Operation Olive Tree


Fiction - Mystery - Historical
354 Pages
Reviewed on 11/29/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Natalie Soine for Readers' Favorite

Operation Olive Tree is set in the West Bank farming village of Deir-Al-Hattab in May of 1983. Students Jamal Shaneen and Irith Goldman attend Neve Shalom High School and develop a friendship through their love for singing. Irith’s father, David Goldman, works at Tel Aviv University as a physics professor. Miss Susan Roth, a music teacher from Tel Aviv University, invites Jamal and Irith for singing lessons. Susan also works for the intelligence community and encourages the two students to sing together in the hope of encouraging peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Even though funding for the students is covered by the Ministry of Education, the success of their education is overshadowed by suspicion and disagreements between the family members and the authorities. This inspiring story is about two students who have an opportunity to bring peace to their homeland through music, despite their complicated family relationships.

Operation Olive Tree is a thrilling, action-packed novel filled with twists, turns, and surprises from beginning to end, including conflicts between military forces and government agents. The interesting variety of characters, family members, and friends are all well defined and easy to relate to. Irith is a talented singer and an extremely brave girl who stands up for her rights. Jamal has both the intelligence and willpower required to ensure his success in both medicine and singing. While the story may seem complicated at times, it becomes clearer as author Jemil Metti begins to untangle the spider’s web. Overall, a fantastic, intriguing novel highly recommended to all adults.

Vincent Dublado

Operation Olive Tree by Jemil Metti is a literary force of nature that tackles the volatile relationship of Palestine and Israel in the early eighties. Within the school grounds of Neve Shalom, we follow two teenagers, Israeli-born Irith Goldman and Palestinian-born Jamal Shaheen. Their school is known for promoting a peaceful co-existence between Palestine and Israel. Irith and Jamal’s friendship largely takes root in their common love for the opera. Their very same passion for the opera and their artistic talents have made their teachers believe that Irith and Jamal can contribute to the peace efforts by promoting unity through music as an opera-singing duo. They even have the backing of the Ministry of Education. But what seems to be a bright path made for them is filled with prejudice. Will they be able to break the bread of peace for all of Abraham’s children, and lead the way to fulfill that elusive pledge of having no more war?

Operation Olive Tree is a quiet but significant novel that casts a dramatic spotlight on the kinds of tensions that can arise when two people from two different cultures attempt to reconcile their respective states that have been divided by years of conflict brought about by territorial dispute and religious intolerance. Jemil Metti’s narrative is flawlessly written and complemented by compelling characters dealing with real-life conflict. The pacing and storyline are highly engaging, and the friendship between Irith and Jamal lends depth to this historical drama. Operation Olive Tree is one of the finest novels written about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and I highly recommend this book to anyone for its historical and entertainment merits.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Operation Olive Tree by Jemil Metti is a historical mystery. Neve Shalom High is an experimental school where Jews and Palestinians are educated together. A Palestinian boy and a Jewish girl are united by their love of opera but not everyone is happy with their friendship. A voice professor and a Neve Shalom instructor live with the hope that their contributions could lead to peace talks between Israel and Palestine being reopened. Even the Ministry of Education provides funding for a series of public concerts, harboring the belief that this can lead to good things. But some things aren’t meant to be and years of dispute and prejudice push their way to the forefront. As the children grow into adults, things come full circle but this time, they have more hope than they ever had before, hope that peace could finally be achieved through the power of music.

Operation Olive Tree by Jemil Metti is a fascinating, albeit fictional insight into the intricacies of the decades-long conflict between Palestine and Israel. The author’s international background is clear in all the important detail included in a story of achieving peace through talk, not war. The plot is full of drama and action as hope clashes with conflict in a plan to herald peace between two nations. Whether it succeeds or not is for you to find out by reading the book. This is a deep story, not the easiest of reads but well worth the time it takes you to read it and the descriptive nature of the writing will hold you as the stories of the characters are developed and the more personal side of the conflict becomes clear. Fascinating story and a riveting read; this will both thrill and educate you at the same time.

Leonard William Smuts

The quest for peace is a recurring theme in world events. In this case, author Jemil Metti uses the long-standing tensions in the Middle East during the 1980s as the backdrop to this book. Jamal, a teenage Palestinian boy from a prominent family, attends a school that brings together children of both Muslim and Jewish faiths - a school founded in an attempt to bring about peace through tolerance and understanding in the politically disputed West Bank area of post-Six-Day War Israel. There he meets Irith, a Jewish girl from a family with important political connections. Both have outstanding voices and share a love of music, in particular, opera. This innocent friendship is misconstrued by both family members and friends. The relationship is repeatedly tested from both sides by a clash of ideologies. Their exceptional talents are recognized by mentors who help them to develop their singing abilities, although family and peer pressures intervene, sometimes violently. They are finally drawn into the net of international espionage - Operation Olive Tree.

There are many issues explored in this novel. Jemil Metti uses Operation Olive Tree to explore the complexities of religious intolerance, disputed ancestral land, political agendas, parental will, authoritarian regimes, and the dark side of espionage. The characters are well-drawn and credible, while the issues are analyzed from the perspective of the role players in an insightful and sensitive manner. The clash of belief systems is starkly portrayed, as well as the aspirations of the younger generation who hope for a better future. However, life does not always work out as planned or dreamed. Inevitably there are casualties. An interesting and insightful book with a few twists in the tale before the two main characters can finally achieve closure of a sort. In a sense, this is symbolic of the current status quo.