by Ben Ehrenreich (2016)
Eyewitness reporting with intelligence and sensitivity, is how I would summarize the contents of this book. I wish I could do the same with my writing about Gaza.
The author traveled extensively in the West Bank, first for Harper’s magazine in 2011, and then a year later for The New York Times Magazine.
The Way to the Spring covers Ehrenreich’s first hand experiences talking, living and protesting with Palestinians in Nabi Saleh, Hebron and Umm al-Kheir in the occupied West Bank — not as a dispassionate, objective observer but as an informed participant. The book’s timeframe is about 3 years (2011 – 2014).
He follows in his mother’s journalistic footsteps. Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is her memoir of a three-month experiment surviving on minimum wage as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, and nursing-home aide. Ben Ehrenreich has clearly inherited his mother’s story-telling ability and her passion for sharing the truth as understood from personal experience.
I was particularly interested in his reporting because I haven’t spent much time in the occupied West Bank, although I’m familiar with most of the places and events he describes from online sources such as the Middle East Eye.
The hardships and humiliation that Palestinians must endure every day living under occupation are seared into these pages with the accuracy and details that only an eyewitness can provide.
Teachers forced to undress at the checkpoint in front of their students. Women drenched with the foul-smelling skunk water from Israel’s skunk truck. The nightly raids into the homes of Palestinians for no other purpose than to instill fear and demonstrate who has the power in this relationship, as a former Israeli soldier explained to the author.
The US diplomats’ naivety during Secretary of State John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy in 2012-2013 is fully exposed. As well as the treasonous (my word) behavior of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the eyes of many of the Palestinians whose lives they claim to represent.
The most enlightening chapter for me personally was Ehrenreich’s discussion about the new Palestinian city of Rawabi. His research and sleuthing abilities uncovered many of the foreign, Israeli and Palestinian connections that made this new model of economic development possible. Clearly no one but the Palestinian elites will ever be able to live there. Will ordinary Palestinians ever catch a break?
In June 2016, the author discussed his book at The Strand in New York City.