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 had unintentionally covered many of the different and thoroughly paradoxical aspects of life in Palestine.
I had successfully and 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.
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 remarkable story of Hope Flowers School;
the tricky and paradoxical aspects of life under occupation;
humans and how we deal with challenging situations.
Most of the chapters are quite short, so you can read the book in bed or on the bus or the train, and you can dip into it anywhere. You don't even need to be specifically interested in Palestine, for this book is a good read.
I wrote it 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. It's for people who don't understand what it's all about and why it just keeps going on and on.
It's 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 is achieved here it will be infectious - the world is waiting for Israel and Palestine is waiting for the world.