Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

On the Hills of God

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

On the Hills of God

Article excerpt

On the Hills of God

The depth of feeling emanating from Ibrahim Fawal in this powerful work leaves the reader with so much to consider and react to long after the last page is turned that one cannot escape the realization that it is a truly stunning creation.

As the reader enters his life, 17-year-old Yousif Safi is in love: with his family, with a girl and with his native Palestine. The reader is transported to a culture where friends and family are to be savored and a land where the labels Muslim, Christian, and Jew are all superseded by the one overriding designation of Palestinian.

Yousif's two best friends are Amin, a fun-loving Muslim, and Isaac, an introspective Jew. Yousif, a Christian, has grown up with both and thinks of them as brothers, as he is the only child of Dr. and Mrs. Jamil Safi, one of the most respected families in Ardallah, Palestine. The summer of 1947 in Ardallah is deceptively peaceful and normal. The coming upheaval of death and displacement is mercifully still several months in the future.

The first hint of trouble comes when the three friends observe a group of Western-looking young couples disembarking from an inter-city bus one Sunday afternoon. Amin surmises they are up to amorous activity and urges his friends to follow them. Yousif agrees, more out of suspicion concerning the motives of the group, who the three come to realize are Jews, than out of boyish fantasies.

As Yousif and his friends follow the visitors out of Ardallah and into the countryside, he realizes that they appear to be surveying the land. This sends shivers down Ms spine, as he is aware of the jockeying for control of territory by the Zionists in anticipation of the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948.

This is the beginning of the end for the deliciously normal town of Ardallah and its people. But as war approaches, Yousif has begun tutoring the two younger brothers of Salwa, a girl his age for whom he has pined for years. He so treasures his encounters with her that the result, in the author's words, is that "Salwa and Palestine completed the trinity of his soul."

The most powerful aspect of On the Hills of God is Fawal's skill in weaving the reader into the tapestry of Yousif s family and life in Ardallah. The reader begins to empathize with the town's people, making the book s subsequent account of what happened to them that much more wrenching.

As war approaches the idyllic town, evil manifests itself. …

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