The project, a joint initiative by "Breaking the Silence," Peruvian Pulitzer Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, Chabon, and Waldman, will host a delegation of authors on both sides of the Green Line this year to allow them to learn about the different aspects of Israel's military presence in the Palestinian territories. The authors will visit West Bank villages and East Jerusalem, and will meet Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists, academics, and legal experts.
The first delegation landed in Israel on Sunday and includes British author Hari Kunzru, American playwright Taiye Selasi, Irish author Eimar McBride, and Palestinian-Israeli playwright-author and journalist Ala Halihal.
Additional authors who intend to take part in the project include Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, American author and publisher David Vargas, Irish author Colm Toibin, American author Cheryl Strayed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, Norwegian author Lars Sobi Kristensen, American author Rachel Kushner, British author Tash Aw, and local authors Assaf Gavron, Raja Shahada, and Nir Baram.
So why are Chabon and Waldman participating in this project? "A short time after we met in 1992, we traveled to Israel," Chabon told Ynet. "Even though Ayelet, the daughter of Canadian immigrants, was born in Israel, I had never visited previously.
"It was a time of cautious optimism about the Oslo Accords," he added. "We visited friends and family and we made it to all the essential places including the Western Wall and Masada. We thought the trip would be one of many.
"In the more than 20 years that have passed since, the optimism of the Oslo Accords has disappeared, Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, and the occupation of the West Bank has expanded," continued the prize-winning author. "We are also all shaken by the violent rhetoric from both sides and we did what many others stuck in the middle decided to do: We chose to live outside the discourse and distance ourselves from Israel.
"However, Ayelet returned to Israel and Palestine in May 2014 for the first time in two decades, and met with the courageous 'Breaking the Silence' group, which recently became the target of intense attacks by the Right," said Chabon. "Its publication of soldiers' narratives, describing their experiences in the West Bank and Gaza has made it difficult for the Netanyahu government to continue its deceitful campaign.
"And now things stand at a critical juncture," he said. "The right-wing Netanyahu government is threatening to prosecute 'Breaking the Silence' for treason and forcing members of the organization towear special tags when they come to the Knesset to meet with legislators. Jews are forcing other Jews to wear special tags. Jews are threatening other Jews with imprisonment and even death for expressing their point of view. The people carrying out these deeds do not even understand the astounding irony.
"We decided to mark 50 years of the occupation of the West Bank by collecting candid articles about life in the Palestinian Territories written by prominent authors from around the world," Chabon explained. "We collected an amazing array of well-known stories to give life to the current situation. The articles will allow readers to understand the situation in Israel-Palestine in new and human way instead of the dark way it is portrayed in the news."