Where the Line Is Drawn

A Tale of Crossings, Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine

A moving account of one man’s border crossings—both literal and figurative—by the award-winning author of Palestinian Walks, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war

“Few Palestinians have opened their minds and their hearts with such frankness.” —The New York Times

In what has become a classic of Middle Eastern literature, Raja Shehadeh, in Palestinian Walks, wrote of his treks through the hills surrounding Ramallah over a period of three decades under Israeli occupation.

In Where the Line Is Drawn, Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of forty years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements.

Those forty years also saw him develop a close friendship with Henry, a Canadian Jew who immigrated to Israel at around the same time Shehadeh returned to Palestine from studying in London. While offering an unforgettably poignant exploration of Palestinian-Israeli relationships, Where the Line Is Drawn also provides an anatomy of friendship and an exploration of whether, in the bleakest of circumstances, it is possible for bonds to transcend political divisions.

Praise

“Raja Shehadeh writes with a poised clarity about the intricacies of living as an honorable Palestinian. His humility and dignity shine on every page whether he is discussing his lifelong literary friendship with an Israeli Jew or trying to drive home at night with his wife from a classical music concert along once familiar childhood roads that have become a maze of high-risk choices. This is that rarest of books—a powerful chronicle told with tenderness.”
—Lorraine Adams
“No one else writes about Palestinian life under military occupation with such stubborn humanity, melancholy, and fragile grace. . . . One feels the loss in every paragraph Shehadeh writes, but also the inescapable beauty that remains, which both softens and deepens the rage.”
The Guardian
“A beautifully impressionistic exploration of shared cultural understanding despite the narrowing of borders.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Shehadeh describes with courage and grace the internal struggle to remain fair.”
The New Yorker
“The question of how and if friendships can survive across political divides is a resonant one, and I can think of no one better than Raja Shehadeh to treat it with the wisdom, toughness and humanity that it deserves.”
—Kamila Shamsie
“Written with fierce clarity and unusual compassion, this book touches the human heart of a political tragedy. A moving tribute to the power of human connection in even the harshest circumstances.”
—Gillian Slovo
“The wisdom and elegance of Raja Shehadeh’s thinking and writing are more necessary than ever. This book, a personal history of life under occupation, appeals to—and speaks of—an insistence on dignity, regardless of borders and of endless war. Raja Shehadeh is a buoy in a sea of bleakness.”
—Rachel Kushner
“The weight of oppression, as Raja Shehadeh calls it, bears down on every page of this delicate, thoughtful memoir of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation.”
—Fatima Bhutto
“Shehadeh’s incisive, lyrical memoir cuts to the core of a complex cultural identity.”
Financial Times
“A deeply honest and intense memoir.”
The New York Times
“Shehadeh brilliantly evokes the Palestinian tragedy by way of a complex friendship. This is a fiercely intelligent and honest account.”
—Ian McEwan
“While I was in Ramallah, I met the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh, whose work I did not previously know. His books—including Strangers in the House and When the Birds Stopped Singing—were a discovery: he is a great inquiring spirit with a tone that is vivid, ironic, melancholy, and wise.”
—Colm Toibin
“Raja Shehadeh’s Where the Line Is Drawn is a courageous and timely meditation on the fragility of friendship in dark times, illuminating how affiliation and love—without pretence or concealment, in defiance of occupation and estrangement—can have a profound political power. I hope many people will read and dwell on this unforgettable book.”
—Madeleine Thien
“In the dark agony of the Palestine-Israel conflict, Raja Shehadeh offers a rare gift: a lucid, honest, unsparing voice. His humanity and wisdom are invaluable. Where the Line Is Drawn powerfully records many testing aspects of Shehadeh’s life under Israeli occupation, but at its heart is his long-lived friendship with a fellow intellectual and seeker, Jewish and Israeli. In their bond lies reason for hope. . . . It’s a beautiful book.”
—Claire Messud