Wednesday Reads – Where the Desert Meets the Sea

This Wednesday Reads is a different kind of book. I hesitated to include this in my reviews because it’s not Christian fiction, but it was so powerful that I definitely thought it was worth mentioning. (And it’s a Kindle Unlimited book!)  As a disclaimer, there are some bad words and one totally unnecessary scene involving a prostitute. (But that scene is short and fades to black pretty quickly.)

desertsea

Where the Desert Meets the Sea by Werner Sonne (yes, this is a translation as the original novel is in German) is a fictionalized account of the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine. I can tell I’ve already lost a lot of you with that, but hold on, lol! It’s a fictionalized account that takes the historically accurate facts, as told by BOTH sides in the conflict, and puts those facts into a story where you come to love all the characters that are caught up in the turmoil. Judith, the concentration camp survivor who joins up with the Zionists. Hana, the Muslim Arab nurse  who sees beyond racial, ethnic, and religious lines. David, the American doctor who has given up his comfortable life in New York to care for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Uri, the Haganah fighter who refuses to give up his piece of Jerusalem. There was no unsympathetic character in this entire book. Even Hana’s jilted fiancé, who is probably the most ruthless character in the book, is someone to be empathized with as he feels such intense frustration and loss as his rights as a Palestinian are diminished, as Jordanian forces enter into the fight, and as he laments that, basically, they don’t care about their Muslim brothers either – they just want a piece of Jerusalem like everyone else. Everyone wants a piece of Jerusalem!

Oh, my heart after reading this, y’all. There’s so much fighting and killing and devastation, and while this is a fictional account, it reflects the reality of what happened in the late 1940s in Israel. There’s a sense of gravity, even as tiny concessions are made between the sides, that peace won’t last because so much is at stake. And no one is truly at fault – they’re all in a bad situation, all of them fighting for a home that belongs to them all, for religious sites that are significant to them, and for peace in a place where there might never be peace.

If you read this book, put aside all of your preconceived thoughts on Israel and Palestine. Put away your biases regarding Jews and Muslims. Read the story for what it is. The last scene sticks out in my mind most of all, as there’s a Jewish wedding. The female character doesn’t see a need to bring in a rabbi because, as she puts it, it’s a new day in Israel and they are no longer constrained by their identity as Jews in a religious sense but in a national sense. Her intended argues with her, telling her that it’s right to have a rabbi to invite God into the marriage, and she tells him, simply put, that God doesn’t care for any of them in Jerusalem any more. The hopelessness of that statement… summed it all up for me.

Well. That makes it sound like this is a downer of a book, huh? And it isn’t a happy little story by any means, but it’s real, it’s deep, and it’s a beneficial read for anyone who wants to view the conflict in Israel with greater understanding and compassion.

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