Reviewing Zoo on the Road to Nablus
|Book: The Zoo on the Road to Nablus: A Story of Survival from the West Bank|
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The Zoo on the Road to
This tale from the
It took a few chapters to become fully involved in the work, perhaps more so as my expectations were not in line with the essential point of the story. But then having realized that this truly was the story of one man and his efforts to sustain his dream, and not a political or religious tract, I let the story speak for itself.
First of all, its peaks of Dr. Sami Khader and the people that he interacts with. Dr. Khader is an unpretentious veterinarian trying to create a zoo with minimal resources. His character is softened by the patience of his wife Sarah and the pleasure that his first-born daughter Uzhdan provides with her desire for knowledge and education. At first seemingly aloof and single-minded, his character grows on the reader as his humour, compassion, sensitivity, stubbornness and positive thinking create a likable if eccentric -eccentric by nature, as who would conceive of a zoo under the conditions present in Qalqilya – character. The other characters are the many people employed at the zoo, the municipal politicians, and the visitors received at the zoo ranging from the
It is the interactions with these many other people that provide the comedy of the story. There are comic elements throughout, not the staged studio laugh comedy familiar to most North Americans via
The latter comment also reveals a second level to the story, that of the political situation within the greater world around them, the confinement and deprivations of the people of Qalqilya that they have to take in stride every day. Understated throughout the work, the reader cannot help but form a picture of the human zoo that is Qalqilya and the
Going to prison, arrested in the middle of the night, is an “unscheduled leave of absence” from work. Dr. Khader wished to purchase a car “a newish model, just two decades old.” The seeming indolence of the workers reconstructing parts of the zoo covers their need for employment after being cut off from their former Israeli work at the same time keeping them on the UN dole, money often not forthcoming for months at a time. Obtaining permission to travel requires both extensive time and effort either within the West Bank or especially to another country, as Dr Khader journeys to the Giza Zoo in
Metaphor meets reality: as Dr. Khader prepares to leave
Home. Illusions of freedom. Everything you need. The Zoo on the Road to Nablus works at several levels and, beyond the entertainment value of the story, leaves the reader wondering about the struggle and the will to survive under deplorable conditions.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The