The Lemon Tree

For the most part, I hate modern journalism. It tends to hover around like a flock of vultures waiting for death to happen so that it can swoop down and make a story out of the carnage it finds. In media rooms across the world you can hear the slogan “If it bleeds it leads” being drilled into the minds of correspondents as they hop from one tragic event to the next. This was a struggle I dealt with on a very personal level when I had seriously contemplated going into journalism full time. Eventually I came to the conclusion that at this point in my life I just couldn’t handle the cut-throat journalism that has become the norm.

As I sat and read newspaper headlines from around the world concerning the latest chapter in the Middle East conflict my heart went out to the civilians on both sides who have lived with the threat of war on their doorstep for their entire lives. It just so happened last night that a man named Sandy Tolan, a documentary reporter for NPR, was speaking on his new book called The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East. I debated on whether or not I would attend the live reading of his book. By the time 6:40 rolled around I figured I might as well walk the few blocks to the church he was speaking at (hey, what did I have to lose, it was free!). While waiting for Sandy to arrive I observed what kinds of folks were filing in to hear this man speak on a topic I was very ignorant of. They were almost all white, mostly women and mostly over 40. I don’t know if that has any significance or not but I thought it was an interesting observation. Sandy entered the room, read some passages from his book and then had a question and answer time. Now, I have to tell you that Sandy wrote this book to show a compassionate, humane side to this conflict. He did not write the book in defense of either side but wrote it more to show that both “sides” (Palestinians and Israelis) are made up of human beings who have families and live lives just like the rest of us. He spoke about how each side was trying to dehumanize the other so that their actions could seem justified in the eyes of the world.

So when the floor was opened up for questions I was quite surprised to hear very inhumane, biased and seething remarks coming from the members of the audience. It was almost as if those speaking had not listened to anything Sandy had said for the last 45 minutes. I left the meeting disappointed at the people who came only to share their point of view and not to see potentially see things from a new perspective.

I think Saul Bellow had it right when he said, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance.”


Blogger Carlene said...

It is so sad when the need to hold on to the demonisation of the enemy prevents otherwise caring and compassionate people from seeing that humanity is the victim on both sides. I find this is sadly strongest in church folks. I wonder though if it stems from ingnorance or fear. I know from experience, you can enlighten the ignorant, but it takes so much more to get the fearful to put aside their fears long enough to see that the monster is just another mother, father, brother or sister, just like them.

5:59 PM  

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