Tuesday 9 May 2023

Hajaj, Claire "Ishmael's Oranges"

Hajaj, Claire "Ishmael's Oranges" - 2014

I had just finished another book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa) when this was suggested as the next one for our book club.

There is not much to be found about the author (she doesn't even have an entry on Wikipedia) except this on Goodreads:

"Claire Hajaj has spent her life building bridges between two worlds, sharing both Palestinian and Jewish heritage. She has lived on four continents and worked for the United Nations in war zones from Burma to Baghdad. A former contributor to the BBC World Service, Claire's writing has also appeared in Time Out and Literary Review. She lives in Beirut, Lebanon."

And this on the German site Lovelybooks:
"Claire Hajaj was born in London in 1973 and feels part of two cultures, Jewish and Palestinian, which she tries to reconcile..."

I would have liked to know how much this book is based on her own life or that of her parents. It always helps to understand a book if you know about the author's background.

I visited Israel in 1986 and remember a lovely time in Jaffa. So, reading about the Palestinian family who had lived there for generations and was expelled, made me incredibly sad. I don't think we can possibly imagine how that must have felt.

Like so many other books about the people of Palestine, the Jews that came to occupy their country, the British that helped them, it can only touch the surface of what is going on. Therefore, we need to read as many books about this as possible and pass them on. This is certainly not the best book I have read about the subject but it was interesting nevertheless. And is probably easier to read for people who don't want to get too many details. If you are interested, check out more of the books I read about this subject under my link Israel/Palestine.

In her acknowledgements, she mentions Adam LeBor and "the wonderful Jaffa, City of Oranges" which I also love.

We read this in our German Book Club in April 2023.

From the back cover:

"It's April 1948, and war hangs over Jaffa. One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from the family’s orange tree; the next he is swept away into a life of exile and rage.

Seeking a new beginning in swinging-Sixties London, Salim finds an unexpected love with Jude, a troubled Jewish girl struggling with her own devastating family legacy. The bond between them flourishes in the freedom of the age, bringing the promise of thrilling new worlds. But before long, childhood conflicts and prejudices reawaken to infringe upon their life together, pulling them and their children inexorably back towards the Middle East and its battlegrounds.

From Russia's pogroms, to the Summer of Love and the Middle East’s restless cities,
'Ishmael’s Oranges' follows the journeys of men and women cast adrift by war - to tell the story of two families spanning the crossroad events of modern times, and of the legacy of hatred their children inherit."


  1. This one sounds so interesting and good! I really like reading books set in the Middle East that deal with the history and the people there.

    1. Thanks, Lark. It is interesting and I think anyone who is interested in the Middle East and their history - and present situation - would like to read it. It's almost written like a light novel (though the topic certainly isn't light), so I would recommend it to anyone.

  2. Sounds like another good book about life in Palestine. Very difficult situation, and you are right, we have to inform ourselves more.

    1. Definitely, Lisbeth. Life is so hard for the Palestinians there and the world has no idea. I hope, I can contribute in a small way to improve at least the awareness.

  3. This sounds like it might be a good choice for my synagogue book club.

    1. It definitely gives a lot of food for thought and will probably bring up a lively discussion, Susan. Let me know what you decide-