The true story of a friendship-as improbable as it was inspirational-that overcame bitter divisions, fierce enmities, religious differences, and social division, to offer a glimmer of hope to a part of the world enmeshed in violence. Mendel Cohen was a carpenter who lived in Jerusalem before the founding of Israel, and when his work came to the attention of King Abdullah, his life-and that of the king-changed course forever. A very simple but profound event occurred: they became friends. Cohen got to know Abdullah as few ever had. The core of this book is Cohen's memoir of his friendship with Abdullah, and an account of his experiences in the court of one of the most charismatic and fascinating men in Middle Eastern history. Abdullah's assassination in Jerusalem by extremists in 1951 affected the course of events in that region for decades, making him a legend in both the Arab and Jewish communities. But Cohen knew Abdullah first of all as a man: deeply nationalistic yet open-minded and curious; brooding and mysterious, yet capable of unthinking generosity and expansiveness; determined to promote the Arab cause at all costs, yet deeply sympathetic to Jews. Anyone who reads this book will feel as if there is hope in the Middle East: the affinities between Arab and Jew, and their capacities to overcome insurmountable differences, are embodied in this extraordinary friendship. Cohen's daughter has translated this book and written an introduction placing it in an historical and contemporary context. She and her husband were invited by King Hussein to his palace in Amman to celebrate the friendship. The final chapter of the book is an account of that trip-an echo to Mendel Cohen's own experiences-and a moving tribute both to Abdullah and to the other great martyr in the cause of peace, Yitzak Rabin.
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January 24, 2012
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