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Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Books -

real creeps: an un­kempt slob of a man who tries to mo­lest her; a woman whose main in­ter­est is the gold plat­ing on her in­ter­preter’s neck­lace. It is strik­ing how all the clas­sic tropes — child-eat­ing, lech­er­ous, greedy — creep in.

And it is amaz­ing too just how far she is pre­pared to go in press­ing her case po­lit­i­cally. She claims that Is­raeli Jews treat the Pales­tini­ans “ex­actly” as they had been treated in the sec­ond world war. Ex­actly? Wow. It is left to one of her Pales­tinian gar­dener in­ter­locu­tors to sug­gest that not all of Gaza’s prob­lems are of Is­rael’s mak­ing. Speak­ing of Ha­mas, he says: “They are worse than Is­rael. All they want to do is stran­gle us.”

Hav­ing said all of this, I don’t think Snow is anti-Semitic. She shows her­self ca­pa­ble of set­ting aside her per­sonal views of the pol­i­tics of the Mid­dle East in or­der to lis­ten to and faith­fully record Is­raeli Jews ex­press­ing their per­spec­tive, which is of­ten a mix of sym­pa­thy for and abid­ing sus­pi­cion to­wards the in­hab­i­tants of Gaza. And she is pre­pared to con­fess at one point: “I am ill equipped to un­der­stand this con­flict. It is be­yond me.”

In the end, what emerges from Snow’s book is a pic­ture of gar­den­ers, wher­ever they are to be found, on what­ever side of the di­vid­ing lines that criss-cross the globe, as weary ide­al­ists, stub­born prag­ma­tists, in­vet­er­ate co-op­er­a­tors; res­o­lute in their hu­man­ity as they try to see past the con­flicts of the day to a bet­ter time. Gar­dens are “solid worlds of hope and life” and gar­den­ers work “at a cog­ni­tive dis­tance from vi­o­lence”.

Zleika, an Arab liv­ing a be­sieged, en­closed life in He­bron, says her gar­den “is good for the heart, the soul and the spirit. If you want to see art, look at flow­ers; in them is man­i­fested the beauty of the uni­verse and the glory of God.” Time and again, chil­dren — nieces, neph­ews, grand­chil­dren — flit in and out of the gar­dens, har­bin­gers (one can only hope) of hap­pier days.

My favourite gar­dens? There is a Kabul gar­den, pa­trolled by three

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