Let me preface this review by saying I am Jewish and planning a trip to Israel. I want to read material that will help me understand the Palestinian and Jewish sides of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. I don’t like reading heavy historical nonfiction books so historical fiction is my choice.
I have just finished reading Matt Beynon Rees’ second mystery/thriller, A Grave in Gaza (ISBN 978-0547086255, trade paper, $13.95 retail, Mariner Books). Rees has also written a history chapter for Lonely Planet’s book on Israel.
The book is based on actual events according to the author. This is not for the faint of heart. I can tell you that Rees’ descriptions will put you in Palestinian refugee camps and prisons and in Gaza in the middle of a multi-day sandstorm. I can still taste the sand in my mouth from the sandstorm, and I wasn’t there. Omar Yussef, a mid-fifties history teacher and school administrator of a UN-run girls’ school in Bethlehem (Palestine) and UN employee, is on a tour to inspect schools in the Gaza Strip. Yussef and his two friends find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between three or four different Palestinian/Gazan militant groups. There is murder and mayhem galore and gory to boot.
Rees paints a bleak picture of Palestinian life in today’s world. Omar tries his best not to be negative in his feelings but sometimes the adversity overwhelms even his optimism. He continually tries to see the good in people but the “bad guys” are REALLY BAD. Even academics!
Welsh-born Rees lives in Jerusalem where he had been Time Magazine’s Bureau Chief for many years. His first book, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, was also published in trade paper by Mariner.
I urge you to read these books, not necessarily in sequence, to get a picture from the Palestinian point of view. It is eye-opening to say the least.