How I feel about Jerusalem.

I recently (finally) read Naomi Shihab Nye’s Habibi, a highly-regarded young adult novel about a Palestinian-American girl who goes back to Palestine with her Palestinian/American family in the heady post-Oslo Accord days.

I loved it. I pushed it on my son, and he loved it too. Regardless of topic, the writing is beautiful, and genuine, and unusual — more than once, I re-read a passage wishing that I had been the one to turn that phrase. And as for the topic? Beautifully handled. Really, really beautifully. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

One of the passages I wish I’d written is this, as it describes my own relationship to the city of Jerusalem — a place that, as a Jew, I pray toward and am meant to love — as if the author had written it from within my own heart.

In Jerusalem so much old anger floated around, echoed from fading graffiti, seeped out of cracks. Sometimes it bumped into new anger in the streets. The air felt stacked with weeping and raging and praying to God by all the different names.

That is Jerusalem to me: Stacked with weeping and raging and praying to God in all the different names.

Read Habibi – you won’t be sorry.




  1. Naomi Shihab Nye was my first poetry teacher when I was a little girl. I admire her work tremendously. (Her poem “Jerusalem” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing about that beautiful, complex, troubled city…)

    • Seriously? That is so cool! That’s right… you were raised in Texas. (Still, it’s a big place. I might not have guessed even if I had remembered that!)

      I’m going to have to look up that poem. Thank you.

  2. Oh, I love Habibi! Even for me, who’s never set foot in the Middle East, it’s evocative and lovely.
    Are there more young-adult books about Israel/Palestine I should know about? Lynne Reid Banks and Anna Levine come to mind, but if you have recommendations I’d like to hear it.
    And a late happy new year.