3 Books to Help You Understand Why Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Prompted Protests

On Monday, the United States Embassy was formally moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which prompted mass protests by tens of thousands of Palestinians along the border with Gaza. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were injured. These books contextualize the deep tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and explain the significance of Jerusalem, in particular — the status of which former American administrations had hoped would be resolved in a peace agreement.


Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017
By Ian Black
606 pp. Atlantic Monthly Press. (2018)

Though there are many histories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is perhaps the most up-to-date, and our reviewer wrote that Black “has a gift for summary” and “synopsizes events in sharp, fast paragraphs filled with vivid detail.” He covers the major milestones in the decades-long conflict, including the Six-Day War of 1967 and the first and second Intifadas — Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Black presents a balanced account, relating, for instance, that historically, some Israeli leaders have been empathetic to the Palestinian opposition or the ways in which Palestinian leaders have harmed their cause.


City of Mirrors
By Amos Elon
286 pp. Little, Brown & Company. (1989)

This is a biography of the city that, at the time of Elon’s writing, as well as today, was emblematic of the ongoing conflict. But, Elon writes, in the early days of the Jewish state, its founding fathers were disinterested in Jerusalem; Israel’s first president said, “I would not take the Old City [even] as a gift.” Elon presents Jerusalem as one “enmeshed in its own myth” and for which “there have always been simultaneously held conflicting images.” Despite Elon’s use of metaphor in describing the city, however, our reviewer wrote that he “never feigns indifference to the realities of today,” and realistically explores the effect that violence and cultural resentments have had on the daily lives of its residents.


Notes on a Vanishing Landscape
By Raja Shehadeh
240 pp. Scribner. (2008)

In this book, Shehadeh, a Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist, documents his walks in the West Bank. He structures the chapters around six hikes taken between 1978 and 2006, and captures how the conflict in the region has affected both the landscape and his ability to move freely through the land. During one outing with his 10-year-old nephew, the child picks up an unexploded missile; on another, he and his wife come under prolonged gunfire. Shehadeh won Britain’s Orwell Prize for this work.

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