As a young man Meron Benvenisti often accompanied his father, a distinguished geographer, when the elder Benvenisti travelled through the Holy Land charting a Hebrew map that would rename Palestinian sites and villages with names linked to Israel's ancestral homeland. These experiences in Benvenisti's youth are central to this book, and the story that he tells helps explain how, during the 20th century, an Arab landscape, physical and human, was transformed into an Israeli, Jewish state. Benvenisti first discusses the process by which new Hebrew nomenclature replaced the Arabic names of more than 9000 natural features, villages, and ruins in Eretz Israel/Palestine (his name for the Holy Land, thereby defining it as a land of Jews and Arabs). He then explains how the Arab landscape has been tranformed through war, destruction and expulsion, into a flourishing Jewish homeland accommodating millions of immigrants. The resulting encounters between two peoples who claim the same land have raised great moral and political dilemmas, which Benvenisti presents in this text.
Meron Benvenisti was deputy mayor of Jerusalem from 1971 to 1978, and is currently a columnist for Haaretz, Israel's largest newspaper. He is the author of Conflicts and Contradictions (1986) Intimate Enemies (California, 1995), and City of Stone (California, 1996).