December 2008. The deadly Israeli assault on Gaza, lasting three weeks as the Strip was invaded by land, sea and air known as Operation Cast Lead sets the theme in John Wight's novel as he explores two different individuals on each side of the border, hours preceding the assault.
Written beautifully, my concerns were raised by the glaringly differing styles between the Palestinian's narration and the Israeli's. When Azzam, the Palestinian protagonist is introduced, an effort is made to humanise him, to explain the nuances of his life. The author tries to describe a different culture in as easy terms as possible but the reader is left feeling patronised.
Yet when the IDF protagonist, an American Jew, is introduced the reader can more easily relate to him and his western upbringing. In Wight's novel he depicts the Palestinian as foreign, needing to explained, whether through the use of Arabic words, or with the descriptions. This "otherness" leaves the reader feeling as though he's not quite like you, making it harder to understand the emotions being conveyed.
The story of Operation Cast Lead was played out for millions to see and read about but in most of those reports the human side of the story was often absent. Over a thousand lives were lost in those few weeks in the Gaza Strip and thousands more were injured. Since the siege of 2006 on the Strip conditions for Palestinians have been horrendous, the numerous wars that the inhabitants have faced have only made things worse. In John Wight's work he draws the reader in to explore how the suffering of those on both sides of the conflict really plays out on a day to day basis. Wight's novel exposes the vulnerability of the humans who have to face the consequences of living in one of the world's most volatile regions.
An effortless read to the end, Gaza Weeps is written emotively, alternating between the two different characters, drawing you in with each story as you live the decade's long struggle between two, the historical context for their choices and their motivation in living for this cause. Through Wight's work you understand how each views their position to be the right one, how they feel justified, whilst at the same time jumping between past and present, trying to give you a greater picture.