Pictures of Palestine
I've worked in the book trade for much of my life. One day, a publisher asked me to write a book about the Israel-Palestine conflict. "No chance", said I, "It's far too complex to cover in one book, and I don't want to take it on". So I didn't do it. Then some years passed.
In 2009 I went on one of my trips to Palestine and, to keep friends in touch, I wrote a blog. It all went surprisingly well - better than I expected.
After two months, Jo Buchanan, a friend in Australia, e-mailed me to say, "Palden, this is really good - can't you make it into a book?". After two days dwelling on it I realised that, yes, it would make a good book.
The remarkable thing was this: when writing a blog, you generally write whatever comes up on that day, and over the three months I found I had unintentionally covered many of the different aspects of life in Palestine.
I had unwittingly achieved an all-round summation of the Palestine situation in an easy-reading way, covering most aspects of the conflict and suggesting some solutions.
So, when I returned to Britain, I re-edited the blog, added some bits, drew maps, sorted out photos and it became this book. Later I did the same with two further blogs I wrote in 2011-12, which became Blogging in Bethlehem and O Little Town of Bethlehem - Christmas in God's Holy Land.
There are various threads running through Pictures of Palestine. It's about:
- life in the West Bank, particularly in Bethlehem;
- personal experiences working as a humanitarian;
- history and geopolitical issues;
- the story of Hope Flowers School;
- the tricky aspects of life under occupation;
- humans and how we deal with adversity.
Most chapters are quite short, so you can read the book in bed, on the bus or the train, dipping into it anywhere. You don't even need to be specifically interested in Palestine, for this book reads a bit like a travel book.
About the Trilogy
You don't have to read all of them, and only one, Pictures of Palestine, is in printed form. But if one of the books interests you, the others will too.
I wrote these books for people like you, who think about the state of the world, who have had Palestine hovering in the periphery of your life for a long time. They are for people who don't understand what it's all about and why it just keeps going on and on.
They're for you who have been concerned about the kids in the streets throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, about people under occupation with tanks rolling past their houses and bulldozers demolishing them, about apartheid and separation walls, and about the role that other countries play in keeping it all going - particularly America, Europe and the neighbouring Arab states.
Palestine and Israel are a bipolar, high-pressure bubble of conflicting certainties and claims on the same small piece of land. They're a microcosm of the wider world and many of its issues. If peace arrives here it will be infectious - the world is waiting for Israel, and Palestine awaits the world.
Blogging in Bethlehem
This is about a one-month visit I made to Bethlehem in 2011 to help solve a specific problem at the school. It tells also of other adventures, visiting Tuwani, Yatta, Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, and of women's empowerment courses, meditating in the Ibrahimi Mosque, shedding tears in an ancient church, peacebuilding encounters and scenes on the streets of Bethlehem. It's shorter than the other two books.
O Little Town of Bethlehem - Christmas in God's Holy Land
This is for readers who have enjoyed either or the first two books, though not the best to start on. It's longer too, since it covers a five-month tour of duty in Palestine. It's a wintertime tale, including witnessing the triple Christmas in Bethlehem (Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian) and the pilgrimage crowds that visit for it. More about Tuwani and Yatta, about snowball fights, settler incursions, peace meetings, a trip to the Sinai Desert in Egypt, and the fluxing fortunes of friends and colleagues in Palestine. Two versions are available, text only (a smaller download) and with pictures (bigger download) - get them here.