[Review] “The Lemon Tree” by Sandy Tolan: A House Divided

A House Divided

At it’s core, Sandy Tolan’s work, The Lemon Tree, is a story of an Israeli woman who opened her door to a Palestinian refugee, only the door she opened, used to be his own front door. Tolan uses the narrative structure of their individual stories and their friendship to chronicle a tale of a stone house in the town of Ramla (not to be confused with Ramallah), with a small lemon tree in the backyard. The story he narrates attempts to highlight the similarities between the two peoples as he focuses on a central component of the conflict: where do both people call “home”? From the Kahir family who built the house, to Dalia Eshkenazi, who grew up in the house after fleeing Sofia, Bulgaria in the post-war turmoil, the reader is forced to ask the question- whose home is it? Tolan does a remarkable job (in comparison to wide modern scholarship of the conflict) of showing the Jewish perspective and need for a homeland, while also showing how the Kahir family was forced to flee their home, only to come back and find it occupied. Tolan blends a well-researched narrative of the Kahir and Eshkenazi families with historical accuracy and humanizes the tale of two families in one land, and one house.

 C.F.A. Voysey, late 19th century
C.F.A. Voysey, late 19th century

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