The Lemon Tree
This updated evergreen documentary, which originally aired on Fresh Air in 1998, and won the Overseas Press Club Award for radio, explored the human side of what many consider the world's most intractable conflict. The documentary, pegged to the 60th anniversary (on May 14-15) of the founding of Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, told the story through a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. It explored how the 1948 war, known to Israelis as the War of Independence, is, to Palestinians, the Nakba, or Catastrophe. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Palestinian Bashir Khairi sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, who arrived in Israel as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, and moved into the same house, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. As both are swept up in the fates of their people, and Bashir is jailed for his alleged part in a supermarket bombing, the friends do not speak for years. They finally reconcile and convert the house in Ramle into a day-care center for Arab children of Israel, and a center for dialogue between Arabs and Jews. The stories of Dalia and Bashir form a personal microcosm of the last sixty years of Israeli-Palestinian history. In a region that seems ever more divided, The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible. The documentary was told almost entirely through the voices of Bashir and Dalia, interwoven with archival tape from the era. There was a new postscript updating the story of Dalia and Bashir. The second piece in the hour, The Imaginary Village, produced with Melissa Robbins and released through Transom.org, explored an untold aspect of the much-chronicled Israeli-Arab dispute: The longing for land and home by Palestinian refugees. The piece was produced in 2004. Together the two pieces formed a powerful, reflective, and even hopeful hour on the anniversary of this tragic conflict.