“Praised House” review on the Israel-Palestine conflict – trip

Jonathan Garfinkel’s grandfather does not want to believe that there are no direct flights from Toronto to Jerusalem. The old man, who wants to die in Israel, argues with an airline employee and finally blames the Arabs. It’s a shock for the grandson. His grandfather, who wrote letters to presidents to save the world, suddenly becomes an agitator. The Canadian author still realizes something: just like himself, his grandfather only knows Israel from maps.

Garfinkel decides to go on the trip. In his luggage he has a lecture on Jerusalem, which he wrote as a student at a socialist-Zionist school in Toronto, and the conversations with his Palestinian friend Rana in his head. She had told him about a house in Jerusalem that was shared by a Palestinian and an Israeli. Garfinkel wants to look for the house, wants to find approaches to peace.

When he arrived in Israel and Palestine, he had bizarre encounters. In the Holy City he drinks with the rather unholy Yonni, who after his military service went on a world tour and on his return jumps on an orange crate and gives a speech to the “pussies of Jerusalem”. In the West Bank, Garfinkel is stolen a bicycle, but he gets it back by running after the thieves and buying a self-made Palestinian flag from them. When he visits a friend from before, she no longer hugs him because she is now strictly Orthodox.

The author portrays two societies that struggle with themselves and with each other

His flippant, original style reinforces the scenes: the author’s acquaintances sometimes have “teeth like french fries”, and when he remembers singing with the other men in Toronto in the synagogue, it sounded “like a drunken pensioners choir” . With the help of the scenes, at first glance weird, the author draws a portrait of two societies, who quarrel with themselves and with each other, in “Gelobtes Haus”. Garfinkel does not reach all groups, but is actively looking for people who can be talked to.

On the one hand, dream scenes force themselves into reality again and again, for example when his father appears to the author when he is struggling with his identity at the Western Wall and arguing with God, or when his former teacher supposedly suddenly sits next to him on the bus. On the other hand, Garfinkel gives footnotes to some places in the book. By describing his bookcase, he also skilfully incorporates literature references and thus embeds his description in a larger discussion.

The English-language original was published in 2007 when Israel was building the border wall to the West Bank and the fear of suicide bombings was particularly great. In the German translation, Garfinkel now writes about the reactions to his book in an afterword and goes into the Covid-19 pandemic and the vaccine distribution. But even without this addition, the book is suitable for better understanding today’s situation. In addition, “Promised House” provides an insight into the Jewish diaspora in Canada.

The research is painful for Jonathan Garfinkel. Not only because he is pelted with stones (by an Israeli child) and beaten with sticks (by a Palestinian child), but above all because his acquaintances sometimes counter sharply when he throws unpleasant questions at them. “Gelobtes Haus” is a courageous book which, due to the vulnerability of the author, offers readers the chance to question their own limits in their heads.


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