For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote



Review: Flowers of Galilee

Israel Shamir

Dandelion Books, 2004/ISBN # 1-893302-78-4

Meeting Israel Shamir in person was a high point of the year, and getting a copy of his book Flowers of Galilee was another. He has a wonderful talent as a writer, and I do not mean simply a certain writing skill, but in a much deeper sense, Shamir writes with a real flame; it warms, it shines, it burns.


His subject is Palestine , a land that he first saw as an Israeli soldier, and then fell in love with; he shows us the land of Israel , he shows us the land of Palestine , or are they one and the same? That is one of the many enigmas that are encountered with this controversial subject. The fact that subtle and not-so-subtle irony is on every page is a given, and we the reader are presented with a well-seasoned plate with many complex flavours. In talking of the land of Israel, Shamir takes us behind the stereotypes; we meet straight Jews, gay Jews, ultra-Zionists, pacifists, soldiers, refuseniks, would-be defenders of the faith from America, and Israeli teens who want to lose faith and go to America; it takes all kinds.


In one of his essays, titled “The Last Action Hero”, he writes of the history of refuges in the land, from David to the modern protesters, and also of the oppressors, from the Philistines to Rabbi Kook, who wants destroy all the churches in Israel. Under this present leader, the Church of the Nativity was placed under siege, and murdering Christians was considered an act of duty. Many who were not shot were starved to death; the smell of rotting corpses offended the air in the holy place during Easter. Sadly, little if any coverage of this massacre got was allowed to reach us in the West; Michael Jackson gets more attention than martyrs, and so the stories of Zionists blowing up caves and driving off peasants, which is detailed in “Hills of Judea”, or the mention of Rami Rozen, who states that Jews conceal their hatred of Christians from the church, is hidden from us by our media, which has now proclaimed it has the “right to lie”; indeed it does, and so  the sad facts that are mentioned in the title essay, which explores the true feelings of Jews towards the Church and their neighbours, are left un-proclaimed by so many of our papers and talking heads.  In that essay he deftly cuts down the lies which are put forth, and a quote from it would be appropriate:


     The majority of Christian Zionists are simple, misled souls, people of good intentions but little knowledge. They think they “support Jews”, but they promote the Christ-hating spirit among the Jews. It was not in vain that a hero of the Zionist Bible, Exodus by Leon Uris, kept a poster in his room saying “We crucified Christ.” It was not in vain that an Israeli soldier on the roadblock of Bethlehem told me yesterday, “We starve the beasts,” referring to the native Christians of the city of the Nativity. It is not in vain that the Gospel was burned at the stake in Israel, that anti-Gospel literature is widely spread; that new immigrant Jews embracing Christianity are persecuted and deported; that every preacher of the Christian faith in Israel can be sent to jail according to new anti-Christian laws; that Israeli archaelogists raze the Christian holy sites and memories off the face of the Holy Land.

     To the leader of the Christian Zionists, who surely know these facts, but lead their innocent flock on the path of the Anti-Christ, I say:


       Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Christ to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.

                                                                                                           (Matthew 18:6)


So no wonder some zealots want to deny Shamir’s existence, or at least vilify him. That lot too is presented in this work, and he rebuts them as skilfully as Perry Mason examines a lying witness. We are left with a view of them for what they are, participants in a “virtual state that is quickly losing all remaining connection to reality…”, a “ghost of a state” which is a “source of pride for American Jews”, but in reality a “cardboard sham”.


Tragic, as what was there was Paradise; a land of gentle streams, olive trees, orange orchards, plots of thyme, managed by a hospitable people whose roots date back to Biblical times. This area has hosted the Romans, the Persians, Ottomans and the British;  cultural variety was the norm. It takes not just genius to describe this, it takes compassion, and Shamir treats his subject as Glenn Gould would treat his piano. We hear pain, we hear beauty, we hear a cry for help; it is not an anodyne work of intellectual description, but a soulful outpouring, with the depth of research adding that dimension to his work that so many zealots lack: credibility. He footnotes his words and chooses them carefully, so that they flow together in a well developed fugue, rising above the crescendo of the mere diatribe that is so common today; this is no mere recital, it is a well-tempered set of short studies, complex in their counterpoint and focused in their harmony.


Dissonant problems demand resonance, and the issues addressed in Flowers of Galilee demand solutions. In this regard Shamir treads carefully, actually examining some of the proposed solutions that have failed and why. He calls for justice, and this means trying certain individuals for war crimes, which may be a difficult goal to achieve, but is the only realistic option. For too long the issue of justice has been obscured in idealistic jargon and bad reporting by a warped press, ever sensitive to one side but not willing to listen to both. That is one cause of the problem, and others are presented as well; Zionist Christians (who he points out are not real Christians at all), Armageddon freaks, US televangelists raising money from pro-Israel groups, mass immigration, ethnic cleansing programmes, greedy land grabs by settlers, and the greed of arms’ dealers. In most cases, one can follow the money line, which may be made complex by jingoism and fanaticism; Shamir follows this stealthily throughout and demystifies the equation.


I am not surprised that this book has its critics, some of whom have never even been to Israel/Palestine and prefer to believe what their favourite newspaper or televangelist tells them during a fund-raising drive. As a Christian (incidentally, so is Shamir), I especially encourage the church to get a hold of this book; if one wishes to support the State of Israel, and believes this to be a concept that God himself creates and holds dear, maybe it is time to examine what is really being done with the money going to the “Holy Land” and listen to a well-written, eye-witness account by someone who lives there.


Kenyon Gibson


Author, Common Sense: A Study of the Bushes, the CIA, and the Suspicions Regarding 9/11 and Hemp for Victory

A Poem SIAM wrote when he received the Galilee Flowers:



(for Israel Shamir)


You arrived,

as a carefully

wrapped white package

in my mailbox from Tel Aviv,


Your authentic

signatured word,

carved by flaming prophetic fingers

into Holygraphic Sinaitic Mountain

of literary stone,


A living breathing

autographed book of

luminous electrifying flowers

from Israel’s Galilee

floating softly in my air,

gently wafting the flashing scent of

your mind, heart, and soul

before my inner nostrils,


You, a poet’s poet

who sings the Divinely inspired song

of hope and longing

for the oppressed and dispossessed

of the Holiest of ancient lands,


You, Great Oasis

in a barren desert for

thirsty wearied travelers

in search of Light and Truth,

an ordained raging wind, rain, and storm,

purifying a new day’s dawning,


The Magic of our Greater Selves,

sacred images of this Multiverse -


Reflected in your eyes.