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Anat Berko: As Bruce Bennett said, "All clients' needs and expectations are vastly different"

rachelr's picture

 I found The Path to Paradise to be one of the best books that I have read in a long time. The language used and the writing style made for a read easy on the eyes, although the complexity of the ideas, history, and emotion forced me to take my time with each paragraph. I loved the conversational style mixed in with Berko's own experiences and interpretations, and the combination of the historical and cultural details along with the personal depth that Berko gained in her interviews compelled me to keep reading. Reading The Path to Paradise, I thought that Berko essentially spelled out who she is to us: she is a Jew from Israel who spent hundreds and hundreds of hours interviewing suicide bombers and their dispatchers. And while I know that this book and her interviews were motivated by academia and university research, anyone who begins to read this book can see that it is highly personal, and that is how I read it; knowing that because she is who she is that this will be a factor in the information presented to the readers. From reading this book I came away with a better understanding of jihads, why some Muslims become shaheeds and shaheedas, and all of the mental, internal, and external factors that go into someone choosing the path of a shaheed. The testimonies and the raw emotions from male and female suicide bombers, dispatchers, and Sheikh Yassin all captivated my attention, frustrated me, and made me think. 

During our in-class discussion I feel that many unfair expectations were placed on Berko. Could it have been more factual? Sure, take out all the commentary and just leave the bare-bones conversation, in a back and forth like how the conversation with Sheikh Yassin was presented. However I for one would not have wanted to read a book like that, I needed it to feel more personal, and I liked the intimacy that Berko gained from the form that she employed. Did she sometimes make assumptions? Yes, but she also interviewed hundreds of suicide bombers and dispatchers and did thousands and thousands of hours of research. Not to mention the fact that I trust her understanding of the Arab culture much more than trust my own. For example does every suicide bomber have a father who remarried and "abandoned" this child? No, but it seemed that a majority did. Were Berko's generalizations that far fetched? I think not- and she never stated that her claims were fact, she merely supplied us with an interpretation. I appreciate her perspective because I'm sure that not each and every person who she spoke with in prison would give up every detail of their life and beak everything down to an exact root of why he or she became a suicide bomber. These prisoners, because of indoctrination, brain-washing, religion, and more, it seemed that the prisoners had trouble breaking away from their recitation that Allah would reward them and that religion and righting a wrong was the motivation for everything. I agree with that ckosarek said: Berko presents her information in order to give us as readers and complete outsiders a better idea of the dynamics behind the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Maybe the goal isn't to make a point, and that's okay with me. Behind the academic inquiry there is perhaps a personal aim and Berko is saying "hey, here is how I, a Jew from Israel, am trying to understand the motivation behind the conflict and here is some of what I've found. Maybe it will be helpful to you as well."

I hope that in our discussion next week that we can move beyond how we started class today, where we discussed whether she has the "right" to write this book (which I believe she completely and 100% does) and onto the form and how we can look at this as non-fiction. Is it non-fiction through and through? And are there perhaps sub-stories that could be fictitious? 

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