This was a hard review to write
Jerusalem, is a graphic novel chronicling the year Guy Delisle spent living in Jerusalem while his partner worked as an aid worker in the west bank and Gaza.
I am the worst person to review this book!
Not because of any specific political leaning (I am a good old dirty leftist), but because I spent 20 of my 34 years of my life living there and my experience taints my impression of the book.
I’ve been strangely home sick recently (it only took five years in Canada for this to happen), so I’ve been finding myself picking up books and films that take place in the place I grew up in. Which basically means that I picked up this book without knowing anything about it. This was not necessarily a bad choice, it just didn’t do what I so selfishly needed it to do- to help with some of the ambivalence I feel about the place I grew up in.
Part of this issue is the fact that the Jerusalem I grew up in, is a different Jerusalem then the one Delisle describes. You see, Jerusalem is not one city, it is about 15 cities who have very little in common but territory they occupy. As a secular Jew living in south west Jerusalem, I had no reason (and often prohibited) to go to the mostly Muslim East Jerusalem, or the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish area’s in northern part of Jerusalem, or the settlement around the city. My Jerusalem is secular, middle class and Jewish. The Jerusalem that Delisle describes is poor, religious and under military occupation. The only times in the book, the we see “my” Jerusalem is when Delisle takes his kids to the Zoo and to the Monster statue near my parent’s house, the rest, is a city I am not really familiar with.
The year the book take place at (2008-2009) was also the worst year of my life. The war in Gaza that year, led me to a deep spiral of depression (one that took a few years to recover from). It was also the year I tried to better understand the situation that was happening around me, and to some serious soul searching. So, some of the events described in the book, are events I experienced (I was involved with some of the Sheikh Jarrah activism that was described in the end of the book). Instead of reminding me what I love about the city (and there is plenty of things to love), it just reminded me why I left.
Instead of comfort, it just reminded me of the worst time of my life
The book doesn’t really give an understanding of Jerusalem, because, frankly it is impossible to really understand Jerusalem. What it does do, is give you a glimpse of some of the conflicts there and maybe gives the reader an idea of what it is like to live there.
If I will try to be a bit more objective, the one thing that didn’t work for me is when Delisle tries to be objective. It is not that I don’t think that he should experience the conflict from all sides, but considering the book mostly focus on East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the few ventures in looking on the other side just doesn’t work. The exception was the parts when he goes to the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem (the only part I actually truly enjoyed was when he experiences Purim in Jerusalem for the first time)
:sigh: what a way to start my first Cannonball Read