Freedom and Despair: Notes from the South Hebron Hills

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Lately, it seems as if we wake up to a new atrocity each day. Every morning is now a ritual of scrolling through our Twitter feeds or scanning our newspapers for the latest updates on fresh horrors around the globe. Despite the countless protests we attend, the phone calls we make, or the streets we march, it sometimes feels like no matter how hard we fight, the relentless crush of injustice will never abate.

David Shulman knows intimately what it takes to live your beliefs, to return, day after day, to the struggle, despite knowing you are often more likely to lose than win. Interweaving powerful stories and deep meditations, Freedom and Despair offers vivid firsthand reports from the occupied West Bank in Palestine as seen through the eyes of an experienced Israeli peace activist who has seen the Israeli occupation close up as it impacts on the lives of all Palestinian civilians.

Alongside a handful of beautifully written and often shocking tales from the field, Shulman meditates deeply on how to understand the evils around him, what it means to persevere as an activist decade after decade, and what it truly means to be free. The violent realities of the occupation are on full display. We get to know and understand the Palestinian shepherds and farmers and Israeli volunteers who face this situation head-on with nonviolent resistance. Shulman does not hold back on acknowledging the daily struggles that often leave him and his fellow activists full of despair. Inspired by these committed individuals who are not prepared to be silent or passive, Shulman suggests a model for ordinary people everywhere. Anyone prepared to take a risk and fight their oppressive political systems, he argues, can make a difference—if they strive to act with compassion and to keep hope alive.

This is the moving story of a man who continues to fight for good in the midst of despair. An indispensable book in our era of reactionary politics and refugee crises, political violence and ecological devastation, Freedom and Despair is a gripping memoir of struggle, activism, and hope for peace.
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About the author

David Shulman is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University. He is a long-time activist in Ta’ayush, an Israeli peace group working in the occupied Palestinian territories. He is the author of Tamil: A Biography, More Than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India, and Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine, the last published by the University of Chicago Press. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 15, 2018
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780226566795
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Social
Political Science / General
Political Science / Peace
Political Science / World / Middle Eastern
Religion / Judaism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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For decades, we’ve been shocked by images of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But for all their power, those images leave us at a loss: from our vantage at home, it’s hard for us to imagine the struggles of those living in the midst of the fighting. Now, American-born Israeli David Shulman takes us right into the heart of the conflict with Dark Hope, an eye-opening chronicle of his work as a member of the peace group Ta‘ayush, which takes its name from the Arabic for “living together.”

Though Shulman never denies the complexity of the issues fueling the conflict—nor the culpability of people on both sides—he forcefully clarifies the injustices perpetrated by Israel by showing us the human dimension of the occupation. Here we meet Palestinians whose houses have been blown up by the Israeli army, shepherds whose sheep have been poisoned by settlers, farmers stripped of their land by Israel’s dividing wall. We watch as whip-swinging police on horseback attack crowds of nonviolent demonstrators, as Israeli settlers shoot innocent Palestinians harvesting olives, and as families and communities become utterly destroyed by the unrelenting violence of the occupation.

Opposing such injustices, Shulman and his companions—Israeli and Palestinian both—doggedly work through checkpoints to bring aid, rebuild houses, and physically block the progress of the dividing wall. As they face off against police, soldiers, and hostile Israeli settlers, anger mixes with compassion, moments of kinship alternate with confrontation, and, throughout, Shulman wrestles with his duty to fight the cruelty enabled by “that dependable and devastating human failure to feel.”

With Dark Hope, Shulman has written a book of deep moral searching, an attempt to discover how his beloved Israel went wrong—and how, through acts of compassionate disobedience, it might still be brought back.
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