Monday, February 11, 2008

O Jerusalem - Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre

Most people would have heard of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the same time, a vast majority of the same people would have little or no knowledge of the background of the conflict; or of the history of the region of the region at the time of the founding of Israel in 1948. The conflict has split people so widely that it is hard to find people who do not have a bias on the subject. The same is true of people who have written on the topic. In the midst of all this, to find a book that details the history of the region in a relatively unbiased way is difficult. This book is a very close approximation of the detailing of the history of that region that seeks to present history without too much bias.

O Jerusalem by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins
Jerusalem is without doubt the most disputed territory in the world, and still at the center of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even now, most Islam inspired terrorists consider the cause of Jerusalem to be central to the conflict. Jerusalem is the holiest of holies for Jews, the site of the destructed Second Temple (and the remaining Western Wall from that temple); in addition, the same complex contains the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims (said to house the rock from which the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven on his horse along with the archangel Gabriel); to round off the religious significances, Jerusalem also contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the grounds that are venerated as the place where Jesus was said to have been crucified and buried. It is not hard to imagine why the city of Jerusalem has always been a much sought over city.
To write a book about such a place is not easy. Such a book will be reviewed very critically, examined for bias, and every historical fact mentioned checked. To ensure that they did a good job, the authors, Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, spent 5 years of research, checking historical documents and records. The overall aim was to write a book that aims to provide details of the facts and circumstances surrounding the creation of the state of Israel - to that extent, the book presents details of all the chief players of that time - the Arabs, the British who had the mandate of the region of Palestine, and the various players on the Jewish side (simple soldiers, religious leaders, the leaders (David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir), as well as the various organizations on the Jewish side (Hagannah, Irgun, Stern)).
The book itself starts from the time when the United Nations (in 1947) voted to partition the British mandate of Palestine into 2 parts - one to be the state of the Jews called Israel, and the other to be a Palestine state. However, both sides knew that this was not the end, there would be a war; and both sides prepared for war. So, for example, Israel sent its men abroad to buy arms and needed to setup an army and air force that could hold up its own against the might of its Arab neighbors. Similarly, the Arabs went to buy arms, and also worked at ensuring that all the constituents of the Arab side worked together. As the end of the mandate came closer, war became more imminent. It was also an intelligence war, something that Israel eventually won and won the entire battle (the Israeli objective was to retain their homeland, and they managed to do so). One consequence of the battle was to create a huge number of Palestinian refugees, the problem of which is a major impediment to any peaceful solution even now.

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