The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small

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The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rachel Holmes
Reviewed by Rachel Holmes
Summary: An honest, humble account of Matthew Small's visit to Israel and the West Bank as he attempts to find out about the complexities surrounding the conflict between Israel and Palestine and what, if anything, can be done to create peace. Immersed within the lives of ordinary people, Small gives a fresh, emotional perspective on the struggles they suffer on a daily basis.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: October 2014
Publisher: {{{publisher}}}
ISBN: 978-1-910266-30-4

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In this personal account of his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Small journals his time spent with people he meets along the way and attempts to make sense of the conflict that has dominated this area for many years. Small openly admits the issue there is not a simple one and his visit reinforces the fact that there are many complexities preventing peace from happening.

Small begins by giving a brief history of the conflict, dating back to 1948, shortly after the end of World War II when the Zionists declared the existence of the independent State of Israel, resulting in 700,000 Palestinians having to leave their home due to the occupation. In the years since then, war and violence have remained over the occupation of the land. Honest and genuine, Small then goes on to state his mission is to find some answers as to why the conflict still exists to this day.

What is really refreshing about this book is the way Small writes from a very personal perspective, often admitting in his diary entries that he's unsure what to write or how he feels about the situation. His emotion surrounding his visit and the people living amongst the occupation every day is portrayed in a gritty, raw way and there's a real sense that Small is often at a loss and out of his depth at the situation. This is particularly prevalent when he documents his time spent with Palestinian farmers and their families, picking olives whilst being watched by Israeli soldiers. He also describes how upset he became when he realised Israeli children are programmed to avoid Palestinians because of the fear instilled in the generations before them.

Along with the diary entries, Small has added a selection of photographs from his visit, showing families he's met along the way as well as signs of the occupation such as barriers and abandoned towns; images never portrayed by the media. Another aspect I thought added a unique element was Small's interview with a spokesperson from the Engaged Dharma organisation, which he conducted online after his visit to the area. Primarily documenting an issue where the Israeli Environment Minister had ordered the uprooting of a large number of trees, therefore threatening the livelihood of Palestinian farmers, this interview shows Small's genuine concern and interest in the situation and his desire to raise awareness to maybe, one day, help restore peace.

Whilst not rife with information and facts surrounding the occupation, this book serves more as a story of a snapshot of life in the area, showing the daily struggles of ordinary people that the media fail to report. Although Small starts out attempting to be objective towards the situation, his experiences do sway his opinion, resulting in empathy towards the ordinary Palestinian people, struggling to get by in their daily lives because of the restrictions and control put upon them. That is not to say he doesn't look at the problems from other angles, in fact, he is very conscious of this throughout. However, this is what makes the book stand out for me; the honesty and humanity that the author is not afraid of expressing in his account and the realisation of how lucky we are to not have to endure this level of suffering whilst trying to survive day to day. But most of all, it's the realisation that we, as a human race, as an international society, as friends and neighbours, are all equally to blame and therefore all hold responsibility of taking steps to help restore peace.

Many thanks to PaperBooks for this copy.

For a detailed history of Palestine pre-World War II read A Senseless Squalid War: Voices From Palestine 1890s - 1948 by Norman Rose

For another honest, compelling account of life in Palestine read Palestinian Walks: Notes from a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh

Buy The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wall Between Us by Matthew Small at Amazon.com.


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