by Andrew Ross
Winner of the 2019 Palestine Book Award
"They demolish our houses while we build theirs." This is how a Palestinian stonemason, in line at a checkpoint outside a Jerusalem suburb, described his life to Andrew Ross. Palestinian "stone men", utilizing some of the best quality dolomitic limestone deposits in the world and drawing on generations of artisanal knowledge, have built almost every state in the Middle East except their own. Today the business of quarrying, cutting, fabrication, and dressing is Palestine's largest employer and generator of revenue, supplying the construction industry in Israel, along with other Middle East countries and even more overseas.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews in Palestine and Israel, Ross's engrossing, surprising, and gracefully written story of this fascinating, ancient trade shows how the stones of Palestine, and Palestinian labor, have been used to build out the state of Israel-in the process, constructing "facts on the ground" -- even while the industry is central to Palestinians' own efforts to erect bulwarks against the Occupation. For decades, the hands that built Israel's houses, schools, offices, bridges, and even its separation barriers have been Palestinian. Looking at the Palestine-Israel conflict in a new light, this book asks how this record of achievement and labor can be recognized.
"Poignant, poetic, and illuminating, this book exposes a chief paradox of Israeli settler colonialism: that skilled Palestinian laborers built modern Israel -- its homes, offices, shopping malls, prisons, border walls -- while their own homes were demolished or seized. This is history, sensitive and somber, written in stone." -- Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams
"Meet 'Michelangelo of Beit Fajjar' and the other Palestinian stone-masons whose superb craft has fashioned Israel's famous 'white cities.' Their hidden labor is the starting point for Ross's brilliantly original exploration of how dispossession and exploitation continue to define the relationship of Israeli and Palestinian societies. This is radical journalism at its best -- and I mean Pulitzer-Prize-quality best." -- Mike Davis, author of Set the Night on Fire and Buda's Wagon
About the Author:
Andrew Ross is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, and a social activist. A contributor to The Nation, the Village Voice, New York Times, and Artforum, he is the author of many books, including, most recently, Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City and Nice Work if You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. He lives in New York.