The one major positive thing that I can say for this book is that it’s well-written. It’s well-researched, well-planned out, and makes a very large effort to be well-balanced.
I wasn’t sure about this book, from the title or the cover, but it was probably one of the better books I’ve read about the conflict in the Middle East so far. Beinart approaches the topic from the perspective of American Jews, arguing that what they – and the Israeli government – are doing in Israel/Palestine is hurting their cause and is going to destroy the idea of the Zionist homeland where Jews will be able to live and govern themselves in peace. He specifically links the problems in Israel/Palestine to the American civil rights movement and shows clearly where the Zionist lobby is going wrong and what they need to do to improve.
In this book, Carner gives an extremely intimate look into the lives of Ultra Orthodox Judaism in Israel, something that most of us have never really been exposed to. I learned a lot about Judaism in general from this book, and even more so about the particulars of this very right-wing, conservative branch of the faith.
I’ve read a few YA books already about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notably The Shepherd’s Granddaughter and Where the Streets Had A Name. Both of those, however, were written from the point of view of a Palestinian child; while The Book of Trees is also written from the point of view of a teenager, the narrator (Mia) is a bit of an outsider and an insider all at once (Canadian and Jewish), and not Palestinian. It’s because of her that character I wanted to read this book, thinking it would be nice to read about the conflict from a different perspective.
Joe Sacco’s “graphic novel” – I prefer the term “comic journalism” – is absolutely beautiful and painstakingly crafted to show a behind-the-scenes look at the Occupied Territories, otherwise known as Palestine. I remembered loving this the first time around, and now that I have more background knowledge on the conflict and on the Israeli occupation, I have to say that I enjoyed it more, because I could just give myself up to the reading flow without having to look things up and figure out what names, places, and dates were referring to.