Winner of the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction, this extraordinary bestseller is still the most incisive, thought-provoking book ever written about the Middle East. Thomas L. Friedman, twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, and now the Foreign Affairs columnist on the op-ed page of the New York Times, drew on his ten years in the Middle East to write a book that The Wall Street Journal called "a sparkling intellectual guidebook... an engrossing journey not to be missed." Now with a new chapter that brings the ever-changing history of the conflict in the Middle East up to date, this seminal historical work reaffirms both its timeliness and its timelessness. "If you're only going to read one book on the Middle East, this is it." -- Seymour Hersh. "From Beirut To Jerusalem is the most intelligent and comprehensive account one is likely to read." -- New York Times Book Review.
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1 . Excellent Insight on a Complex Topic
Posted July 14, 2010 by Daniel , New York City"From Beirut to Jerusalem" was an interesting read. It centers on the author's experiences in those two cities during some of the most violent, and transformative, moments in the 20th century. After explaining what happened in the region, he continues on towards analysis and a sort of epilogue. Although the book is easy to read, it does take time since you will want to absorb what is being told. There are momements in "From Beirut to Jerusalem" that are very impactful and Friedman writes about them very well, such as what happened to his apartment in Beirut during the civil war and the stone throwing incident in Jerusalem, along with him coming to the realization that if he had changed his routine slightly he might have faced an untimely end. A significant portion of the book is indeed devoted to what is going on in Lebanon, but the majority of the narrative centers mostly around Israel and how Jews as a whole are trying to reconcile their religion, globalization, and politics. In this sense, I was a little disappointed, but Friedman offers excellent insight into these areas.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
July 15, 1990
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Excerpt from From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman
Prelude: From Minneapolis to Beirut
In June 1979, my wife, Ann, and I boarded a red-and-white Middle East Airlines 707 in Geneva for the four-hour flight to Beirut. It was the start of the nearly ten-year journey through the Middle East that is the subject of this book. It began, as it ended, with a bang.
When we got in line to walk through the metal detector at our boarding gate, we found ourselves standing behind three broad-shouldered, mustachioed Lebanese men. As each stepped through the metal detector, it would erupt with a buzz and a flashing red light, like a pinball machine about to tilt. The Swiss police immediately swooped in to inspect our fellow passengers, who turned out not to be hijackers bearing guns and knives, although they were carrying plenty of metal; they were an Armenian family of jewelers bringing bricks of gold back to Beirut. Each of the boys in the family had a specially fitted money belt containing six gold bars strapped around his stomach, and one of them also had a shoe box filled with the precious metal. They sat next to Ann and me in the back of the plane and spent part of the flight tossing the gold bricks back and forth for fun.
When our MEA plane finally touched down at Beirut International Airport, and I beheld the arrival terminal's broken windows, bullet scars, and roaming armed guards, my knees began to buckle from fear. I realized immediately that although I had spent years preparing for this moment -- becoming a foreign correspondent in the Middle East -- nothing had really prepared me for the road which lay ahead.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I was born and raised, I had never sat next to people who tossed gold bricks to each other in the economy section on Northwest Airlines. My family was, I suppose, a rather typical middle-class American Jewish family. My father sold ball bearings and my mother was a homemaker and part-time bookkeeper. I was sent to Hebrew school five days a week as a young boy, but after I had my bar mitzvah at age thirteen, the synagogue interested me little; I was a three-day-a-year Jew -- twice on the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and once on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In 1968, my oldest sister, Shelley, spent her junior year abroad at Tel Aviv University; it was the year after Israel's dramatic victory in the Six-Day War -- a time when Israel was very much the "in" place for young American Jews. Over the Christmas break of 1968 my parents took me to Israel to visit my sister.
That trip would change my life. I was only fifteen years old at the time and just waking up to the world. The flight to Jerusalem marked the first time I had traveled beyond the border of Wisconsin and the first time I had ridden on an airplane. I don't know if it was just the shock of the new, or a fascination waiting to be discovered, but something about Israel and the Middle East grabbed me in both heart and mind. I was totally taken with the place, its peoples and its conflicts. Since that moment, I have never really been interested in anything else. Indeed, from the first day I walked through the walled Old City of Jerusalem, inhaled its spices, and lost myself in the multicolored river of humanity that flowed through its maze of alleyways, I felt at home. Surely, in some previous incarnation, I must have been a bazaar merchant, a Frankish soldier perhaps, a pasha, or at least a medieval Jewish chronicler. It may have been my first trip abroad, but in 1968 I knew then and there that I was really more Middle East than Minnesota.