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.