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Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel's Separation Barrier. For Fun. [Paperback]

Mark Thomas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 April 2011

'Good fences make good neighbours, but what about bad ones?'

The Israeli barrier is probably the most iconic divider of land since the Berlin Wall. It has been declared illegal under international law and its impact on life in the West Bank has been enormous.

Mark Thomas - as only he could - decided the only way to really get to grips with this huge divide was to use the barrier as a route map, to 'walk the wall', covering the entire distance with little more in his armoury than Kendal Mint Cake and a box of blister plasters.

In the course of his ramble he was tear-gassed, stoned, sunburned, rained on and hailed on and even lost the wall a couple of times. But thankfully he was also welcomed and looked after by Israelis and Palestinians - from farmers and soldiers to smugglers and zookeepers - and finally earned a unique

insight of the real Middle East in all its entrenched and yet life-affirming glory. And all without hardly ever getting arrested!

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091927803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091927806
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"horrifying and hilarious"--Evening Standard

"a terrific, funny read"--ShortList

"blisteringly powerful"--Bruce Dessau

"...a funny, poignant travelogue, underpinned by fine reporting"--Living South Magazine

Book Description

Bestselling author Mark Thomas finds a very British way to try to comprehend the Middle Eastern problem

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, funny, angry 2 May 2011
Mark Thomas is a comedian, an intelligent radical polemicist, British, and a keen rambler. In this book these four elements are brilliantly combined to provide an extremely funny, angry, well articulated, self depreciating, enthusiastic analysis, of the impact of the wall/barrier/fence built by Israel to separate itself from the Palestinians of the West Bank.

At the basic level, the book is a travelogue. Thomas, and his cameraman Phil (the hippy) set out to walk the entire length of the Wall. The initial intention is one of balance, to understand why the Israelis felt it necessary to build the wall and to understand how it has affected the lives of ordinary Palestinians. To achieve this balance the author walks on both sides of the barrier, meeting both Israelis and Palestinians. He is very honest about his own position, having been a long time supporter with the Palestinian cause, he lost sympathy with the suicide bombings of the second intifada, but then regained it with the Israeli white phosphorus bombing of Gaza.

Here, while trying to be equitable, the differences between the economic position of the two communities and their treatment by the Israeli authorities quickly fuel Thomas's anger, as does the fact that the barrier does not stand between Israel and the West Bank, but takes in around 10% of formerly Palestinian land on which settlements have been built. Thus we see Israeli settlers living in luxurious estates while Palestinians queue for hours to cross the border for work, Israelis in swimming pools while Palestinian children walk to school through sewage filled tunnels, or past rock throwing settlers.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's very good. Indeed. 15 May 2011
The nature of Mark's task, that is, to walk the length of the Israeli separation fence/wall/barrier/whatthef**kismandoingtohisneighbournow?metaphor, gives this book a compelling drive that really keeps the pages turning. Along the way and deftly balanced, there are jaw dropping moments of unfairness, injustice and intolerance, all that you can expect from a Mark Thomas book. However here, Mark has beautifully honed his skill at drawing for us the individuals he meets; with few strokes of detail, he conjures the truth (as he sees it) of the person in front of him, bringing them alive with a perceptive and highly entertaining, light touch. Likewise, the rambler and the poet in him is a welcome 'Yin' to the political 'Yang'; his descriptions of the terrain, the wildlife, the villages and vistas, make the country as tangible as it's people. There is a moment, after a particularly difficult day, when he and his companions find respite in a tea shop. After some top, understated prose, Mark writes, "This is the best tea room in the world" - and suddenly man's beauty and humanity is restored. It's this sensitivity to his environment, along with the engine of the journey itself that engaged me even more than in Mark's previous books. Highly recommended; I learned a lot, laughed a lot and got angry. What more could you want?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extreme Rambling 9 Sep 2011
By Dints
Excellent book (and excellent show by the author at Lowry Theatre in Manchester). Not only a good read, but tells it how it is, managing to add humour to what is, for the Palestinians, a nightmare situation. We have been four times to Palestine (West Bank) and seen the wall appear and grow and we know all about it. anyone who hasn't been will learn a lot from this book - and enjoy reading it. Essential if you want to know more about the tragedy imposed on Palestinians by a race of people who, from their own experiences should know better.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A light read of a heavy topic 23 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoy Mark Thomas's ability to treat serious issues with a twist of humour that enables people who wouldn't read a more heavyweight book (or watch TV programme) to become familiar with an issue. This book is no exception and it would be nice to see him write more.

In this book, Mark and his cameraman take a walk round Israel's illegal Separation Barrier, walking on both sides of the wall, with locals as guides, hosts and conversationalists. It's a moving, funny and witty description of the difficulties 'ordinary' people living by the wall have in trying to live their lives with a wall impinging on their life. His bewilderment at how some Israelis can justify the mistreatment of the Palestinians in the name of security is hauntingly genuine.

If you know very little about the situation in Israel, this is a good place to start; if you consider yourself to have a good understanding this provides a humane portrait of the reality; a light read of a heavy topic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking stuff - I was gripped! 14 July 2011
I've long been a fan of Mark Thomas's brand of comedy and was keen to find out how he would spin such a complex and involved issue as this into an amusing travelogue. The politics and history of the region and the Wall were explained in a logical and efficient way, and the inclusion of the interviews and interactions with people on both sides of the divide helped to flesh this out and add a human element. I learned a great deal about this issue without feeling that I was being preached to, and Thomas does frequently flag up his own views and beliefs but does not force them onto the reader. The reader is very much left to draw their own conclusions without being lectured and the humour really helps to ensure that this is still a travelogue and story of the journey that Thomas and his companions made. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend to others who may have an interest in the Middle East situation or just really enjoy a good travel story. An engaging and amusing read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the insights it gave me into how life really is for those on either side of Israel's 'security' wall. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Keen Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was left with admiration for him having undertaken this project and with a feeling of outrage at the continuing unresolved situation.
Published 4 months ago by BYH46
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction to the Middle East question
for people who know nothing about it and always just wondered why they can't just share it. It is remarkably un-preachy and shows the every day side of a conflict for the people... Read more
Published 5 months ago by daoldcoach
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny in parts but flawed
I'm generally a fan of Mark Thomas's antics on TV, but my initial reaction was to give this book just 2.5 stars out of five. That was not possible, so I've rounded it up to three. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ivorf
4.0 out of 5 stars One-sided but entertaining
Plucky nation, surrounded by enemies on all sides, in response to a horrific wave of suicide bomb attacks, builds a separation barrier. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Tim
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Its a frustrating location but Mark struggles through. Its a well researched book (plenty of links to the sources used) mostly of journalism with a dash of humour.
Published 13 months ago by Luvlysmiler
4.0 out of 5 stars A long walk story with a difference
Mark Thomas set himself a challenging task in walking the full length Israel's separation barrier, both physically and politically. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Kit Walkham
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I am a fan of Mark's and this was the first time I've read one of his books. What a great writer he is too! Highly descriptive with some acute and well written observations. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jonathan Nicholas - Author
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, intelligently written ski-slope of a book
Another excellent book by Mark. Thought provoking, entertaining and although not as laugh out loud funny (in the usual, knuckle-gnawing fashion) as his other books, well worth a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Phil
5.0 out of 5 stars Top stuff!
An excellent take on the Palestine/Israel barrier/wall/fence. Thomas makes it all very interesting (and humourous) whilst giving the politics a proper sense of perspective. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Stevo
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