From Beirut to Jerusalem

by Thomas L. Friedman

Hardcover, 1989




New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989.


"If you're only going to read one book on the Middle East, this is it."---Seymour M. Hersh One of the most thought-provoking books ever written about the Middle East,From Beirut to Jerusalem remains vital to our understanding of this complex and volatile region of the world. Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman drew upon his ten years of experience reporting from Lebanon and Israel to write this now-classic work of journalism. In a new afterword, he updates his journey with a fresh discussion of the Arab Awakenings and how they are transforming the area, and a new look at relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis and Israelis. Rich with anecdote,history, analysis, and autobiography,From Beirut to Jerusalemwill continue to shape how we see the Middle East for many years to come.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member berrypuma
This is an excellent read. The original edition was written in the 80s but reading it if feels like it could have been written yesterday. It contains great insights into the root causes of the issues that the world is facing in the middle east today. Thomas Friedman manages to be very objective and candid even though he is Jewish by birth. This is one of those books that you remeber no matter how long ago it was read. Small piece of trivia taken from the book "intifada= shake off" related to shake off the dependance on Israel.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
A readable account ofthe authors' time in Lebanon and Israel in the 1970's and 80's. This is a good revew of the conditions, events, and players in this region.
LibraryThing member eduscapes
This book does a great job explaining the history of the middle east and has many implications for today.
LibraryThing member ejfertig
Though this book is quite old at this point, it's amazingly up to date in the realities of the Arab/Israeli conflict. It's amazing how much he predicts several of the situations being observed now. Thomas Friedman really gets the Middle East in a way I haven't seen from any other American.
LibraryThing member wenegade
Very good depiction of the Middle East during Friedman's time there. The chapter on the leveling of Hama was especially interesting.
LibraryThing member debnance
Journalist relates some of the stories he runs across during his long post in first Beirut and then Jerusalem. Very readable. Recommended.
LibraryThing member Pippilin
A great tool in helping to understand the Arab mindset.
LibraryThing member jcvogan1
Overview of Lebanon and Israel in the 1980's. Friedman's description of Israeli politics is very helpful and his description of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon bears startling resemblances to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
LibraryThing member wwjules
I first read this book during the first Gulf War, and found it very insightful. I read it again several years later, after obtaining a history degree, and with a little more insight into Middle Eastern issues, I still found it intriguing. I don't always agree with Friedman, but I usually enjoy hearing what he has to say.

I will admit that this is the first book that got me interested in studying world events, so I'm grateful for that.… (more)
LibraryThing member rajaratnam
A supporter of Israel has lucidly identified both history and the seemingly intractable problems facing the issue of justice between Israel and the Palestinians. He concludes correctly that it is Israel which holds all the cards. An interesting read.
LibraryThing member mrminjares
In Thomas Friedman's award winning book, we learn why the Middle East is so messed up. Friedman takes us from Minnesota to Beirut, where he is stationed as the Middle East correspondent for the New York Times. He lands in the middle of a complex civil war between Maronites, Sunni, Druse, and Shia motivated by a fight for political control of the minority Maronite over the majority Shia. We witness a naive American attempt to safeguard a peaceful end to the war only to see them get caught in the crossfire and leave in disgrace. We also see Israelis invade to defeat Yassir Arafat who has taken refuge there, but which leads to a mini- holocaust of Palestinians overseen by the Israelis in Southern Lebanon. After nearly being killed several times, Friedman escapes to Jerusalem.

The second half of this story is more an essay than a story about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Friedman does a good job detailing the complicated and tenuous position of the Israeli state to establish democracy, Israeli rule, and security. It seems these features cannot all be had at once. Can a religious state be democratic? Can the majority Palestinians live peacefully in a state ruled by minority Israelis?

This book is well written and easy to follow. It makes the complex middle east situation accessible.
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LibraryThing member PhoebeReading
I read this during my trip to (surprise!) Israel. Friedman's easy, anecdotal style is a treat, really easy to grasp considering the depth and breadth of the book. This provided a great context for my trip, especially considering its age; understandably, he touches on many issues that my Birthright-trip organizers didn't want to discuss, but that I now consider integral to understanding several aspects of Israeli life, particularly Israeli military life. I plan to pick up more of his stuff soon.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
It was an Israeli friend who told me that if I wanted to understand today's Middle East, I should read this book. The author is well-qualified as a guide to the region’s complexities. Friedman, who is Jewish and studied Hebrew as a child, as a teen spent a vacation in an Israeli Kibbutz. He started studying Arabic as well, and fell in love with Egypt after a two-week visit on his way to a semester at Hebrew University. Less than two years later he was taking Arabic courses at the American University in Cairo. After college he earned a Masters at Oxford in Middle Eastern Studies: then, he became a reporter. In Beirut. In the midst of their civil war. He’d spend almost five years there, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the massacre at Sabra and Shatilia camps. When American marines were slaughtered in their Beirut barracks, Friedman was on scene watching the bomb’s mushroom cloud rise overhead. He’d then spend almost four years as the Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

I’ve read criticisms of Friedman’s style as risible, with mixed metaphors and outlandish analogies. I didn’t really notice in the Beirut portion of the book, and I usually do. I think it’s that the story he had to tell was so riveting, I didn’t trip up on that--I just glided right through. When you’re reading about an Israeli officer being confronted in Beirut with three boxes, one filled with heads, another with torsos and another with limbs or read of how the parrot at the bar of the Commodore Hotel rendered a “perfect imitation of the whistle of an incoming shell,” it’s not style that draws your attention. I certainly found this book very readable and well-paced in that first half of the book. I admit I did start noticing the plethora of analogies in the Jerusalem portion. Maybe because a Hobbesian hell like Beirut rivets your attention more than the stories of a functioning democracy. Maybe it’s that the Beirut portions seemed more built on personal experience and observations, while the Jerusalem portions more based on interviews with others. Maybe it’s that his stylistic tics, as some reviewers suggest, increased over time and the Beirut portions were based on material written earlier. For whatever reason, I did find the second half of the book less compelling, and the style much more irksome.

Friedman seemed to me very even-handed. He certainly took to task not just Arabs, but the Israelis and the Americans for a generous share of the blame. Some reviewers pegged him as a Neo-Con, but given his insistence there will be no peace until Israeli settlers are withdrawn from the West Bank, his account of the Israeli occupation there, and his criticism of the Reagan and first Bush administrations, he hardly came across to me that way, and the Goodreads bio taken from the Wiki described him as "left-leaning." I don't think he's so easily labeled, at least not in this book. He identifies three forces that drive much of the madness of the Middle East, and interestingly it isn’t religion, or at least religion per se, which he blames. Even when it comes to Islamic Fundamentalism, he believes it “is at root a secular socioeconomic problem.” He points to three conflicting and competing forces: tribalism, authoritarianism, and nationalism--particularly in the context of how the colonial powers drew very artificial lines when in the aftermath of World War I the Middle Eastern states were established.

I may not always agree with Friedman's analysis or his solutions, but certainly his account of his time in the Middle East makes for a good primer on the nations of the Middle East and their conflicts, even though almost a quarter of a century has passed since the original publication. And the 2012 edition I read had an interesting Afterword on the events that have passed since, particularly Friedman’s thoughts on the Arab Spring and its opportunities and dangers. This may not be the last word on the subject of the contemporary Middle East, but it’s not a bad place to start.
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LibraryThing member melissarochelle
I abandoned this book back in April 2011...I made it to the part where he goes to Jerusalem (took me two weeks to get that far) and then I'm guessing I found more interesting books to read. While I do want to finish one day, it's time (Jan 2012) to remove it from my currently reading shelf.
LibraryThing member SGTCat
This was a really good book. The first section, about Lebanon and Israel's involvement in Beirut, is really excellent. The second half, about Jerusalem, is ok, but Friedman seemed to lose some of his steam there. It's as if the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict doesn't interest him as much as Beirut. After reading the first part, you get a pretty good understanding of the issues in Beirut, at least as Friedman experienced them, but the second half is more vague. It's more about opinion than history or events. That's my impression anyway. This book will probably be best enjoyed if you have some knowledge about the history of the conflict before diving in.… (more)
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
This book follows a chronology of the Middle East that begins in 1882 and ends in 1988. It could be seen as a love story, a biography about a region Friedman knows intimately and loves dearly despite its many contradictions. In spite of the ever-roiling Arab-Israeli conflict Friedman is right in the thick of it and writes as if he is at home. While he has a reporters flair for the detail there is a cavalier nonchalance when it comes to the dangers. He has grown used to the gunfire, the bombings and the kidnappings. His ambivalence in the face of such violence could almost be comical if it was not so conflicted.… (more)
LibraryThing member khinman7
Excellent! Very very informative if you are interested in understanding the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics and culture.
LibraryThing member lylebowlin
Even though this book is almost 20 years old it is extremely well written and gives the reader some excellent insights into the Arab-Israeli conflict.



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