Eliezer Yaari, lives in Jerusalem in one of its southern neighborhoods called Arnona. The neighborhood is built right on the old green line between East and West Jerusalem, about 400 yards from an Arab village Sur Baher. In the winter of 2013 Eliezer crossed the unseen border between his neighborhood and the village, knocked on the doors and started to talk to the people.
The people of the village opened their homes and their hearts to the Israeli Jew who wanted to learn about their life, about their wishes, frustrations and dreams. He documented his journey with remarkable pictures and very moving short stories.
This documentation sheds light on the people that for nearly half a century were kept in the darkness. The stories and the pictures are now assembled in the book "Beyond the Mountains of Darkness". The book is published by the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies (JIIS) and Albatross Aerial Photography. Eliezer is also presenting the pictures and the stories in special presentations for the public.
'Beyond the Mountains of Darkness' is a highly political story without being political: it concentrates on the individuals who live in Zur Baher, on their faces and their stories, but it unfolds the entire situation of the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem and its relationship with West Jerusalem almost 50 years after East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel.
This is what President Reuven Rivlin said about the book:
On June 17, 2015 The President of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin convened a special event at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel near Jerusalem. Representatives of the Arab villages of Sur Baher and Umm Tuba, together with members and guests of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, and people from west Jerusalem all attended the meeting. It was a unique moment of hope and co-existence: All the participants were protagonists of the book 'Beyond the Mountains of Darkness' written by Eliezer Yaari, an author from West Jerusalem.
The President praised Mr. Yaari for the book, noting in particular the spirit of hope emanating from it.
Among other things he said: "Your personal experience, Eliezer, of going through serious heart surgery, has led you on an inspiring journey. I think that Jerusalem must also undergo open heart surgery to start its own new journey, even if the experience will be complex and painful. This will heal the gaps and rifts between Jews and Arabs in the city. This book illustrates how an encounter and dialogue are essential to open the hearts and pave the way for cooperation. "
From the Press:
Since its publication in Hebrew, the book has received a warm and excited welcome. Here are some of the responses:
Ran Edelist (Maariv): 'Beyond the Mountains of Darkness' is the best and the most sincere book written about the bleeding aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict"
Nir Hasson ('Haaretz'): "A fascinating book."
Nadav Shragai ('Israel Today') "Peace and war are done between people, and this is why it is essential to lay the foundations for coexistence. Yaari does it gracefully and with integrity."
Dan Margalit ('New Evening', ' Israel Today'): "A splendid book."
Rona Gershon ('Voice of Israel'): "This book is an extraordinary document. It has lots of optimism and beauty".
Orit Shohat (Journalist, Tel Aviv): "It is simply a great book".
Ora Ahimeir (writer, Jerusalem): "I read and enjoyed it. It opened my eyes and my heart to understand what is happening to our neighbors."