This book is a great insight into life in the Holy city, from what the traffic is like during the school run, to the variety of problems caused by the clashing religious groups. Guy Delisle is a French Canadian cartoonist and writer, who has travelled the world with his wife who is an administrator in the MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). This book chronicles the time he spent in Jerusalem, in 2008/09. The fascinating thing about this book is how it deals with life in the city in such a mundane way, treating the banal and humorous events of every day life with the same degree of interest as it does the Gaza war. The two are mixed together from one chapter to the next in a way that can only occur through actually having to get on with life in this amazing and complex city.
The story often deals with his attempts to see the many holy sites in the city, his need to find a good playground for his kids, to find a nice coffee shop, and good places to buy groceries. These are things that would be the same for any person who has arrived in a new town with a couple of young children. It doesn’t shy away from showing the normal parts of life, and many would see them as the boring parts of life, but through Delisle’s eyes they can often show great insights into the people he meets along the way. He is not a reporter, and these are very different in feel to Joe Sacco’s work. Towards the end of his stay the Gaza war started, a three-week war that ended with over a thousand casualties Palestinians died (with over 200 civilians) and thirteen Israelis.
Delisle does try to stay neutral on the events of the conflicts, and mixes with both sides of the argument. This role allows him to show how life is for the two groups, as well as the many other religions that call the city their home. It’s a fascinating read, and explains the complexities of the situation with intelligence and humor.
If your french is up to it, you can follow his exploits on his blog here.