Backpacking Through North India-5: Kasol

After a hiatus of more than 3 years, I finally got the time to resume my travels. Last 3 years have been really hectic on a personal and professional front and I’m glad that phase is over and I can get back to living my life. Regardless, I just returned from a small but cosmopolitan Himalayan village as a part of a long planned and well deserved break from life and the rest of the world, and I couldn’t be happier to write about it on the blog.

Kasol, when you hear the name, what comes to your mind? Hills, treks, Israeli people, Mediterranean food? Or something notorious that region is known for? Well, a disclaimer; my intention to head there was not for that *something notorious*, but to soak in the cosmopolitan, hippie vibe of the place, to meet some Israelis and most importantly to try their amazing bland/non-spicy food.

Oh wait, I didn’t explain the Israeli connection of Kasol. Situated in the Parvati Valley, the small village of Kasol is the hotspot for Israelis-young and old-in India. Many young Israeli men and women come to Kasol to relax after their mandatory conscription (the cost of carving out a country in the Middle-East surrounded by hostile neighbors). Some like it so much that they find the place like home and end up staying there for a long term; whereas some seasoned travelers spend their 6 months of summer in Kasol after living and working in Israel for the previous 6, thus living on saved money, and they repeat the cycle. It’s all a game of exchange rates. Some Israelis I spoke with said that it’s cheaper to vacation in Kasol than to live in Israel; in effect they save money while vacationing. Now who wouldn’t like that!

Throughout the town, even the signs on the streets are plastered in Hebrew, and at some places, solely in Hebrew.

So, nestled in the heart of the Parvati Valley, to reach Kasol is a task in itself. No direct buses head there from Delhi and one has to get down at a bigger town and catch the local bus to Kasol. It’s that remote.
In the Parvati Valley, apart from Kasol lie some other villages such as Manikaran, Malana, Grahan etc. and breathtaking treks, such as ones to Malana, Chalal, Rashol etc. I didn’t go to all of them as the plan was to relax in this break but I’ll definitely cover the entire valley when I go there next, which could be pretty soon considering that I have moved to Delhi now. Yes, my Bombay days are over. I’m a Delhite now. More on that some other time.
The months of April-October are the right time to go to Kasol if you want to avoid the snow and the extremely chilly weather (though I would advise to visit in the months outside of the above-mentioned window just to enjoy the snow), yet the summer of Kasol is like the winter in the planes; the temperature dipped to 3 degrees one night while I was there. Though it doesn’t snow in Kasol in summer, yet you can see the snow covered peaks of the Sar Pass which are at a higher altitude from the valley.

To get to Kasol, you have to take a bus from Delhi to Bhuntar. Bhuntar is on the Kullu/Manali route so any bus that’ll be going to either of these places will drop you at Bhuntar. As during my last time backpacking in McLeodganj, I again took a Himachal Road Transport bus from Kashmere Gate ISBT in the evening, and after about 14 hours, I was in Bhuntar. The bus navigates through Haryana and Chandigarh before it enters Himachal and the landscape starts changing beautifully from the plains to the mountains. The cities covered on the way include Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala and Chandigarh. On the way there are loads of roadside Dhabas serving scrumptious Punjabi food in quantities fit for a king. But then, when around Punjab, you have to eat like a Punjabi.

The outline of the mountains early in the morning from the bus while on the way to Bhuntar.

From Bhuntar one heads to the local bus stop to catch another bus to Kasol. That is the prettiest road to navigate through with the Parvati river flowing with fervor in the valley down below to your left and thick Deodar forests on the mountain to your right. This being a local bus is also frequented by the local Himachali village people, who I maintain, are the sweetest people I’ve observed in this country; so polite, so courteous, and so welcoming towards the travelers. Wherever I’ve met them, in the town, on the hikes in the woods, on the road, they’ve all been genuinely friendly.

The main street of Kasol. Yes, that’s how tiny this village is. So tiny that there’s just one ATM which caters to all the locals and travelers, and which is usually out of money (thanks demonetization) or out of power.

I had booked a hostel for my 8 day stop but due to its renovation, they shifted us to a hotel nearby, sadly I missed out on meeting more travelers on the trip, however I was rewarded with wonderful views of the valley and the night sky from the rooftop of the hotel; and when it rained there, the clouds literally descended on earth. Rains also bought along with them chilly evenings and nights. Imagine the Indian summer during May, and you’re at a place where sometimes the temperature dips to as low as 3 degrees during the night. Delightful!


Image



The closest treks to Kasol are the ones to the villages of Grahan and Thunja. Located around 9 kms uphill, the twin villages are accessible only through a trek via the Deodar forests replete – all uphill – with difficult terrain, and with wild animals like bears and leopards. What’s more? During the winters, they’re not accessible at all because of the snow. Yet there are people who live there, and many make the trip to Kasol and back couple of times a week for supplies and trade.
So it goes this way. The trek I made for leisure and adventure, they have to make it out of necessity multiple times a week. And it’s not an easy trek at all. It might be just 9 kms, but leading to the difficult path, it easily takes 4-5 hours to get there, and the path is so narrow at some places that only one person can walk through it, else there’s the valley on the other side where you can slip in. I feel privileged AF!

Met this young family on the trek to Thunja who gave me some insights about the life in the village.

Nevertheless, the path is beautiful. Almost throughout the trek you hear the gushing sound of the Grahan river (which eventually merges with the Parvati in Kasol) flowing down in the valley as your music. Here are some beautiful images from the trek.








You also encounter the Grahan river on the trek. As it flows directly from the glacier, continuously in the summer because of the melting snow, it has got the clearest water you’d have ever seen in your life. At some places where the depth is low, you might feel like drinking the cold water; and that’s what I did. Filled it up in my bottle, and I’m not exaggerating, it was the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted; flowing straight from the Himalayan glaciers.


On a random hike around the town one afternoon, I met a bunch of young Israelis who, like their compatriots, were fresh out of conscription. We got into talking and apparently ended up discussing politics of the Middle East, life in Israel and India travel destinations, and yes, availability of beef in India. Nevertheless they were a really nice bunch of folks, and ended up offering me Israeli coffee prepared from the river water on their mobile stove. And the coffee was not bad at all!

Coming to the food. One of my major motivations to head to Kasol. For a Mediterranean food buff, this place is a heaven in India. You get anything under the Israeli sun in Kasol. Ranging from the basic Falafels and Hummus, to the exotic Sabih and Shakshouka, you get such variety that you won’t even get in a Mediterranean restaurant in Bombay.



Did I mention the dogs? The Mountain dogs, stray or pet, are the friendliest and the calmest of them all. Over a week spent in Kasol and not one dog I found who growled at anyone.
Even when you have food, they just calmly follow you, sometimes for kilometers on a hike in the woods as well. Some may look fierce but pet them and you got their tails wagging.

4 kilometers from Kasol is the village of Manikaran. Known the most for the Sikh Gurudwara, Manikaran also has many hot water springs. In some within the Gurudwara premises, one can take a dip as well. It’s exhilarating to realize that on one side you have the freezing cold water of the Parvati river while on the other, the boiling water of the hot springs. The water is so hot that even the rice for the Langar at the Gurudwara is boiled by dipping the container in the spring. Don’t be surprised while roaming on the streets of the village you see smoke coming out of the corner of the pavement. It’s just nature at work. Oh, and this town has an ATM, so if the one at Kasol is not working, walk 4 kms along the pretty road to Manikaran and get your money.

On my last day at Kasol, while waiting for the bus near the main square, I got to see this traditional Pahari dance called Naati performed by locals for some forest department event. Such a wonderful end to the trip.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m going to retire in the hills? Well, you never know. 🙂

Stranger To History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands

Aatish Taseer, I hadn’t heard of him until this year’s India Today Conclave where he was moderating the session with Salman Rushdie. At the same time I got to know that he is the son of the slain Pakistani politician Salman Taseer. Being born in India to an estranged Pakistani father and an Indian mother (journalist Tavleen Singh) and spending his childhood amongst Sikh relatives in Delhi, he has admitted that he was lost about his religious identity. Amidst no contact with his Muslim father and his speculations about his Muslim identity while living with his Sikh mother in India, he set out to travel across the Middle East in a bid to understand his father’s religion. Starting from London, he travelled through Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and finally to his father’s nation, Pakistan. In the amazing and fascinating book authored by him ‘Stranger To History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands’ he has described his experiences of his turbulent journey and his understanding of (fundamentalist) Islam which to a progressive and educated Muslim like him, made little sense. It’s a great read describing his journey blended perfectly with bits of his upbringing, how his parents met and how he met his father for the first time in Lahore.

Taseer, an ardent Shiva worshipper at young age who later also wanted to grow his hair to sport, like his Sikh cousins, a turban, first discovered his Muslim identity at the age of five or six while urinating at his aunt’s lawn in Delhi. He was spotted by his Sikh cousin who screamed looking at his penis ‘Aatish ka susu nanga hai’ indicating that he was circumcised.

In 2005 in London after the 7/7 bombings, he noticed how second generation British Pakistanis overlooking their humble roots were being influenced by fundamentalist, radical and extremist Islam. There he interviewed Hasan Butt, an extremist Islamist, for Time Magazine and sent a copy of the article to his father in Pakistan who was furious after reading it and sent a stern reply to Aatish because as per him, Aatish hadn’t understood the Islamist ideologies and Pakistani ethos and had written this article as an ignorant Muslim. After this incident Aatish made up his mind to understand his father’s religion and set out for the journey of Islamic lands.

In Turkey he experienced the ‘sub culture’ of some radical Islamists who refrained from being a part of Turkey’s aggressive secularism and lived in their ghettos which they considered unadulterated Islamic territories and didn’t prefer even entry of other people from the rest of secular Turkey. There he met Abdullah, a person with strong Islamic values but with regret of succumbing to world system, i.e. he thought modernisation and western values were against Islam, but sadly he couldn’t do anything about it (Note, he is not extremist, only fundamentalist).
In my view Abdullah was blinded by Islam with his unrealistic notions about the religion, with the attitude of anything that is western is wrong, ranging from camera to culture. He wanted a new societal structure (but still not by the means of extremism unlike Butt) he was not content to be told in secular Turkey to conceal his religion and wear European clothes. He saw secularism as a tool of oppression of Muslim ideologies.
(I may seem biased while evaluating Abdullah for I am always pro secularism, be it soft one like India’s or enforced one like Turkey’s).

Then in Syria he saw the infamous Prophet Mohammed cartoons published by a Denmark newspaper and how the Muslims in Syria (and all over the world) saw it as a conspiracy by ‘enemies of Islam’ and a war against all Muslims. (That’s what I don’t understand, blaming entire nation on basis of one newspaper and seeing it as enemy, this attitude of Wahhabi Muslims needs a serious reality check).
Then he saw a political movement brewing under the covering of Abu Nour Mosque where under the name of Islamic studies, students were gradually being influenced towards political and extremist Islam.
To me, Turkey is a perfect example of how modern day Islamic polity can be secular and progressive. Other Islamic nations should strive to achieve this, but sadly they are in the air of the Wahhabi  fundamentalist ideologies of their religion which in today’s world are archaic. Such ideologies gave birth to Iranian Revolution in 1979 and turned Iran into an Islamic state from a secular one. And Iran happened to be next in Taseer’s journey after Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia Taseer headed for Umrah (an off season pilgrimage to Mecca), where he had to cover the Shiva tattoo on his right arm to prevent catching the eye of fellow pilgrims.

In Shia Iran, a country where Islam is not religion but politics, where Islamic democracy did more bad than liberal dictatorship (well of course if they link religion to state) which certainly as per Iranians was bliss looking at the country’s condition under Khomeini. There he met Mohammad Rahimi who once supported the Iranian revolution but now knowing the negative aftermaths wanted Iran to be pre 1979, this showed the plight of people in the Islamic republic being fed up of the ‘regime’.  Iran was a country where people were even arrested for wearing T shirts that ‘exposed’ their elbows and the religious police took away people’s pet dogs because under Sharia, dogs were considered unclean. It was a republic that had passed through an Islamic filter which proved derogatory for Iran.
In Iran he met Nargis who switched to Hinduism from Islam and became a Krishna worshipper; this definitely gives shudders thinking of following other religion in a state where sentence for apostasy is death. In Hare Krishna centre when Iranian spies came the chants changed from ‘Krishna, Rama’ to ‘Ali Allah’. Such was the fear of the regime.

In the end he had bad encounters with the regime and was forced to leave the country in a hurry and took a flight to Karachi via Dubai, now he was in  Pakistan, his father’s land, a country aptly described as one providing menial man power to oil rich Islamic Arab monarchies. There in Karachi he saw people who were concerned about their country’s future, that Sindh and Punjab can be saved by Sufism but its the tribal belt of Pakistan that would put their country to doom and has brought them bad name.
In Pakistan I felt Taseer portrayed more of its internal problems and his encounters with his father rather than focussing on Islam.
His writing on Pakistan reminded me of the 2007 BBC documentary, ‘Saira Khan’s Pakistan Adventures’ where Pakistan is shown in very good light as if there is nothing wrong with the country and all is good there but this book, written around the same time when the documentary was broadcasted, shows the true face of the country, it goes deep into the feudalism, rampant crime, corruption, hatred between Mohajirs (Indian Muslims migrated in 1947) and local Sindhis; Taseer also writes about the goons of political parties (just like in India where parties like Samajwadi thrive on goondaraj) who forced newspapers to write about them.

Then he met his father in Lahore for the second time in his life and got to know his views about Islam. His father doubted the scale of Hitler’s holocaust, this showed how secluded he was in his own ‘Muslim’ world.
(Many Muslims deny holocaust because they are in conflict with Jews and the state of Israel, they feel the state is formed in the Muslim lands (Palestine) after getting sympathy from the Britain and UN. Hence by denying holocaust they are trying to justify their claim on the land. To me it seems funny, they are denying a well documented fact that wasn’t even conducted by them).
In all Taseer wanted to find what made his father a Muslim even though he wasn’t a practicing one, but then he got his answer, his father was Muslim because he doubted the Holocaust, hated America and Israel, thought Hindus were weak and cowardly, and because the glories of the Islamic past excited him.
That’s how Taseer portrayed the face of modern day Islam in his book.

Now what I perceive of modern day Islam is that no doubt, there are many fundamentalists and extremists (and I am sorry to say) who give this faith a bad name, but not all follow their ideology.
Many Muslims, particularly Wahhabis perceive anything non Muslim as threat and because of such attitude, Islam is today, an extremely sensitive faith. In the modern context Wahhabis even see democracy (even in other countries) as a threat. They put their religion before their nation which is very wrong. Most of  their understanding is limited to the religion or region where they come from, i.e. it is confined to Islam. In the view of the west, It is an unreasonable religion (the ruling class of the Islamic states makes it so, not the common people).

Having said all this, I would like to express my respect for this religion (just like any religion on this planet)
I haven’t seen Muslims in other countries but from what I have seen in India, none of the Muslims I have encountered subscribe to the extremist/fundamentalist ideologies. Of course ruling out few groups like Deoband who banned Salman  Rushdie’s entry in India in Jaipur’s literary fest (but again it’s the polity or the ruling class to blame, not an ordinary Muslim on the streets). In fact in India most of the common Muslims are not even bothered by the Jew Arab conflict or the Israel Palestine Issue. If you would like to see the Jew Muslim harmony, visit the Magen Abraham Synagogue in Ahmedabad, situated in a Muslim majority area, where just outside the synagogue, Muslim vendors sell their products on the street not being bothered by Jews praying behind them, such is the harmony that two religions who are hostile towards each other globally,  peacefully coexist in one narrow street in India. This is in contrast even to the very liberal and tolerant UAE which bans people with Israeli passports to entering in its land.

This tolerance is because Islam in the subcontinent is influenced by Sufism, hence it is more soft; while the one in the Arab world/Iran/Afghanistan(Taliban) is the intolerant Wahhabism. Sufism is the kind of Islam I can identify with. I believe that this rise in Wahhabi ideology is the reaction to modernism, the Muslims experienced sudden dislodging from power because of Imperialism and colonialism, also they started to feel danger from other religions some 300-400 years ago when there was the  growth of west, European powers grew strong and Muslim empires failed, hence Wahabbi Islam today has strayed from the path intended to be followed by Prophet Mohammad and earned a bad reputation world wide, otherwise in its nascent stage  it was once a religion of peace and tolerance (and it is even today in India).

Anyway, like me, if middle east and Arab/Islamic world fascinates you then you should read this book and you won’t be disappointed. The reason I picked up this book was that it was written in a form of travelogue of the middle east. What more could I ask for?

Holy Land and Israel!

About 8:45 AM, Enrique’s I like how it feels on Virgin Radio Dubai (man I love this number), and I am reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the internet. For some it may seem boring, like those geeky gujju medium kids at college who have no interest in world politics, (well, forget world, they didn’t even gave a damn about the Anna Hazare movement which shook the entire nation, also they pronounce Israel as Is-raa-eel! If only I had time to join AIESEC…) but for me, anything pertaining to the Middle East is pretty interesting. So, coming to the point…

Holy Land, as the world calls it, this part of the planet never ceases to amaze me! Be it the changes it has seen from even before the birth of Christianity or the ethnic, racial and cultural changes that have swiped the land, undoubtedly this little piece of earth has the most interesting history on the entire planet. It has been invaded by virtually every empire worth its salt including the Persians, Romans, Ottomans and British. It is also the birthplace of both Judaism and Christianity. Jerusalem is also a sacred city for Muslims. And in the modern world, i.e. since the late 19th century the turmoil this region has seen politically, it draws me to know more about it. In 2006, I used to listen on medium wave radio about the on-going war between Israel and Lebanon and back then I used to ignore that news by thinking that those were just a bunch of fools fighting over a piece of land but at that time I didn’t know the grave history behind the turmoil in that region. My interest in this little piece of earth adjoining the Mediterranean Sea arose when I saw the flick Munich this summer; and then there was no stopping, then I read the book ‘O Jerusalem!’ by Dominique Lappiere and Larry Collins in order to know more about the history of the Jew-Arab war and tried to understand that why the conflict between them would never end. Also I keep my eyes open to grab any little information I may get about this region.

After Hitler’s infamous holocaust where thousands of Jews were suffocated in gas chambers, the Jews from around the world began to gather around this region which was formerly a part of Palestine. Then it is beautifully explained in the book ‘O Jerusalem’ how in 1948, after lot of struggles and hardships, with the help of the British government and United nations, the Jews marked a separate territory for themselves and named it Israel right in the heart of the Arab world in the land which was claimed by Palestinian Arabs since past 7 centuries. Now certainly this fumed the Arabs on the injustice done towards them. But still I hesitate to call this as ‘injustice’ leading to the grave history of the Jews. The world wasn’t kind to them before and now after much struggle and armed conflicts they finally ‘earned’ a place which they could call home. And then the Jews from all over the world were invited to be a part of the only Jewish state in the world and help in its progress. As time progressed, Israel spread geographically and the land under Palestine gradually shrank; resulting in what we know today as the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

And the violence in Gaza strip still continues. In fact most Western governments have issued a severe and strict travel warning against entering the Gaza strip to its people. While seeming internally stable, most consider it effectively a war zone. The Palestinian factions and the Israeli military are well armed and quite willing to shoot when they think it necessary. Anyone who carries anything identifying them as Jewish, such as a Star of David necklace, is very much at risk. Also in Diego Bunuel’s show it was shown how dangerous this part is, both on the Israeli colonies neighbouring the strip and the inside of the Gaza strip (of course). There are many rocket and hand grenade attacks from the Hamas controlled Gaza towards the Israeli colonies, and hence the real estate in that part is in crumbles. Diego also showed how the locals try to protect themselves from their own supplied weapons, Yes, Israel supplies the weapons to Gaza (as part of economic support which it has to provide to Gaza based on UN guidelines) which Hamas uses back on Israel. Don’t be startled, they are not real weapons but mostly metal pipes, Hamas generally use them in rocket launchers to strike back on Israel.
Gaza strip is a majorly Hamas controlled, 40X6 km stretch on the coast of Mediterranean sea and one of the world’s most populous regions with population exceeding 1.2 Million. The people of Gaza have no where to go as Israel controls Gaza’s air space, coast, food supplies and virtually everything. The people of Gaza can not move out of the strip and spend their entire lives in that region. Fatah is present in Gaza but it holds its majority in West Bank, but still there are conflicts between Fatah and Hamas authorities. Hence turning Gaza in a very dangerous place to be in. It was shown in Diego’s show that how Israel provides all the economic support to Gaza and how the Gaza people queue up in trucks every morning on the Israeli border to collect the food that feeds Gaza and Israeli soldiers randomly fire in their direction so that there is no chaos on the Gaza side.

Israel is a brave nation, the Jews earned their freedom after much struggle and facing a lot of hardships from the hostile Arabs. The 1948 war was one with Jews on one side and the Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran and Syria on the other, and even today because of Israel’s ‘control’ over Palestinian territories, it is in very bad terms with the Arab nations in the middle east. This can be seen from the Munich massacre in the 1972 Olympics where Arabs mercilessly killed around 14 Israeli players. Israel did strike back which is explained in the book ‘Vengeance’ by George Jonas.
In fact Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and even the moderate UAE block passports containing stamps or visas from Israel; i.e. anyone, even a non Jew who has travelled Israel and wishes to enter the above mentioned nations is barred.
And it’s not just the Arab nations, but also the Muslims from non Arab nations are hostile towards Israel and Jews, the proof of it can be seen in the 26/11 Bombay attacks where even Pakistan’s Islamic extremist organizations targeted Nariman house, a Jewish recreation centre in downtown Bombay. Six Israelis were killed in that inhuman act and it was even said in the news that the terrorists were told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews and hence they were tortured very badly. The hatred of Jews and the state of is a factor that spurs and encourages such murderous acts from extremist Islamic organizations. There were reactions and condolences from even Australia, Canada and US apart from Israel of course but no official reaction from India was made on this act. Also the story behind it was not covered by the Indian media, it was CNN that told me the story of the Jew founders which I will talk about some other time.
The patriotism of the Israelis to their land can be seen from the recent incident where Israel freed 1027 captured Palestinian prisoners for the exchange of one Israeli soldier, just about a month back. And few days back I read in the print that Saudi Arabia will give $1m to anyone who captures an Israeli so that it can exchange it for the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails.

The conflict between the Jews and Arabs will never end, indeed they have such a grave history and if Israel turns even a little moderate in its policies to deal with Palestine, or gives a relaxation in its one year mandatory conscription for the civilians, the Arabs would not let that nation survive. Israel, O brave thee, I bow down to you…
And yes, this doesn’t mean I am against Arabs, in fact those who know me closely enough know how much respect and admire the Arab culture and well, their music too.

PS-If you’ve been wondering what Diego’s show I am talking about, then stop watching MTV and put on something sensible like National Geographic Channel on your TV!

O Jerusalem!

After watching the flick Munich I’ve been looking for a book on Israeli History for long, after looking for them online where I couldn’t succeed, I visited both Ahmedabad’s Landmark store and Crossword but to no avail for the books I was looking for, ‘Israel Is Real’ by Rich Cohen and ‘Vengeance’ by George Jonas were out of stock. But on one fine day I stuck upon this book named ‘O Jerusalem!’ by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins in the library and I can say that it was one of the best reads I have ever had. With 656 pages it seems to be a painful read but believe me that once you start reading it, it engrosses you to the extent that you will lose the count of time. With every single and minute detail of what might have conspired during the birth of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948 and its partition from Arab Palestine, this book clearly shows the effort put in by the authors during their 3 years of research for this book.

The narrative no doubt is fast paced, but is riveting to the very end. The authors have tried to trace the roots of the Arab-Jew conflict with accurate details. In one sense the story is quite moving, after suffering from Hitler’s holocaust which killed 6 million Jews in World War II, it shows the struggles faced by the Jews in 1948 against Arab hatred towards them. In another sense the authors have tried to justify this hatred from Arabs’ point of view that how Israel with the support of United Nations and the British Government have taken over that part of Palestine which belonged to the Arabs since 7 centuries. In short, the authors are neither pro Jews, nor pro Arabs. Both Arabs and the Jews have events in the book that evoke both condemnation and praise and still there is no ugly rhetoric against any one group or party and no emotional outbursts by the authors. The scene is put before you just like it happened. Each party in the war has their flaws and triumphs described without much aplomb or tears. The book is so fascinating that its like reading pulp fiction but the fact that it is all true gives you shudders.

Jewish leaders as mentioned in the book, David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, for them a Jewish homeland was not just a dream, it was their life’s ambition, their passion. I don’t much condone what Israel is doing in the present times with Lebanon and Palestine, but unless you understand the Jewish history, their background, their way of thinking, you just cannot make any headway in that issue. Since past, Israelis have been those people who will die for their land after all they have achieved their hard earned freedom after much efforts and in a dramatic way, dramatic in the sense that even after strong Arab opposition, they marked that piece of land right in the heart of the Arab world which they wanted as their own homeland, Israel, the only Jewish majority nation on the planet.

Talking about the Arabs as mentioned, just after the partition was announced the it was clear with them that now in front of them was an impeding war just as it was clear with the Jews. Even though Arabs were larger in number but the arms that Israel had far outnumbered theirs. Also it is shown how Arabs underestimated Jews resolve, they didn’t know how important for them was this hard earned piece of land, how strong was their feelings for their own state.
In short, by driving out Arabs from their centuries old land, Israelis conducted grave injustice towards them but also Arabs closed out all options of compromise by not recognizing the historical rights of the Jews towards the holy land.

If you want to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict, this book is a must. In fact every person who wonders why the Israel-Palestine  problem at the Gaza strip and elsewhere can never be solved, this book is a must. I would suggest this book to any person who likes quality reads.