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 by Emma Williams
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    Dec 2009, 384 pages

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Kim Kovacs

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The general was telling me how Palestinians wanted all Jews out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that their ideas were not based on mutual recognition; they want an independent Palestinian state without Jews. “Unlike Israel, of course, which is one fifth Palestinian.” And they want us “to take back the refugees as well.” He broke off, mildly angry.

I had questions, but he was explaining in his own way. “The Hashemite Kingdom is, of course, two thirds Palestinian,” he was saying about Jordan. “Amman is almost entirely Palestinian.” And then: “As for women, you know that to them women are less than donkeys and dogs. An Arab of 75 came to me asking for fertility treatment — he had a 25-year-old wife! You can buy women in their society.”

I thought of men buying women, that it’s not impossible to buy anyone, anywhere.

“You remember the suicide bombing by the woman at Erez?”

I nodded.

“She was having an affair with her husband’s boss, a Hamas man. Her family left her no choice. Either she died ‘with honor’— as a suicide bomber—or she got killed.”

“How did we get here, though? Into this terrible situation?”

“In 2000, Arafat decided to use terror to break us. He was confident he would break us with their terror. This was the correct assessment I presented before Camp David.

“Israel suffers far more from terror than any previous people. Israelis are remarkable people—they show unbelievable resistance. People don’t understand what it’s like. We were briefing a delegation and I was explaining to them that I was never sure whether I would see my wife alive each night. At that very moment my daughter called me to say that there had been a suicide bomb in Herzliya. My mother, my wife, and my daughter had left the scene one minute before it went off. The Hungarian delegate said to the Russian, ‘Now I understand, and I’m leaving.’”

I thought back to my own narrow escape from a suicide bombing, and the cold horror of knowing how close the three children and I (pregnant with our fourth) had been.

“They failed,” the General was saying, “the Palestinians, because we don’t do revenge, we don’t do atrocities, we don’t do rape—the Russians in April and May 1945 ordered their soldiers to rape German women. Even torture—I don’t think there is any here because it’s against the law. As for assassinations, the British are so hypocritical...” He tutted. “But it is intolerable to have so many casualties.”

I wondered for a moment whose casualties he meant. Then I realized he was talking about the spring of 2002, when 129 Israelis were killed in suicide bombings and other attacks.

“Let me tell you, in March 2002 we opened a new chapter.” “Operation Defensive Shield?” Israel’s April 2002 invasion of Palestinian cities, most famously Jenin.

“Yes. We are weak in propaganda, I’m not sure why. Saeb Erekat said 700 were killed, but in fact only 53 died — I’ve got the names. And we saved the hospital in Jenin — I financed generators for them: 1 million shekels. And we arranged the hospitalization of the wounded. The director of the hospital lied when he said the hospital was hit.”

I let these facts roll out: by now I’d lived in Jerusalem for some time. I asked him where he thought the situation was going.

“You have to understand this, we are dealing with an entity that will never accept us.”

He let this sink in, and then added: “The Holocaust was so cruel” and that Palestinian attitudes reminded so many Israelis of this. “I’m not sure if I have the answer as to where we are going. You don’t understand the hatred. Do you know how many Palestinian workers turn on their Israeli bosses and kill them?” I didn’t.He continued. “And this hatred comes from incitement.The incitement is terrible, unbelievable. In 2000 Arafat could have had all the settlements removed, but he wants only the final solution.”

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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