Having just read David Grossman's Someone to Run With, I was excited to see the release of To the End of the Land. There is so much in this book that tries to give a picture of life in Israel/Palestine.
Some of the characters that Grossman does this through are Sami, Ora, Ilan and their two sons Adam and Ofer.
Sami the Israeli Arab taxi driver who over the years has become the only driver Ora the Israeli Jew will have, and who has done them many favours like driving for the family at short notice, and late at night, and having to suffer the humilities of the road block checks along the way, who is, in Ora's words 'like part of the family' suddenly becomes fleshed out during her request that he drive Ora and her son to 'the meetery' (the meeting place for the battalions that will invade Gaza) as Ora's son joins the call-up. As they travel the long journey to the meeting point having no option but to travel with the military convoy. Grossman takes a hard look at Sami and what he must be feeling, and how 'being almost part of the family' is Ora's view but not his felt reality - for the power relations of Jewish Isreali and Muslim Arab Israeli are starkly shown. Particularly moving is the time when he has to take a sick boy to South Tel Aviv for treatment. The boy is dressed in Ora's sons hand me down clothes including and Israeli t-shirt to disguise the fact that he is an illegal immigrant from The Occupied Territories, and Sami is forced to take him to an underground "hospital" which at night occupies a school in total secrecy, and in almost darkness lest they alert people to their presence, it opperates with one or two doctors and little medicine. A parallel world. As Sami says, he and his freiends often talk about how Isreali Jews can on one hand search him down to his underwear one moment, and then give them the keys to their schools and precious places at night. Although Ora realises her mistake at making Sami take her son to the call up, realises how hard it must be for Sami, she is nevertheless scadalized by his using her as cover to take the boy for treatment and one senses that it is a very dangerous act for both Sami and Ora, especially as it is the night of the call-up for going in to Gaza, and every Arab is treated with suspicion, and that Jews thought to be helping Arabs is also intolerable to the State of Israel. But she had begged him to make the trip to Tel Aviv for her own purpose, at night, and then exacts her price for Sami's act of taking the boy with them.
Taking her ex lover to walk the Galilee - Jerusalem Trail is an act of survival against the possibility that her son will be killed in Gaza. Not being home and simply waiting, passively, for the Notifiers to come and tell her he's dead, and taking Avram, her once dear friend and lover is a huge thing to accomplish because since his terrible torture as a POW in Egypt he has cut out his old life which included Ora, and her husband Ilan his once best friend. Avram now lives through a haze of legal drugs that he uses to knock himself out and escape the trauma of his torture, and in severe self neglect.
Ora feels that the way to keep her son alive is by talking about his life with Avram. It was another way in to show the surrealism and reality of trying to live a normal family life in Israel/Palestine, and the realities of rearing boys and girls that will, still so young, operate the Occupation, the road blocks, the wars and the capture of Palestinians deemed dangerous to the State of Israel. With huge mistrust and dislike and hatreds on both sides. The son's own part in an abuse of a Palestinian man in an army opperation for which he was not trained and Ora's crisis that a son of hers could have been involved.
I was completely drawn in to the story, and it gave me a rare insight in to what it means to be human in this type of situation. And I felt at the end of the book that I really had no idea where this ongoing tragedy in that area of the world will end up. I am grateful to DG for bring this human element so strongly to the fore, because prior to that I was very firmly in the Palestinian camp of supporters. But now it seems more complicated than ever, and he shows us how much damage has been done since 1948 with the birth of the State of Israel to peoples that in so many ways are so similar.