Israel's Jews, Muslims, Christians; Journey to Jerusalem, by Grace Halsell. New York: Macmillan. $10.95
Grace Halsell is an extraordinary human being. Only such a person could have gotten close enough to the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian residents of Israel and the occupied territories to tell their stories as though her own life were a part of theirs.
Living with families from each of the three factions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, she portrays their hopes and dreams, and the frustrations and problems they experience living alongside one another.
The result is as striking as were her earlier books, "Soul Sister," written after she darkened her skin and lived as a black in the Deep South and in Harlem , and "Bessie Yellowhair," an account of her experiences on a Navajo Indian Reservation.
The newest book is a stark, simple account of the causes of the friction between Arabs, Jews, and Christians in the Holy Land.
"Journey to Jerusalem" will be an eye-opener for American policymakers who regard the Palestinian problem as less than urgent. And American Jews and Christians who feel that Israel's 14-year occupation of the Arab portion of historic Palestine is not sapping the moral foundations of Israeli democracy may leave the book with some second thoughts.
Grace Halsell brings a high degree of objectivity to her task. She says she flew into Tel Aviv without a reservation, like a tourist, and then climbed into a taxi with six other people bound for Jerusalem.
The author soon began recording the lives of people she met, such as Nahla, a Muslim Palestinian; Mervat, a Christian Palestinian; and Linda, a transplanted Jewish New Yorker who lives with her husband in a new settlement on formerly Arab Territory.
Before long the author moved into a moshav cooperative settlement with Aviva and Reuven, an atypical Israeli couple who felt their salvation and Israel's depended on coming to agreement with the Palestinians. Their attitudes contrasted strikingly with those of Linda and her husband, who were ready, even eager, to fight if need be in order to expell all Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank.