BookBrowse Reviews It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Dec 2009, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A personal account of life in Israel & Palestine by a British wife, mother and doctor - a 'must read' for anyone wishing to understand the situation's complexities

The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is remote to most of us in the West - an abstract that one glosses over as one reads the morning paper.  We hear of the suicide bombers and the checkpoints and it's easy to dismiss these stories as just another act of violence in a place that's far, far away.  Emma Williams' book, It's Easier to Reach Heaven than the End of the Street, goes a long way toward bringing this conflict into our living rooms, helping us to understand its complexities and explaining its human toll, putting a face to those suffering its effects.

When the Intifada erupted in September 2000, Williams was in a unique position as a British doctor, wife and mother living in Jerusalem.  Her friends and co-workers included both Palestinians and Israelis, which allowed her to gather unvarnished opinions from both sides of the dispute. Using this inside information she completely captures the thoughts of the people with whom she mixed, relaying their opinions without judgment. She truly understands both points of view and how and why her friends' attitudes evolved over time, and unreservedly conveys this to her readers - vividly detailing the decline in relations between the two peoples as the violence escalated.

Her circumstances, as a parent in the midst of a potentially violent atmosphere, also provides a rarely heard perspective.  She talks about the difficulties of trying to maintain a normal life for her children while constantly being vigilant against attack.

We learned to avoid the danger zones, the shopping areas favored by bombers, the movies, theaters and malls – all out of bounds. Parking by the school in Mea Sharim was always a risk – there had been attacks in the area – but we had no choice.  Parking in a safer place would have meant a longer walk through a high-risk area; it was more dangerous to walk than to drive… Each set of parents developed a route, and a parking area, which they hoped lowered the likelihood of being bombed.  None of the ruses made much sense – one father favored a U-turn across three lanes of oncoming commuter traffic in order to avoid a road vulnerable to bombers – but taking some control of safety, making decisions about security, however faulty, helped. 

It's likely that some will criticize the book as being biased.  By the end, there's certainly no question where the author's sympathies ultimately lie.  There's a fine line, however, between bias and ugly truth.   Williams writes, for example, that between October 3, 2003 and Christmas of that year, no Israelis were killed, and the period was deemed to be "quiet."  During that same period, 117 Palestinians were killed and nearly 500 homes bulldozed, leaving thousands homeless. She further states that, in four years of fighting, the longest period when no Palestinians were killed by Israelis was one week:  July 9 – 15, 2003.  Those are facts, not opinions, but their inclusion and the context in which they're presented inevitably leads the reader to the conclusion that a disproportionate amount of violence was inflicted by Israeli forces.  Whether or not that can be deemed bias is open for debate. 

The book is densely packed with conversations, events and illustrations, making it a slow read; there's a lot here to absorb and understand.  It's also somewhat disheartening, as the author relays the downward spiral in relations between the two factions, leaving readers with very little hope that the situation will ease any time in the foreseeable future. Regardless, it's a valuable book for anyone who would like to understand the tensions between these two peoples, and the author's ability to boil down the situation's complexities into easily understandable and relatable prose makes It's Easier to Reach Heaven a must-read.



Continued from sidebar...

Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2005
(multiple sources including PalestineMonitor.org)

four maps of shrinking Palestine


More Links
A short history of Palestine in the sidebar to The Collaborator of Bethlehem.
The Institute for Middle-East Understanding
Zionism-Israel.com
Alnakba.org


About the Author
Emma WilliamsEmma Williams studied history at Oxford and medicine at London University. She has worked as a doctor in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York, South Africa and Jerusalem. She wrote for several newspapers and magazines about Palestinian-Israeli affairs and was a correspondent for the Spectator from 2000-2003. She and her family currently live in Belgrade.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review is from the July 8, 2010 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
News of the World by Paulette Jiles

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Heart's Invisible Furies
    by John Boyne

    A sweeping, heartfelt saga set in Ireland from the author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.