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Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  193 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
During the first Palestinian uprising in 1990, Jeffrey Goldberg – an American Jew – served as a guard at the largest prison camp in Israel. One of his prisoners was Rafiq, a rising leader in the PLO. Overcoming their fears and prejudices, the two men began a dialogue that, over more than a decade, grew into a remarkable friendship. Now an award-winning journalist, Goldberg ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 15th 2008 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 588)
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Moira Russell
The second book I've read this week by a white male writer who is an eloquent prose stylist, but whose basic outlook I disagreed with so completely it was almost uncomfortable reading. -- I don't think we're supposed to feel sympathy with poor Rafiq in this book as his FORMER CAPTOR constantly pursues and interrogates and harangues him, going like me like me be my friend love me forgive me, but that was the impression I sure got. (Elena Rappin also apparently felt this, to some extent.)

I also fo
Mar 30, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the best books I've ever read. Truth be told, this book will probably teach you more essential truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than most undergraduate courses on the subject. Plus, it reads like a novel, and the writing is spellbindingly stellar.

Freelance journalist Jeffrey Goldberg tells his life story -- an American Jew who emigrates to Israel, lives on a kibbutz, joins the Israeli Army and serves as an MP in one of Israel's most notorious prisons during the First
Ruchama Feuerman
Jun 25, 2013 Ruchama Feuerman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an impressive book. Far better, more passionate and more mature than From Beirut to Jerusalem. At times it reads like a thriller, that’s how engaging a writer Goldberg is. You can tell something is at stake here for him. It’s not just a dispassionate discussion about Jews and Muslims, analyzed at a remove. But I enjoyed his analyses, too. As a guard in a prison for Palestinians, he becomes familiar with Fatah indoctrination. “Much Fatah talk was a stale echo of Third World liberation ide ...more
Sep 02, 2014 Lawrence rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Prisoners" is a memoir that's journalistic in style and larded with emotion. I did not find it to be a dispassionate account of the Israel/Palestine confrontations. Rather, it is an example of how we are all blindered by our preconceptions. I think this is dangerous when a story is told superficially so well.

Mr. Goldberg is obviously a sensitive person on a personal level, but he is caught up - as are the Palestinians - in his own personal emotions. In his case, the emotions come out of his lif
Oct 02, 2007 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GREAT unfiltered perspective on how the Israel-Palestine conflict is experienced and viewed by those involved. Very intense. If you're looking to find some hope about this conflict, this is not the book. But it is a great read and was a wonderful new view point, diverging from the academic reading I've done about this conflict in the past.
Love to know what Rafiq's side of the story is.
Apr 23, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Self-categorized on the book jacket as "Current Affairs," this book had me expecting an analysis of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the word "prisoners" in the title no more than a metaphor. In fact, a large part of the book takes place in an actual prison, and while it has much to say about Israeli-Palestinian relations, it is more correctly a memoir of an American Jewish journalist attempting to understand the nature of the conflict that has prevailed in that part of the Middle East since 1948. ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Patrick rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 03, 2008 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written and debatably educational, Prisoners follows Jeffrey Goldberg's many years in the Middle East - working on an kibbutz after he proudly and "finally" abandons the tri-state Diaspora, boot camp in the Israeli army, working as a military policeman in the Israeli military prison Ketziot (opened after the first Palestinian uprising/Intifada), then in his many travels as a journalist - posing as a neutral American, sincerely befriending Palestinians in a quest to track down former "frien ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Baljit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book exceeded my expectations tremendously. The writer is a Jewish American, in search of his identity during his youth and takes us thru his travels in the Soviet, kibbutz life, and his service as a prison guard. It is while in prison during the Intifada he comes to meet many prisoners who belong to the Hamas and Fatah. He has many soul-searching conversations with Rafiq Hijazi about religion and politics and despite thier differences they both mantain an uncanny repect for each other.

Roger DeBlanck
Jeffrey Goldberg has written a painfully affective and hugely important book that investigates the centuries-old crisis in the Middle East and also the wider dilemma of the war on terror in today’s world. Goldberg recounts his experiences with unflinching, explosive insight, both heartwarming and incisive. Now an award-winning journalist, Goldberg has traveled throughout the Middle East and interviewed figures as central to the discord as Arafat and Sharon, as well as militants of Hamas and Hezb ...more
Dec 25, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Really interesting book, a blend of a (factual) memoir and an analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict, focusing on 1987-2003.
The author served as an Israeli prison guard (technically a "counselor") during the first Intifada, so he interacted with many Israeli soldiers and Palestinian prisoners. He discusses his experience and (sometimes arrogantly) criticizes practices and ways of thinking on both sides of the conflict. After finishing his service, the author stayed in the Middle East as a re
Jennifer Abdo
Feb 28, 2011 Jennifer Abdo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer by: looked up Palestine or Muslim at library and this was one of 5 that came up
First off, the title is a bit misleading. It should be renamed Jeff Goldberg and Jeff Goldberg across the Middle East Divide because it is far more autobiographical than about a conversation or friendship of Muslim and Jew. The title implies more history and insights from the Muslim than we get, which is next to nothing comparatively. He tells how he was hated by Christians growing up who called Jews Christ killers. He tells of being obsessed with reading about the Holocaust and listening to old ...more
Aug 02, 2009 K rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in valuable and personal insights into the Arab-Israeli conflict
Recommended to K by: Tamar
Jeffrey Goldberg, an acclaimed journalist, writes a stirring memoir describing how he, an unaffiliated Jew, came to embrace Zionist ideals as an adolescent and make Aliyah as a young adult, work on a kibbutz, and then serve a stint in the Israeli army as an increasingly conflicted and disillusioned prison guard overseeing Palestinian prisoners. Jeff writes eloquently and incisively about people he meets and how they flesh out his three-dimensional views of Israel and its problems:

“Gadi, in his n
Jeffrey Ogden Thomas
Mar 28, 2010 Jeffrey Ogden Thomas rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in current Israel situation
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Jaime
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adam Stern
Apr 14, 2015 Adam Stern rated it it was amazing
Goldberg is back at The Atlantic now, and he's my guy when I want to understand the situation in Israel and the region. His experiences as an Israeli prison guard and his analysis of the conflict is written with intelligence, humor and empathy. A wonderful book.
Angie Abbey
Jul 21, 2015 Angie Abbey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about the Middle East.
Jul 14, 2007 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the middle-east
I wouldn't say I greatly enjoyed this book, but I was glad that I read it. Most of it was way over my head, however, and I was more apt to take from it the broader lesson that is to be learned. I also know the author personally, so it was interesting to hear about a range of experiences in his life that I previously was unaware of, told so eloquently. If you are at all interested in the Middle-East crisis, you would definitely have a lot to take from this true to life story.
Jun 18, 2007 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Palestinian/Israeli conflict
It took me a while to get through the book, but it was interesting. I don't know if I really liked Goldberg. I think that he was kind of stupid or naive, but then again, maybe it's because he was honest about his thoughts throughout the book. I learned some about the Palestinian side of things, but not a lot of new information. I learned more about Goldberg's idealism and how it was deflated.
May 12, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eventually, this book became very illuminating. It took awhile for me to catch on to some of the references he mentions (well, a lot of them, I started taking notes and looking things up later). It did end up being a good source to learn about the conflict in the Middle East & how people feel about it (both sides), and so on. So much more to learn!
Jun 26, 2009 Sas rated it really liked it
This was one of the best books I've read with regard to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and it has left me more personally conflicted than ever before. Good historical references and certainly a fair assessment of the mistakes made by the Israelis, as well as those of the Palestinians. I'm praying harder than ever before for peace.
Jul 29, 2013 Josepha rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: amos oz fans
A perverted form of accepting the other, whilst projecting your own high standards upon them instead of living by them yourself. Full of selective information, mostly to the benefit of the state of Israel and a completely off-topic detour into Pakistan to discuss radical islam and pretend as if that is the root cause of the conflict.
Sam Quigley
Yeah, as a dyed-in-the-wool bleeding-heart-lefty-anti-theist, it was gonna take some convincing for me to come around to Israel's point of view. The book was well-written, but I just couldn't make myself care about anyone in it. There are only so many arguments about the contents of Bronze Age books up with which I shall put.
Jun 01, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in an impassioned subjective experience within the Isreal/Palestine conflict.
This is a compelling true life tale of an American Jewish journalist's (and former Isreali Military Police Officer) pilgrimage to the front lines of Zionist activism in Isreal. His viewpoints and insights are refreshingly balanced, and the philosophical exchanges with his Palestinian counterparts are extremely lucid.
Aug 14, 2007 Ciara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Prisoners" is a memoir written so well that it could pass for fiction. It is Goldberg's story of dealing with his Jewish identity, his relationship to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the people on both sides of the conflict. It is an honest and interesting search for hope in a brutal conflict.
Well-written, reasonable, unbiased description of a politically unlikely friendship. So maddening that it has been 20 years since Goldberg met Rafiq and 7 since he wrote the book and absolutely nothing has changed in the Middle East. Or rather, it feels like things have changed and mostly gotten worse.
May 18, 2008 Kris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Another book by a semi-political person who thinks they can solve everything, but spends pages and pages on his boring upbringing so that he can justify his point of view. Not well written enough to be compelling. "Shut Up I'm Talking" is MUCH better, both in writing and in subject matter.
Sep 22, 2008 Erica rated it liked it
So far this book is amazing. I have to keep a computer around to look up some Jewish religious rituals and terms, but other than that (which isn't a negative) this is a very interesting book about an international conflict told from a personal perspective.
Will Boncher
Mar 20, 2011 Will Boncher rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Definitely not my usual type of book, but it super cheap when the Freer Gallery gift shop was purging out everything. Really taught me a lot, and gave me some insight into some of the middle eastern politics I'm admittedly fairly ignorant of.
Mar 10, 2009 Darrenlopez rated it it was amazing
An amazing insight to the conflict in Palestine.. The author truly give you a good grasp of the history and how far back this fighting has gone on. A great book for a person who really wants to understand the conflict in the "holy land"
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