From an award-winning journalist, a brave and necessary immersion into the everyday struggles of Palestinian life
Over the past three years, American writer Ben Ehrenreich has been traveling to and living in the West Bank, staying with Palestinian families in its largest cities and its smallest villages. Along the way he has written major stories for American outlets, including a remarkable New York Times Magazine cover story. Now comes the powerful new work that has always been his ultimate goal, The Way to the Spring.
We are familiar with brave journalists who travel to bleak or war-torn places on a mission to listen and understand, to gather the stories of people suffering from extremes of oppression and want: Katherine Boo, Ryszard Kapuściński, Ted Conover, and Philip Gourevitch among them. Palestine is, by any measure, whatever one's politics, one such place. Ruled by the Israeli military, set upon and harassed constantly by Israeli settlers who admit unapologetically to wanting to drive them from the land, forced to negotiate an ever more elaborate and more suffocating series of fences, checkpoints, and barriers that have sundered home from field, home from home, this is a population whose living conditions are unique, and indeed hard to imagine. In a great act of bravery, empathy and understanding, Ben Ehrenreich, by placing us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians and telling their story with surpassing literary power and grace, makes it impossible for us to turn away.
Teeming with heartbreak, irony, and intimate moments of joy, this first nonfiction book from journalist and novelist Ehrenreich (Ether) germinated from his 2013 New York Times Magazine cover story entitled (more provocatively) "Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?" For readers perplexed by the Israel-Palestine conflict, he intersperses his story with crash-course history lessons. But the author's real project is to humanize ordinary Palestinians for Americans, capturing the humiliations and indignities bureaucratic, psychological, and physical that they suffer under occupation; their fear, anger, and frustration; and their families and celebrations. He paints a vivid portrait of life in three locations: the village of Nabi Saleh, where families have been protesting weekly for the right to use a spring that was theirs until Israeli settlers claimed it, and are consistently met with force; the city of Hebron, a puzzle box of checkpoints and segregated zones, and a powder keg of Jewish and Palestinian resentments; and the village of Umm al-Kheir, where a way of life is quietly dying in the shadow of ever-expanding settlements. With a journalist's keen eye for detail and a novelist's ardor for language and its ability to move people, Ehrenreich will incite renewed compassion in his readers.