Excerpt from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street

A Jerusalem Memoir

By Emma Williams

It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street
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  • Paperback: Dec 2009,
    384 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt

Introduction: Just over the Hill

The first I heard of the plan to move our young family from New York to Jerusalem was on an October night’s drive along the Sawmill Parkway to Connecticut.

“How’d you like to live in Jerusalem for a couple of years?” Andrew and I had been married for eight years. Soon after our wedding in Britain I’d joined him in Pakistan where I worked as a junior surgeon in a Pakistan hospital, and we moved to New York in 1992.

Now it was late October, 1999. Andrew was at the wheel of a rented car. We’d stood in line for burgers and milkshakes at the Red Rooster in Brewster and the smell of French fries hung stale in the car air.

“Might be good.” I needed more information. “What’s up?”

“The main UN office for the Middle East peace process is setting up a unit for regional politics out there, helping with the negotiations that are looking encouraging. The lead guy has asked if I’d be interested in heading it.”

“When?”

“Starting in a couple of months. We’d see in the new millennium in New York, and be out there some time after that.”

The new millennium. Newspapers, websites, and conversations obsessed with Y2K and the impending end of electronic interaction. Seven years in New York had been light and young. We’d built ourselves a home in a Chelsea loft and filled it with three children. They were now five, two, and six months old. Archie could handle moving schools without too much trouble; Xan and Catriona would take it in stride. And I had swapped clinical medicine for research and public health. There’d be plenty of work to do out there.

“Great. Let’s go for it.”

The weekend was bright with the colors of a New England fall, so much more vibrant than a veiled old England autumn.The children buried themselves in leaves and tried to redirect a small stream ambling down the hillside. Andrew and I played visions of a Holy Land life in each other’s heads, and drove back to the city halfway out of it already.

The reality of relocation was not so streamlined.The UN machine moved slowly, and Andrew didn’t start his new post until April 2000. We waved goodbye to him and stayed on in New York to see out the school year, finish my work projects, and pack up our loft. Friends were full of advice about where to live, which schools to choose, and how to cope with the natives (definitions varied). I heard about our new location directly from Andrew when he reached it. His reports about our new rental accommodation in a tiny village in Jerusalem caused problems for me when I relayed them in conversations back in New York. Apparently he’d found a house for us that couldn’t exist, in an area we shouldn’t contemplate, and he’d chosen a school — the Lycée Francais — from a different culture that would only confuse our children. At a party on Gracie Square Peter Jennings questioned me about the location of the Palestinian village in central Jerusalem. Edward Said explained to him that it was in “No Man’s Land,” that is, the area in Jerusalem lying between two threads of the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice Line (I made a mental note to find out about these complications, and their history). At a book party I was told that I must find an apartment in Ramallah, as that was where all the fun was to be found, not in stodgy Jerusalem. No, no, no, others insisted: Tel Aviv was the only place to live, with way too much religion in Jerusalem. On a bench in Union Square a friend told me that to live in a Palestinian area was to ask for trouble; why not choose one of the nice areas of West Jerusalem, like Rehavia or near Emek Rephaim, or even one of the up and coming areas like Bakaa? None of the names meant anything to me yet. As for the French school system, why burden children with the francophone way of thinking? There was a perfectly good American school in the center of town, wasn’t there?

Excerpted from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams. Copyright © 2009 by Emma Williams. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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