Hope Street, Jerusalem by Irris Makler

I enjoyed both the writing style and content of this memoir.

Irris Makler is an international freelance correspondent from Sydney, Australia who has been based in London, Moscow, and now Jerusalem. She’s chased stories all over the world and was one of the first reporters in Afghanistan after 9/11.

From the publisher:
′I had no idea how demanding this consuming, cruel, dangerous and fascinating place would be. I would fall in love here, I would do some of my best reporting, I would be injured, ending my run of good luck – my life would change dramatically …′

Moving to a strange city always takes courage, but never more so than in a place where the daily expression of love and hate can turn a simple choice of a romantic table by the window into a life or death decision.

Both a love story and bittersweet tribute to her beloved adopted city of Jerusalem, Irris Makler shines a hopeful light on a part of the world where the news reports often makes it seem impossibly dark. From juggling the danger and unpredictability of her work as a roving foreign correspondent , covering everything from Palestinian suicide attacks to Israeli incursions into the West Bank, to falling in love with a handsome and charming young Israeli, and gaining a mischievious four-legged companion along the way, she allows us an intimate glimpse into a passionate, vibrant and fascinating world.

Adventurous, compassionate and engagingly honest, the award-winning author of OUR WOMAN IN KABUL is a master at capturing the personal stories behind the news we really want to know – and her story is the most interesting of all.

This is a memoir, not international political analysis. Makler is forty, single, and married to her dangerous, all hours job, which she obviously loves. Along comes a guy, and then a dog, and things change. But this is not a sappy love story by any means (I usually yawn at girl meets boy stories). Makler keeps herself at the forefront of the story, although her dog shares much of the lime light. As a dog lover, I approve.

Makler and her dog Mia

Irris Makler is one brave woman. The glimpses into her work-life are fascinating–how grueling and adventurous it seems. And how very, very dangerous. She also adds some of the more mundane details of her job that gives the story an easy authenticity like how TV stations have to book satellite time for live segments and how when big news breaks those time slots fill up quickly. I never thought about that aspect of international reporting. And as a freelancer Makler lugs her own equipment to scenes and often scrambles to find a power source to recharge her batteries or to find a wireless or cell signal. Not to mention dealing with crowds of people in life and death situations with munitions going off. It is obvious to see that hers is the sort of job that causes a huge adrenaline rush. And you must be available whenever something news worthy breaks. In-between the big stories freelancers work on human interest pieces such as the wide-spread use of fortune tellers in the Middle East.

I came away with a great sense of Jerusalem and its surroundings. Its beauty and its horrors, the sites and smells, the people who are charming and sometimes . . . not so much. Makler doesn’t hold back from describing the extreme violence in the region–suicide bombings, street riots, outright war–that is caused by religious fanaticism and political power struggles, which are pretty much one and the same in that ancient land where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all born. Yet, daily life goes on. People go to the market and walk their dogs. Makler makes both the ancientness and the modernness of the city appealing.

Some things are so very different. One scene that I can’t get out of my head is that in a line up (or “ID Parade”) the victim of a crime has to walk up and put his or her hand on the shoulder of the perpetrator long enough for the police to snap a picture of the two people. No safe two-way mirror there. Can you imagine this in the case of rape and other violent crimes?

The personal side of the political situation in Gaza and the West Bank is fascinating and heartbreaking as well. Grandchildren of refugees who consider themselves to be refugees even have the town of their grandparents’ birth listed as their own place of birth although the family hasn’t been back to that town in 70 years. They carry keys to houses that no longer exist. When do people and whole families stop being refugees?

But the story is really about Makler and the transformation she goes through in learning that there’s more to life than work. The writing is crisp and clear, and she effortlessly weaves the history-making public events that she reports on with her day-to-day life in Jerusalem. The story never dragged and I always looked forward to getting back to the book when I had reading time.

Oh, and P.S., I forgot to add that the book made me cry while reading in public. Twice. And I rarely cry from reading a book.

Hope Street, Jerusalem
Irris Makler
HarperCollinsPublishers, 2/25/2014
First published in Australia in 2012
Source: review copy TLC Tours
FTC disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Author: Chris Wolak

I'm cohost of the podcast Book Cougars: Two Middle-Aged Women on the Hunt for a Good Read and write about books and libraries on my blog, WildmooBooks.

9 thoughts

  1. Wow! Thanks for such a lovely review! Am so glad you loved the book. And that some bits even made you cry – amazing. In fact, you've made me curious now — which were the 2 stories that moved you to tears? Best wishes, Irris Makler

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  2. My pleasure, it was a fantastic read! It was a part about a dog and then what happened to Dr. Applebaum, his daughter, and your friend Craig's subsequent struggle. There's so much pain in this story and I appreciate that you presented it in such a straightforward manner, yet with compassion. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you keep writing, would love to read more.

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  3. I'm a dog lover too, so I know I would love that aspect of the book! I never considered how dangerous international reporting could be, but I'm really curious now!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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  4. Yes, Dr Appelbaum's was a v sad story. I will keep writing, thanks for the encouragement, but the next book won't be about me! I've learnt that writing a memoir is hard work ….or maybe it's the journalist in me — it's much easier to write about other people 🙂

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  5. I've wondered how challenging it must have been to write about certain people and episodes (the scene with the line-up where the victim has to put her hand on the perp's shoulder and wait for a picture made me shudder). Glad to hear there's another book to look forward to. Dogs are definitely a writer's best friend!

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  6. Just checked out your website and it is full of many varied and interesting reviews, and other things – good on you! Also happy to see there is a life after journalism — though that is a long discussion for another time… Hope you add Hope Street to your list. Irris

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