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From Beirut to Jerusalem

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  10,623 ratings  ·  827 reviews
This extraordinary bestseller is still the most incisive, thought-provoking book ever written about the Middle East. Thomas L. Friedman, twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, and now the Foreign Affairs columnist on the op-ed page of the New York Times, drew on his ten years in the Middle East to write a book that The Wall Street Journal called "a ...more
Paperback, 541 pages
Published July 15th 1990 by Anchor Books (first published June 1989)
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Aug 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 get th
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From Beirut to Jerusalem by Tom Friedman won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 1989.

Lebanon was once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, a land of mountains, money, and many cultures, all of which somehow miraculously managed to live together in harmony. At least that was the picture-postcard view. It was not the Lebanon that greeted Ann and me in June 1979. We came to a country that had been in the grip of a civil war since 1975. Our first evening at the Beirut Commodore Hotel
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, politics
Quite insightful. Best part that Friedman offers practically implementable options for initiating a process that in the long run ensures never-ending peace in the Middle East. I wish such a solution makes way into Indo-Pakistan dispute as well.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Tony Le
Nov 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
A one sided extremely biased book. Mr. Friedman! You could have done a much better job had you relayed the views of both conflicting parties of the Lebanese war. Blaming all the miseries on one side only while picturing the other side as the innocent victim only accentuates your incomprehension of the reasons that led to the war, or maybe reflects the result of an 'inflated pocket'!!! ...more
A Man Called Ove
4.5/5 The first half of the book deals with the Civil War in Lebanon. Was greatly reminded of the situation in Afghanistan that I learnt by reading Ahmed Rashid's acclaimed Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Half-a-dozen tribes/sects and each of them in war with every1 else and the neighbours getting involved to burn their hands. Also realised that Friedman's skill of insightful narration with anecdotes is unparalleled. Finally, understood what it was about.
The seco
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Chafic (Rello)
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is older than I am.
But, I had read it while I was in Lebanon - and while dated, time hasn't changed the underlying commentary in the book.

What would normally spark quite a heated debate is broken down and approached from a historical/empirical view of the matter that highlights the different dynamics of both Lebanon and Israel.

It's well-written, it's informative and got my 24-year old adolescent brain actually thinking about a topic I've been oblivious to.
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
it's easy to laugh at friedman: 'he's an intellectual lightweight', 'he's a diehard optimist', blahblahblah... put simply: this is always my first recommendation for anyone curious to read about the middle east. that's because it's fucking great. should be required reading. ...more
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Susan O
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Nick Black
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Chris Hall
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I can understand why the Middle East is the way it is now. Friedman was boots on the ground in both Beirut and Jerusalem in the 1980s as a reporter for the New York Times. An excellent writer, he keeps you engaged and draws thought-provoking analogies and conclusions throughout the book. I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested in the region. ...more
May 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is his only good book. It's a good account of the middle east at the time that he was staioned in Beirut and the writing quality is far better than his current books. It's a great primer if you need middle east politics background ...more
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a great book. I like the writing style and I learned a lot. Friedman is extremely well-informed and his first-hand experiences are truly interesting. Just be aware that it covers a limited period of time, and is very much an exposition of Friedman's own perspective. ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Reads at times like a long Friedman Op-ed, but it is a very informative view of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I would not say that it is totally unbiased as some have said.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
This was required reading for one of my undergrad poli sci classes, and it's very good. Anyone who's interested in learning more about the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict should read it. ...more
Radwa Sharaf
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you switch out "Beirut" for "Damascus", most of the stories would still apply. The sentence I liked the most was "Arabs constantly live under an IBM protocol: Inshallah, Bokra, Ma3lesh" ...more
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
Thrillers R Us
From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman

One thing is certain, that Lebanon and Beirut are compared to as many fine and fun places as you can find books about the subject. FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM mentions that Lebanon was called the Switzerland of the Middle East. Maybe instead it should be called the land of a thousand names or comparisons? Tom Friedman's book is set in the Wild West Days of [west] Beirut, a city that's always provoked more questions than answers. Per se, an urban jungle where not even the law of the jungle appli
Dory Bertics
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: necessaryreads
Great & necessary! Regardless of my issues with the book, you should read it. It’s not perfect but so damn important and really damn good. Maybe a little dated but really as relevant as ever. So just read it.

But for my issues with it (because I always have to be a little mean to great books) first comes with no (or a very minor) acknowledgment of how Israel stole land from Palestine in order to exist. I agree that israel does exist and it’s too late to go back and tell them to completely leave,
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Beirut portion is a compelling mixture of historical fact, personal anecdote, and shrewd analysis. It interweaves psychology and politics. I learned a lot. The Jerusalem part turns a bit toward proselytizing (perhaps because he has more skin in the game?).

Nevertheless, this book does a great job of outlining the what, who, when, where, why, and how of the conflict in the Middle East. He does a good job of explaining the mindset of tribal conflict, of reminding us that our “Western/modern” w
John Ratliffe
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a life-long interest in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Even though this book was published over 30 years ago it offered a close-up look at the great tragedy that is represented by Lebanon, and now Palestine. I choose to read it because it is a ground-level look at those areas and the trouble they have been in for many years.

The story of Lebanon in particular saddens me because it was for years one of most beautiful and cosmopolitan places to was called
Kay Chandler
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I learned so much! About the Middle East certainly but also about tribalism and political motivation and religion. Friedman is a very capable writer and from my point of view is strongest when he is telling stories of individuals that show the human impact and express the messiness of human emotions and reactions. If I had to guess, I’d say that he prefers Beirut. Maybe it’s because it’s where he started the story, but the way he wrote about the people, the city and what he saw there made me fee ...more
Eglė Skl
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To my surprise, this book which I randomly chose as a guide to Middle East before my travels there, became my best book of 2018 (and first 11 days of 2019).

Jewish born youngster from the US becomes obsessed with Middle East and the Arab world, and his journey takes him to the midst of Lebanese War and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This fascinating and very well written book tought me a lot about the region & the world of the 1980s without me even realising that - the way the author mixes his
Laurie Greenhut
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I always wanted to read a book that told me the whole story of how things began, how things changed, and how things got so fucked up between Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding countries. It answers all your questions, deciphers who is who, what the hell has actually happened over the last 75 years, and helps you navigate the headlines. I could not put this down. It should be required reading in every high school and household. Extremely well written by a reporter who teaches while describing ...more
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Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and, columnist—the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six bestselling books, among them From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World Is Flat.

Thomas Loren Friedman was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 20, 1953, and grew up in the middle-class Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. He is the son of Harold and Marga

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“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” 2 likes
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