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Contents:


  1. Primary Sidebar
  2. Fast Times in Palestine - A book by Pamela J. Olson
  3. Reader Interactions
  4. Book Recommendation: Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland
  5. Fast Times in Palestine – Book Review

Those were good days.


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At sunset, I walked to the curving street with the steep valley view and found a low wall to sit on and watch the twilight show. After a while I looked down and noticed a family standing under the wall and looking up at me. They greeted me in Arabic. She pointed to her hijab and trailed her hand along it. Then she motioned for me to sit on her porch. Nearly a dozen kids crowded around excitedly. They were a good-looking family, especially the flirty four-year-old Mustafa. I spent several days afterward filling in those blanks. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion.

This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate. With dizzying speed she found herself attending Yasser Arafat's funeral, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip. The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between.

Primary Sidebar

Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but about human nature and our place in the world. I offer affordable editing and consulting services. What does that prove? Only that people are people and that politics makes many of them incapable of seeing the bigger picture.

But not all of them. Pamela Olson saw things in Palestine I never suspected existed there: She also tells of many of the things I expected to read about: Palestinian families with members maimed or killed simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time; Palestinians whose homes have been purposely turned into rubble by the Israeli military; and families whose very livelihood is threatened because their centuries-old olive groves are now on the wrong side of a security fence erected by the Israelis tragically, hundreds of the ancient trees have been destroyed in the name of security or settlement.

My only complaint about Fast Times in Palestine, and I consider it more to be pointing out what I see as a flaw rather than complaining, is that Olson's focus is overwhelmingly on Palestine's moderates and Israel's extremists - not to say that there are not plenty of each, because there certainly are.

I will long remember some of the wonderful Palestinian families to whom she introduces the reader. I do believe that Israel is very heavy-handed at times in its approach to co-existing with Palestine, and Olson certainly puts a human face on those suffering the consequences. But I also believe that Israel is home to many moderates who are simply trying to raise their families and get on with their own lives. I would love to see the author spend some time with those people and tell their stories as well. What is happening in Palestine is a tragedy and, while Fast Times in Palestine adds to the dialogue, there is definitely room for another book here.

Jun 25, Sacramento Public Library added it Shelves: Olson is a gut-wrenching, intimate true recounting of the almost accidental arrival of Pamela in Palestine with eye-opening accounts of daily life for her and the friends she makes. These include Israelis and Arabs. She falls in love with one Palestinian whose family life is almost wrecked by the wall Israel erects that separates their olive orchard and economic sustenance from their home. Pamela is faced with very di Fast Times in Palestine: Pamela is faced with very difficult choices.

She works hard at being objective and fair and understanding about circumstances between Israel and Palestine. She experiences bombings, death and destruction and shares her experience as if it is happening that moment, so you live it with her. I highly recommend this book for deepening understanding about life both in Israel and Palestine. It includes house parties, concerts, barbecues, lots of drama and amazing insights.

Pamela packs a lot into these pages. Jun 29, Paddy O'callaghan rated it it was amazing. Pamela Olson's memoir of the time she spent living in Palestine is absolutely essential reading as both a travelogue and an account of the lives people in the occupied Palestinian territories are leading. It is very even-handed in it's treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and, although entirely unpretentious and very accessible, beautifully written.

Jun 16, Tommy Hughes rated it it was amazing. I loved this book, very well written. Having lived in the GCC for seven years I wanted a book that would be readable, but also give great insight into the situation in Palestine. I would highly recommend this book! Jul 19, Andrew Lucas rated it liked it. This book descends quickly into a mawkish listing of grievances against the Israeli occupation, to the detriment of providing the reader with a full insight into her life during a year-and-a-half in Palestine.

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Fast Times in Palestine - A book by Pamela J. Olson

To her credit, Olson backs her charges with footnoted references, and I don't doubt for a minute the facts of the circumstances she relates. But the tone of her writing is so melodramatic that it just didn't resonate with me. The book improves as it progresses and her description of her ti This book descends quickly into a mawkish listing of grievances against the Israeli occupation, to the detriment of providing the reader with a full insight into her life during a year-and-a-half in Palestine.

The book improves as it progresses and her description of her time as press officer to a Palestinian presidential candidate finally piqued my interest. I also enjoyed the concluding pages, in which she considers the broader philosophical questions of our inhumanity towards each other that were raised by her experiences. Overall, a worthy read. Feb 11, Philippa rated it it was amazing Shelves: I need to gather my thoughts before I can even contemplate writing a review to do this book justice. I knew that this book was about someone's personal account of life in Palestine, but I had no idea that Olson hadn't specifically intended to go to Palestine.

She went backpacking in th Wow, just wow. She went backpacking in the Middle East and happened to come across some people who invited her to come along to Israel with them, and took her with them to Palestine after that. The fact that the Middle East was a relatively unknown region to Olson before she started out on her journey is actually really nice, especially for people reading this novel who don't know much about it either, because you gradually discover more and more about the region and Israel and Palestine in particular.

The best thing about this book, in my opinion, are the personal accounts of the people she meets during her time in Palestine. Here in the West we get so much information thrown at us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there is nothing we can directly empathise with. By recording people's personal accounts and allowing us a brief glimpse into their personal lives, it brings the conflict much closer to home. Olson shows that Palestinians are just ordinary human beings who try to go about their normal life as much as they possibly can in spite of all the restrictions imposed by the Israeli government.

The author tries to illustrate the injustices in the region the best she can, and she does so from a fairly objective point of view. It is very easy for a casual observer to generalise a situation and condemn only one of the parties involved, but Olson manages to depict everyone she encountered as human beings, Palestinians and Israelis alike, which is exactly where the power of this book lies.

There is no doubt about the fact that Israel is the oppressor in this conflict and Palestine the oppressed, but that does not mean that Israel and all of its inhabitants are the source of all evil, which is how they are often depicted by pro Palestinians. The same goes for the general image of Palestinians in the media. Very often they are either depicted as victims of a great injustice, or as terrorists. The author shows that there are good and bad people on both sides, and also tries to understand and explain why certain people are drawn to certain courses of action.

She doesn't just depict the Palestinians as a poor, homeless people with no prospect, but rather as a multitude of people with hopes and dreams, and with very diverse expectations of life. Olson gives a voice to people who would normally be ignored by the general media, to show that there are many Palestinians who condemn suicide bombers, and there are many Israelis who oppose the settlements in Gaza and on the West Bank, just to name a few examples. The way in which the book is written, as a kind of travelogue, works really well. Together with the author we gradually peel back the layers of society and of the conflict, and it makes reading the book really exciting because it almost feels as if you are there with her.

Olson also manages to strike the right balance between the more light hearted moments of her time in Palestine, such as accounts of helping families with the harvest, enjoying dinners with a large variety of people, and sightseeing, and the more shocking and depressing moments when talking about the many civilian casualties, people being robbed of their land, and tragedies at the various Israeli checkpoints.

This way the book offers a perspective that is neither too positive nor too depressing or pessimistic either.

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It shows how strong human spirit actually is, and that people can manage to retain a degree of optimism even in the most dire of circumstances. I think this is a must-read for anyone who is remotely interested in the Middle East and who wants to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but doesn't want to read a dry text packed with statistics and facts.

This book does occasionally contain some statistics to back up arguments, but it is a lively and beautifully written account of a young woman whose life took some truly unexpected turns. It is an engaging and thought provoking book, and I definitely think everyone should read it.

Reader Interactions

Jun 04, Gary rated it did not like it. Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad but then its not fashionable or pc to regard Israeli as humans entitled to human rights. In March Arab terrorists murdered eight young Jewish seminary students at study of the Torah. Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch points out that the leaders of the propaganda for Hamas and Palestinian Authority TV with their televised sermons, cartoons, comic books and school books have constructed a machine to incite mass murder similar to that of the Hutu journalists who spearheaded the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.


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  • Hamas and Hezbollah, two of the terrorist organizations that work for the physical annihilation of Israel describe Jews as 'pigs', 'cancer'. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in continually vowing to '"wipe Israel off the map" for which he is building a vast nuclear arsenal without the world or the Obama administration lifting a finger to stop him, uses the expression 'dead rats' Not only do the rabid anti-Zionists who boycott and demonize Israel display gross and racist anti-Semitism , but they also responsible to a large extent for terror against Israeli women and children.

    This is because Moral denigration encourages physical elimination It is entirely in keeping in the character of Islamists or rabidly leftist anti-Zionists that they should carry a rabid hatred of Israel to the point of defending the killers of Israeli children. The mainstream and left-wing world media are also extremely culpable for fomenting mass killing of Jewish men, women and children in Israel.

    As Claude Lanzmann director of the monumental film Shoah wrote "When 'settlers' were killed it was intolerable to read in the newspapers stuck in a corner of the page 'settler women killed' or worse 'settler child strangled' as if the twofold stigma of Jew and settler made the murder understandable, justified it and dismissed it from our attention". This book carries the stories of the victims. Thousands of Israeli Jewish men, women and children have died from bombs, bullets or knife attacks, and thousands of others have been maimed, blinded, orphaned, widowed and terrorized.

    An extraordinary memoir of the author's time in Palestine, which reads like a part-diary, part-history, part-political, part- travel survival guide. Like many in the West, I've been largely oblivious to the horrors of what goes on in the 'Occupied Territories' and this book tells it like it is, warts and all. To live under such oppression and violence is unimaginable for me, but this book illustrates it quite clearly in a way that anyone can relate and understand to some degree.

    Fast Times In Pa An extraordinary memoir of the author's time in Palestine, which reads like a part-diary, part-history, part-political, part- travel survival guide. Fast Times In Palestine is obviously a difficult and highly emotional book to read and there were countless times where I could only read a few pages at a time and I had to put it down.

    Reading accounts of mindless shootings of children by Israeli soldiers, women being forced to give birth at checkpoints because some soldier just felt like not letting them through, the house raids, bombings, the ever present and ominous Wall, livelihoods and futures being destroyed, it all takes it toll but it's an important account that needs to be read by as many people as possible.

    As well as the simply atrocious things that happen and continue to happen, the book also illustrates the kindness, the hospitality and the sheer will to carry on living a normal life, by the Palestinians. With this, we are also greeted with descriptions of beautiful surroundings and delicious food. I would recommend this book as a starting point to anyone interested in Palestine. I only hope that one day the Palestinian people will have the freedom that we in the West take for granted. May 26, Kevin Pedersen rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's not the final word in the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it shows a side of the story that doesn't get told a whole lot, especially in America.

    Book Recommendation: Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland

    While the root causes of the tension can be debated for years has anyone ever debated that before? The growth of the author over the course of the memoir is pretty impressive, as she goes from a sort-of-shallow backpacker to a really informed and passionate expat who has experienced a hell of a lot more political crisis than I ever have. At one particularly telling point, she is disturbed to find herself getting inadvertently radicalized as she reads about a suicide bombing and briefly considers that the victims deserved it.

    Later, she meets the family of another suicide bomber and gets a good sense of why someone might do something like that -- spoiler alert, it's not because they are evil and hate freedom. Bush gets a name-check as a dummy who made everything worse, because of course he did. It's hard to read this without getting angry, and then thinking that maybe your anger is misplaced, and then thinking that maybe it's not. And I think that's what this is really about, in the end I really enjoyed this book, although it does cover a tough and hard to take topic.

    Fast Times in Palestine – Book Review

    Olson tells the story of her time volunteering and working in Palestine, her time in cities and villages, at holy sites, harvesting olives, working on a political campaign, getting through checkpoints, talking with people from all sides. For me it really helped put in perspective how awful the situation there truly is the book is well footnoted, if you I received this book from the GoodReads FirstReads GiveAway. For me it really helped put in perspective how awful the situation there truly is the book is well footnoted, if you want to check her sources.

    She documents the feeling of loving a place, but not being of the place, of always knowing you can leave, enjoy a day at the beach and a freedom from fear, while knowing that those around can not. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about what is happening in Palestine. For anyone just out of college, struggling to find their place in the world, and wanting to make a difference, this book will open your eyes to the possibilities out there.

    Nov 08, Marianna rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book should become mandatory reading in every high school in The United States! Pam Olson does a wonderful job of humanizing a people that our media has dehumanized to the point of caricature. There are two sides to every story. This is the Palestinian story. The ma This book should become mandatory reading in every high school in The United States!

    The major take away from Ms. Olson's story is that the conflict in this region is not about religion.