victims. And, it’s actually even more complicated than that where so many lives have been maimed, abused, tortured, misplaced and lost and where the divide between the wealthy and impoverished and the superficial and the deep, grows.

Survival is a writhing struggle even on the simplest levels of daily living.

For a number of people who wish merely to survive and have families in relative peace they are wedded to place with religion/culture secondary. The defense of one’s personal property as seen through one’s own eyes is a multilayered history. It’s personal. And the personal becomes political. The author observes that, “Ethnocentrism and religious arrogance feed a political mood today.” Optimism is in short supply.

This work points toward, in my view, the growing conflicts around the world, where the game of religion, nationalism, purposeful chaos, propaganda, fake news and the undermining of the human will and spirit are at play. But it’s not game. Human dignity is at stake. Morality and ethics have become politicized where any number of politicians and corporations are perceived to act and “perform” in whatever “clothes” they deem fit to wear for their personal best interests and with only token acts of good will to assuage the crowds and masses and to help them feel good about their own lives and feed their own coffers of money and power. So what’s new under the sun?

Illiteracy in all its forms and arrogance/ignorance in all its shapes are siblings.  Where is truth to be found? Perhaps the richness of diversity is part of the answer.

This is an excellent read that stimulates the reader to learn more about the world in which we live and to strive for an optimistic outcome.