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on 13 May 2012
Guy Delisle travels to Jerusalem with his partner and their two kids for a year. His partner is an administrator for "Doctors Without Borders" and Delisle spends the year working on his comics, looking after the kids, and exploring/trying to understand the city of Jerusalem and its peoples.

If you've read Delisle's work before you'll know he goes to hard-to-reach places and reports on his time there (North Korea, China, Burma) and that the resulting travelogues are always entertaining and enlightening - just like this latest book.

The book isn't a polemic nor is it meant to explain the region or the history, it's really just a memoir/travelogue of his time there. So there is equal parts of his time describing his everyday duties looking after the kids and going to parties, making friends, as much as there is encountering and observing violence from bombings in Gaza, to the numerous checkpoints and outright chaos of this area.

The reader gets to see how bizarre Jerusalem is. The city is divided into Christian quarters, Jewish quarters, and Muslim quarters, where literally one side of the street a woman can wear what she likes and on the other she must be covered head to foot. The constant military presence and day to day reminders of violence - everyone carries a gun, not just soldiers. The shrillness of the piercing calls to prayer echo throughout the city whether you are religious or not. The ridiculously high number of checkpoints everywhere, the constant traffic jams...

As an atheist myself, it's hard to believe that this troubled region is because of one group believing one thing over another leading to literally millennia of conflict. As such, it's incredibly shocking how people will be so petty over everything. One contested house becomes demolished, another goes up - years pass, the house is demolished/taken over, another goes up. And on and on. And the bizarre behaviour of Orthodox Jews who are just flat out racist and violent toward anybody who isn't an Orthodox Jew themselves, is just terrifying.

Delisle doesn't take sides on whether he believes one side is right over another, he's an atheist himself and does his best to present all sides of the argument. Through his fresh eyes the reader sees the area as if they were visiting it themselves. It's a fascinating look at a troubled region, told memorably and filled with excellent artwork throughout all by Delisle, who has once again written/drawn a wonderful book on a strange part of our world with characteristic good humour and intelligence.
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We know that part of Delisle's appeal is his choice of settings: the reclusive dictatorships of Burma and North Korea make great copy. Delisle is able to offer a first-hand perspective on countries from which it is all but impossible to derive any impression about what daily life must be actually like, and he is able to do this with a deceptively simple drawing style.

But Israel/Palestine is different kettle of fish. This is a conflict continually under the media glare. Millions of pages have been written documenting every detail of the conflict in the `holy land'. Can Delisle offer anything new?

The answer is that yes, he can. Delisle's strengths lie in more than the fact that he can capitalise on the fact that he has lived and worked in little-known places. His detached, ironical but sympathetic style is well suited to navigating the tortured nuances of the seemingly never-ending conflict in the so-called holy land.

The narrative switches between wider events and his experience of humdrum domestica and writer's block but the latter is not overdone. It stays humorous without becoming self-indulgent or flippant. He also includes narratives and testimonies of eyewitnesses to events he does not see first-hand but are concurrent with his stay (such Israel's assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009). He does not pretend to offer any new insights into the conflict. What he is able to offer is a cross-section of reality, as he has in his previous books. He gives an impression of what it is like to experience this reality first hand.His is the eye that picks out the unexpected: like the Arab-Israeli citizen living in one of the West Bank's illegal settlements, quipping that the settlements are being resettled from within by Arab-Israelis. His sympathies are clearly with the Palestinians but he is not an activist but an observer, of his own reactions as well the reactions of others, to the circumstances in which they find themselves. He is balanced and fair minded. He notes for example that the press in Israel is forthright and vociferous, and frequently critical of its own government, presenting an utter contrast to its neighbours (this observation is still valid despite the recent Egyptian revolution). He draws what he sees and hears, and lets you make up your own mind.

There are minor missteps (perhaps due to the translation) like calling Passover a `Jewish Easter' but this book will serve up everything that Delisle's admirers have come to expect from his previous works, and perhaps much more. I think that this is finest book yet.
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on 17 June 2012
Delise has made his own genere. He draws out his daylilife in exotic places. This time he's a homewife in Jerusalem. His wife is having an interesting job in Gaza while he's looking for playgrounds, cafés and descent kindergartens in the city. Delise want's to get to Gaza too, but he never gets there. The story is slow, but he manages to give the reader interesting information about the history and the present situaton in Israel.
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on 30 April 2012
What a terrific few hours spent reading and absorbing Guy's latest travelogue.

Simply put, buy it and enjoy it...the nuances and sidebar comments are worth the effort on their own.

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on 15 May 2012
Another brilliant travelog type book from Guy Delisle. A nice thick book with plenty of reading and information to be absorbed but done with a beautiful light touch which makes it a real pleasure to read again and again. Highly informative and humourous throughout - absolutely recommend it to everyone.
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on 13 March 2013
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on 17 May 2016
Great book!
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on 30 July 2012
I've bought my first book a month ago (the one about North Korea). Two weeks later I had already bought and read all of his books. It is extraordinary that he had been to so many countries where I worked and his ability to summarise all the details of the local life in such an elegant and simple way is extraordinary. Guy is probably the best cartoonist alive.
Jerusalem is he largest (and latest) book, and he is able to deal with all the issues with a bottom-up view that is coherent. His drawing is becoming cleaner. Only the very essential traces are there. As Pink Floyd guys, his geniality is not only on what he includes, but on knowing what does not need to be there.
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