Where the Streets Had a Name

One of the most timely books I have read recently has to be  WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME by Randa Abdel-Fattah  (Scholastic Press,  $17.99  November 2010). In this book we follow one day’s adventure for two Palestinian children on a curfew free day as they travel from their home in Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Thirteen year old Hayaat and her best friend, Samy, are on a mission.  Hayaat is convinced if she could get some soil from her grandmother Sitti’s  ancestral  home it would save her life.  This is not a journey of many many miles. The children know it could be done relatively quickly were it not for the Israeli wall that divides the West Bank. There are many checkpoints through which the two must pass. This presents a more serious problem as they do not have proper passes for this travel.

Samy is a typical teen and provides some of the lighter more humorous moments in this tension filled day.  They encounter another Palestinian boy, Wasim, who fills Sammy’s head with stories of international travel as a potential soccer star. They  join up with David and Grace, two  American born Israeli peace activists. At one point  David climbs the wall and encourages the children to  follow him over the wall and into Jerusalem.

The story is filled with tension as the two travel to get some soil.  The story is remarkable in that the author presents the Palestinian side of this on-going conflict in  a simple easy to understand manner. We meet a variety of travelers inconvenienced by that ubiquitous wall. The reader is left not with any resolution, but, importantly, I think an understanding of what is really happening in that part of the world where peace and harmony are absent.  This book has much  for readers to ponder and discuss.  Believe me, it is an enjoyable day’s travel with two intrepid teens.  Much humor sprinkled liberally with great pathos makes this book a TRUE Winner!

Israeli Palestinian conflict  as seen through the eyes of Palestinian teens,  living under military occupation,  international influence of sport of soccer,  Palestinian family,  dispossessed of home and land home.  All readers from Middle school up; story even has elements which would appeal to high school students.  Current history packaged interestingly.  Author’s previous books have been well received.