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From Beirut to Jerusalem

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,940 Ratings  ·  644 Reviews
"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
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Paperback, 656 pages
Published December 11th 2012 by Picador (first published 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brendan
Dec 28, 2007 Brendan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're sick and tired of what a pedantic wind-bag Thomas Friedman has become since his stupid 'lexus & olive-tree' epiphany, take a trip back to when he was less pedantic, less wind-baggish, and could make a point without the use of a dozen unnecessary, self-aggrandizing anecdotes.

From Beirut to Jerusalem is entertaining, well-written, poignant, and a great primer to middle-eastern/Israeli-Palestinian affairs. The Beirut section of the book is a bit better than the Jerusalem section (I ge
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K
Nov 05, 2009 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a serious interest in understanding the Middle East conflict
According to one cynical goodreads reviewer, From Beirut to Jerusalem offers some insight into “two sets of idiots killing each other over a piece of dirt.” My instinctive reaction when I read this was to feel sorry for this reviewer who clearly doesn’t know what it means to have a homeland, and to be so deeply invested in it as to be willing to die for it. My husband pointed out that the reviewer may actually know what it’s like to have a homeland. What the reviewer doesn’t know is what it’s li ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 28, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in the Region and Foreign Policy
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Sherri; The Ultimate Reading List: History
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 Univer ...more
Mike
I used to follow and read Thomas Friedman’s columns regularly. Thought he was a pretty interesting guy even if I didn’t subscribe to his politics. But he became a bloated, pompous caricature of a journalist as he turned out junk like The World is Flat, The Sky is Blue, The Sea is Salty (well maybe the last two aren’t real but he has a bunch of similar-sounding books). I decided to go back to his first book From Beirut to Jerusalem to see how he got his start. I figured it would be a less slanted ...more
Noah
Jul 01, 2009 Noah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am woefully ignorant of most of the conflicts in the Middle East, and even though the information in this book is pretty dated, it offers a useful window into the dynamics in Lebanon and Israel. Friedman writes with restraint and insight, and has some truly great pieces of analysis, like the chapter on Israel and Jewish identity. Now if he could only stop indulging his analogy fetish. Which one is it, Tom? Is the Middle East like an ice cream cone, or is it like The Great Gatsby? Make up your ...more
Carli
I'm not a huge fan of Friedman lately, but this book is great. I thought the section on Beirut to be more autobiographical in terms of relating directly to his experience as a journalist there. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem section seemed more broad. I can't help but wonder (I'm sure I can read his NY Times column if I wanted to find out)how he views events since- post- assasination of Rabin, premiership of Netanyahu, second intifada. At any rate, this is a must read for anyone interested in that are ...more
Adam
Mar 24, 2011 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Knowing nothing or Friedman I found it interesting that I was ridiculed for having this book in hand. I guess that's what you get for bringing 'Neo-Con Zionist' literature to an internship in Palestine! My only prior knowledge of the book was that it covered the recent history of the Middle East with a heavy emphasis on the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. I thought I'd dive in for a bit of education. . .

During the first half of the book, Friedman's profession is made very clear, both through
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Dave
Jul 28, 2007 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
A very insightful book that tells the story of two different cultures at odds, not just with one another, but with themselves. He draws parallels between these two disparate societies by focusing on each one's search for identity. In addition to the politics, greed, and the arrogant assumption that cruelty can be justified by an invisible sociopath in the sky described in this book, the author also beautifully conveys the dignity and sanity of which human beings are capable, even in the worst si ...more
Nick Black
May 14, 2008 Nick Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this once before, then had it stolen by Mike Silverburg...bastad! Reacquired at Borders, 2008-04-08

Well, I very much disliked The World is Flat, but this was pretty awesome. Not at all a history, per say (although you'll get a good glimpse of the 80's era, especially the Beirut troubles and the Arafat era prior to the first intifada), but a pretty solid memoir of a fascinating time and place.
Susan Ozmore
I really enjoyed this book, but more so when I realized it was memoir rather than history. Friedman is writing about his time as a journalist in Beirut and Jerusalem roughly between 1979 and 1989. He was in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion, intended to drive out Arafat and the PLO, and moved on to Jerusalem in time for the first intifada, beginning in 1987.

I enjoyed the first half of the book more and feel that he did a better job in it of simply reporting the circu
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Ryan Schnier
Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem is an extremely informative yet incomplete book about the origins of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It tracks the author's growing disillusionment with Israel and its policies, as he progresses from a young zionist to someone that sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause. As a result, this book (the second half, in particular) tells the Palestinian narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict, holding Israel to a higher moral standard without serious r ...more
Marit
Mar 13, 2010 Marit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, judaism
This was recommended to me by a friend as a must-read for anyone interested in Israeli politics or history. And I agree. This was Friedman before he became the self-aggrandizing, pompous (though still very smart) writer he is today. I liked how Friedman structured his book, moving back and forth between small, intimate stories and large world politics, and shifting the focus from Beirut to Jerusalem but constantly weaving in other details, historical tidbits, etc. to make a very vivid, fleshed-o ...more
Josh Meares
Aug 07, 2012 Josh Meares rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really eye-opening book, especially for someone of my generation. Most of the events in this book happened before I was born or while I was a toddler, and our public education system tends to ignore other countries. So, Friedman provides a thoughtful, insightful analysis of the Middle Eastern problem. He gives a lot of background and makes it interesting by including his own personal experiences with terrorist bombing and hijackings. His personal knowledge of events really shines throu ...more
Amy
Dec 28, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent read. Friedman is an eloquent writer.

The first half of the book is a riveting account of Friedman's stay in Beirut between 1979 - 1984 as a journalist for the New York Times. He doesn't try to prove points, but rather makes observations that are reinforced by his actual experiences and a plethora of data he collects, whether this data be a formal interview, a casual conversation, or overhearing a TV or radio ad. These observations all come together to paint an impression of
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EJ Johnson
Sep 18, 2008 EJ Johnson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious foreign policy studiers
Recommended to EJ by: MJ
Like MJ said this book took longer to read then most. I almost quit midway through because I was getting bored. But I am glad I finished. Thomas Friedman was a reporter in first Beirut and then Jerusalem for about a decade 1979 to 1988. It was very interesting to get first hand accounts of what was happening during that time. Mr. Friedman shows his polically left leanings more than once in the book but I still felt that he worked hard to report objectively while in the book sharing his feelings ...more
Hanna
Dec 27, 2012 Hanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The setup of the book is great - a juxtaposition of Beirut and Jerusalem/Israel by someone who has spent substantial time in both places - but I take issue with some of its stylistic aspects. I understand Friedman's forte is journalism, not literature, and I believe this was his first full length book, but I found some of his metaphors and similes unacceptably tenuous: a burglarized mansion symbolizing Israel subjected to violent terrorism (seriously? bombs killing children are nothing like stol ...more
Matt
Feb 13, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Friedman's book is easily one of the best primers on the history of the conflict in the mideast. I have mixed feelings about Friedman as a columnist, but this book is built on his time as a journalist in the region - first as a reporter in Beirut, then later as bureau chief in both Beirut and Jerusalem. His time in the region - over a decade - means From Beirut To Jerusalem has an impressive level of comprehensiveness.

While the depth of Friedman's reporting is one of the main strengths of the b
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Ann
Apr 14, 2016 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book from the free table at our local library. My cousin lives in Lebanon ... has lived there since the late 70's. She speaks fluent Arabic and met her husband and has raised her children there. I have a keen interest in trying to understand Middle East politics. If there is one book that has been most helpful in understanding Middle East conflicts I would have to say this one is it ! One thing for sure, the answer to the continual strife between Israel and her neighbors is not ...more
Kerem
Jun 19, 2016 Kerem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed account of Friedman's time in Beirut and Jerusalem, including all the gory details and the human aspect of the stories. He evaluates the deep-rooted problems of the Middle East not from a Western viewpoint but indeed builds a good understanding of locals' viewpoints, including their tribal approaches. He presents even a fictional 'peace plan', which is more realistic than what one would expect in Western media. Overall a very interesting book and a very well written story.
Robert Miner
Jun 07, 2016 Robert Miner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent combination of political analysis and autobiographical narrative. This book, for me, brought Thomas Friedmann to the foreground of critical observers of the Middle East.
Maggie Maxfield
Mar 22, 2015 Maggie Maxfield rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No wonder this book won the National Book Award. If you know nothing of Middle Eastern history or politics, this book is a great starting point. Despite its publication date, the ideas are (for the most part) not dated.
Joseph
Mar 28, 2009 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
These days, Friedman is possibly the single worst prose stylist with column space in a major newspaper. But before self-aggrandizing anecdotes, painfully mixed metaphors, and banal truisms were added to his arsenal, he wasn't half bad. And here, he's damn good. Dealing with the Middle East, he weds a lifelong obsession to on the ground experience - the result being one of the most riveting nonfiction reads I've had in a while. Objective without being passionless, personal without being self-abso ...more
Galina Kalvatchev
What an amazing piece of writing! It took me more than 3 months to read it and that is because I wanted to take my time with this book. It is really balanced, tremendously informative and at the same time entertaining.

I haven't read anything as good on the Middle East as Friedman's analysis. His description of life in Beirut is outstanding, his study of Arafat is very insightful, and his dissection of the whole region is unmatched. Besides all that, the author can be quite funny. I loved the an
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Nick
May 08, 2016 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned a ton about the Middle East from this book and highly recommend it. Reading this book made me realize how much we take for granted on a daily basis in terms of our security and freedom. Thomas has great insights on the power dynamics in the region, how the switzerland of middle east became the Beirut we know today, the tribal thinking that led to the Hama massacre, the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict and why it is so difficult to come to a peaceful resolution after many years of ...more
Holly Morrow
I don’t really like (bordering on actively dislike) Tom Friedman as a columnist, and this book is about 20 years old, so I probably would never have picked it up if it hadn’t been sitting on a shelf in my in laws’ house next to the chair where I was nursing my newborn for endless hours over the holidays.

So imagine my surprise when I ended up loving it. I think the difference may be that unlike Friedman’s columns, where he waxes on about things he doesn’t really know all that well (like China),
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Dr.J.G.
Friedman's life, work and impressions of the two places when he was stationed there during the eighties, the work is informative in detail in more ways than one - horrors such as Hama and confusion of Lebanon are not this well known to those not of the nations involved, for example - and very worth reading.

Even as one reads these accounts one wonders at the cry against the comparatively smaller details of events elsewhere due to the democratic nature of the nations and culture in the said elsew
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Subbu Ananth

An awesome book for anyone trying to understand the middle-east, it's politics and history!
I took close to a year to complete reading it. Such was the intensity and content in each chapter. It takes time to assimilate the intelligent language and detailed reporting of Friedman. Classic and a must read for anyone interested in the politics and history of the region.


Chapter 13 provides possibly the most unambiguous and clear account on the middle east conflict in the years of 1987-88 with abundan
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The Thousander Club
Many years ago, while attending Valencia Community College (now Valencia College), I wrote a research paper titled "Little Israel." At the time it was a culmination of years of fascination and study for one of the most intriguing and captivating events in modern history. Since then my study and focus on Israel has waned, but I've never lost what seems to be an innate interest in the country, its people, and its circumstances. Thomas L. Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem was a reminder of why th ...more
Judy
Jul 07, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This classic treatise on the Middle East won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1989. Thomas L. Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and a New York Times columnist. In the first half of the book, Friedman writes about his time living as a foreign correspondent in Lebanon from 1979 to 1984, and in the second half he discusses his time in Israel from 1984 to 1988. Although written sixteen years ago, so much of the book is still relevant today, and a 2012 update brings in some more ...more
Becky
This is a fantastic book and a must-read for anyone who is interested in understanding the current political situation in the Middle East. Although most of the book is about Friedman's experiences as a journalist in Lebanon and Jerusalem in the 1980's, many of the core political elements he describes are the same today. For example, his descriptions of the Lebanese Civil War shed a lot of light on the factors contributing to the current civil war in Syria. He also wrote follow-up chapters after ...more
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Difficult read 3 92 Jun 08, 2012 09:37AM  
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Thomas Lauren Friedman is an American journalist. He is an op-ed contributor to The New York Times, whose column appears twice weekly and mainly addresses topics on foreign affairs. Friedman is known for supporting a compromise resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, modernization of the Arab world, environmentalism and globalization. He is considered to be a pluralist and most of his comm ...more
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“Men grant and withdraw their love according to their whims, but fear is a hand that rests on their shoulders in a way they can never shake.” 7 likes
“As I noted in Chapter 14, “The Earthquake,” there was a supermarket in Jerusalem where I shopped for fruits and vegetables almost every day. It was owned by an Iraqi Jewish family who had immigrated to Israel from Baghdad in the early 1940s. The patriarch of the family, Sasson, was an elderly curmudgeon in his sixties. Sasson’s whole life had left him with the conviction that the Arabs would never willingly accept a Jewish state in their midst and that any concessions to the Palestinians would eventually be used to liquidate the Jewish state. Whenever Sasson heard Israeli doves saying that the Palestinians really wanted to live in peace with the Jews, but that they just couldn’t always come out and declare it, it sounded ludicrous to him. It simply ran counter to everything life in Iraq and Jerusalem had taught him, and neither the Camp David treaty with Egypt nor declarations by Yasir Arafat—nor the Palestinian uprising itself—had convinced him otherwise. As I said, as far as Sasson was concerned, the problem between himself and the Palestinians was not that they didn’t understand each other, but that they did—all too well. Sasson, I should add, did not appear to be ideologically committed to Israel’s holding the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He was a grocer, and ideology did not trip easily off his tongue. I am sure he rarely, if ever, went to the occupied territories. Like a majority of Israelis, he viewed the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip primarily in terms of security. I believe that Sasson is the key to a Palestinian–Israeli peace settlement—not him personally, but his world view. He is the Israeli silent majority. He is the Israeli two-thirds. You don’t hear much from the Sassons of Israel. They don’t talk much. They are not as interesting to interview as wild-eyed messianic West Bank settlers, or as articulate as Peace Now professors who speak with an American accent. But they are the foundation of Israel, the gravity that holds the country in place. And, more important, years of reporting from Israel have taught me that there is a little bit of Sasson’s almost primitive earthiness in every Israeli—not only all those in the Likud Party on the right side of the political spectrum, but a majority of those in the Labor Party as well; not only those Israelis born in Arab countries, but those born in Israel as well. Indeed, the Israeli public is not divided fifty-fifty on the question of peace with the Palestinians. The truth is, the Israeli public is divided in three. One segment, on the far left—maybe 5 percent of the population—is ready to allow a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza tomorrow, and sincerely believes the Palestinians are ready to live in peace with the Jews. Another segment, on the far right—maybe 20 percent of the population—will never be prepared, for ideological reasons, to allow a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. They are committed to holding forever all the Land of Israel, out of either nationalist or messianic sentiments. In between these two extremes you have the Sassons, who make up probably 75 percent of the population. The more liberal Sassons side with the Labor Party, the more hard-line Sassons side with the Likud, but they all share a gut feeling that they are locked in an all-or-nothing communal struggle with the Palestinians. Today the” 0 likes
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