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on 24 March 2013
To write a book about the situation in Palestine is to risk either the blank wall of silence, or that heated response that subverts any calm and open-minded consideration of the issue itself. This parallels the physical obstacles that have been placed in the way of the outside world appreciating what is actually taking place there, what has been taking place now for decades, the purposeful dispossession and demoralization of the Palestinian people. It is perhaps not surprising that it was Dervla Murphy, the bold and prolific octogenarian travel writer from Ireland, who should have pushed through the gap in the blockade of Gaza opened up by the revolution in Egypt in June 2011. She provides us with an extraordinarily honest and balanced account of her time in an isolated corner of the world that we have colluded in reducing to a miserable prison, but about which we have had so little reliable information for years. Her narrative is not 'balanced' in the BBC sense of suppressing one's moral sense or political intelligence in a vain attempt not to offend the powerful. The position from which she writes will offend many. But their offence has to be borne, and the convictions that lie behind such offence challenged, if we are to come to terms with what we - Britain and the West, as much as Israel itself - are doing in Palestine. Historical and political analysis - with the personal opinions of the writer always clearly described as such - are never dry or abstract as they explain, provide the essential background to, the unbelievably difficult lives of the individual men and women that Ms Murphy encounters in the course of her stay. We hear voices from across the spectrum of Gazan society - taxi drivers, students, 'internationals', mothers of 'matyrs', fishermen, politicians... The author is clear-eyed about all, and does not shy away from those aspects of violence and intolerance that mar Palestinian society. What she will not do is join the noise that condemns: all the time she provides the context that helps to humanise and explain even that which she cannot accept or agree with.
No book about Gaza is going to be fun. But, as in so many other instances, our humanity is touched reading of such resilience in the face of so much loss, and so much wantonly inflicted pain and destruction. Vain hope that our politicians will read this book, and reflect upon the story it tells so well.
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I visited Gaza dozens of times in 1980 and 1981 when I lived and worked at kibbutz Be'eri in Israel close to the Gaza Strip. Either on my own or with other English and Dutch volunteers we would climb through a hole in the fence and walk to the sea. We were always made very welcome except when we were occasionally stoned by little kids probably thinking we were Israeli. It is saddening to see the mess that is now Gaza and the seemingly intractable problems. This book appealed to me on this basis and I'm glad I've read it. It often makes for uncomfortable reading. The descriptions of the hardship and the behaviour of some members of the IDF in particular. The book contains as much information about the history of Israel/Palestine as anything else, and I know this is important but it forms a huge part of the book. I expected much more of the day to day details of life in Gaza. Sadly the writing is far too emotive in parts and the author is clearly fiercely anti-Zionist and anti-IDF, and there are instances of this which appear to be simply thrown into the book with little relevance to the story other than to reinforce the writer's own beliefs. The resolution of a difficult problem such as this is not made any easier if judgments become fogged with hatred. However, this book is essential reading if you wish to understand what's going on, but try to understand both viewpoints. Israel exists,fact, and will defend itself to the death. It cannot lose a war. If Israel's enemies put down their weapons there would be peace; if Israel did it, there'd be no more Israel. This is the stark reality. I lived among secular Israelis who just wanted a quiet life and were like every one else in the world, and I've also had to run for the air raid shelters many times when the kibbutz was attacked from over the border. Hopefully a lasting peace will one day be found.
Jonathan Nicholas, author of'Kibbutz Virgin'
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on 9 January 2014
A Month by the Sea - Dervla Murphy
Shadowing Dervla Murphy around the war torn streets and bullet strewn alley ways of Gaza provides a fascinating insight into the socio-political nuances that play out in this small war torn and overpopulated strip of land.
Dervla provides a deep knowledge and understanding of the long and bitter struggle between Israel and Palestine. Her account also reveals a deep mistrust and disunity between the two governing parties of the Palestinian territories: Hamas in Gaza, and Fatah in the West Bank. This disturbing subtext is yet another reason why this conflict has rumbled on without finding a peaceful solution.

Israel denies that they are the protagonist in this conflict, citing the Palestinians as terrorists who launch rockets and mortars in to Israel deliberately endangering the lives of their civilians. Retaliating to this provocation is one thing but the severity of the reprisals metered out against the Gazan population has resulted in Israel being accused of both war and humanitarian crimes. Dervla states that during the 10 year period 2001-2011, rocket and mortar fire killed 23 people in Israel. However, during only 22 days of Israel's `Cast Lead' assault on Gaza, over 1400 Gazan's died, many of whom were women and children. The disproportional fatalities and injuries being sustained by the Palestinians, aided by the growing number Palestinian solidarity groups and also a greater international awareness of the events that have been occurring in the Holy Land, are all increasing the pressure on Israel to release the Palestinian territories from their vice like grip.

Dervla offers forthright opinions of individuals and the actions taken by both sides. Her writings come to life when she meets some of the Gazan victims of the conflict. She is welcomed and treated with hospitality by the families who reveal the tragedies of their lost ones and the fear and uncertainty of living in a conflict zone. And yet the overriding impression we get of the non-combatant Palestinian residents, is one of indomitable courage and a belief that things will eventually work out for them.
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on 23 February 2014
As a woman due to visit Gaza soon I was interested in reading about others (preferably female) experience.
What a wonderful writer Dervla Murphy is and how easy this book was to read.
From her previous experiences in the West Bank and Israel, Dervla was able to draw together a complicated situation & people living their precarious lives under occupation with more than a little cynicism towards all sides in what is an honest and open account of life in the Gaza strip.
She dots her experiences with facts & figures to help one understand the whys & hows of today's reality.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to learn a little more of life in Gaza as it is, rather than how various 'authorities' would have us see it.
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on 12 September 2013
A am a great fan of Dervla Murphy and had eagerly awaited this, her latest book.
However I must say I was disappointed. I know Dervla has always tended to be quite open about her political views, and she is clearly very knowledgeable, however in this case she was so 100 per cent biased against Israel that I felt very uncomfortable reading this.

For instance, it would have been interesting to read of the four months she spent in Israel before she went to Palestine (for one month). But she makes little mention at all of this, or of any of the people she met there or conversations she had, which would have made for interesting reading. What made he political books (for example the 1980s 'Tales of 2 cities' about race problems in inner cities) so fascinating were the way she bravely looked at ALL sides of a problem, reporting different views and then mulling about the complexities of these issues.

In this book however, her sheer hatred of the Israelis (regularly describing them as Nazi like, and agreeing with Palestinians who say Israelis have an evil look in their eyes) as well as implying their country should not exist, made me think that she has been swayed by only one opinion, and has made no effort at all to put both sides across.
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on 26 April 2013
Dervla Murphy takes the reader step by step through her visit to the Gaza, she studies the way people behave in their day to day life. Be that the ordinary person getting through each day as best they can or the adminstration powers that are involved in controlling for what ever reason the people that comes in contact with them or the people that they seek out to make contact with.
She seeks to try and understand the humanity behind what is happening but will not close her eyes to the way the law and order of every day life is streched and compremised by all sides.
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on 26 January 2015
This book is not at all Dervla Murphy the fearless traveller and totally Dervla Murphy fearless supporter of the Palestinian cause. In that regard the book suffers somewhat as I believe Murphy is a better travel writer than political analyst. However it is still a good book but better when Murphy stops ranting and just describes the scenes she sees and allows the Palestinians tell their own story. These stories alone are chilling enough I think to make anyone question what the Israelis are up to. Perhaps the most interesting element of the book is Murphy's analysis of Internal Palestinian politics. I found it interesting that Fatah almost generated as much rage in Murphy as Israel.
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on 17 May 2015
Dervla tells us she wants an honourable compromise in the occupied territories and adumbrates the meaningless jargon and obstructive Israeli and allied powers who are doing their utmost to fuel the imperialist led and futile current politics that have encapsulated and imprisoned communities in what passes for civilian life on all sides.
The work is well researched and academically sound with glossary and index at the back to jog our memories on the alphabet soup which are peppered throughout the text.

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on 25 March 2013
I have been to gaza, before the blockade and it was a pretty miserable place then. Since the war and since the blockade everything done to the gazans by the Israelies is to leave em with less then nothing. However one sees the indomitable spirit of these people, how admirable they are in face of this nazi treatment. The Israelies treat the Palestinians exactly as the Germans treated the Jews and the world allows it to happen in e 21 st century. Israel is indeed a cancer on the map.
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on 14 April 2015
Not an easy read because the names are hard to remember but really worth the effort for an insight into this conflict, hope and despair mixed with some uncharacteristic outrage on Dervla Murphy's part but very human as always.
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