‘Fast Times in Palestine’ offers a glimpse of what has been, what is, and what could be


Pamela J. Olson’s recently-published book, Fast Times in Palestine, is an important and welcome addition to the books written from personal experience living in the occupied Palestinian territories. Part travelogue, part unflinching witness to the brutality of the Israeli occupation and colonization of the West Bank, and part “love affair with a homeless homeland” (the book’s subtitle), it was originally self-published in 2011 and has now been published by Seal Press. Olson began a U.S. book tour in March, and she hopes (according to the website for her book, www.pamolson.org) to eventually tour in Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

The purpose of her book, as Olson writes on her website, is to give the reader “a sophisticated understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict in a way that is enjoyable and accessible to all.” She accomplishes this by combining the engaging story of her experiences living in the West Bank with a well-documented account of the grim reality of life under occupation. While acknowledging that terrorism from both sides has caused unimaginable suffering, Olson does what relatively few in the West have been willing to do, and that is to also acknowledge the conflict’s staggering imbalance of power. Israel’s armed forces, used to dominate, impede and assault Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, are among the strongest in the world. Backed by enormous U.S. financial support, to the tune of billions of dollars year after year, and the protective shield of the U.S. veto of any U.N. resolution critical of Israel, the illegal colonization in the West Bank as well as Israel’s flagrant human rights violations are essentially given a seal of approval.

The arc of Olson’s experiences in the West Bank ranges from harvesting olives to working as writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor, from socializing with new friends to volunteering as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s presidential campaign, from the absurd and often cruel reality of checkpoints to learning that a close Palestinian friend has been taken away by Israeli soldiers, from the beginning of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to being hit by a stun grenade during a peaceful protest against the land grab of Israel’s invasive separation barrier, the Wall. For two years, Olson lived with and processed an overload of sensory and emotional input. What she has distilled into her book is her love and admiration for a people who have not only endured, but who have preserved their warmth and generosity in spite of the decades of oppressive occupation.

Read Fast Times in Palestine for the pleasure of sharing the company of Olson and the many people who welcome her into their lives, and for the sense the book gives of what has been, what is, and what could be.

About Jerry Merriman

Jerry Merriman lives in the U.S. and has lived, worked and traveled in the Middle East.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 21 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    Dick and Jane have no clue to the staggering imbalance of power in the US-enabled I-P situation, which is now leading us to war on Iran because Dick and Jane still don’t know what a boner Shub Jr’s war on Iraq was.

    • AbeBird says:

      War on Iran? better say an attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. It has nothing to do with ground divisions invasion, but by aerial attacks. Israel already prevented Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007) from accomplish their nuclear missions and nothing special occurred after. The same will be if Israel or the US will attack Iranian’s sites. Iran has nothing practically to do to stop the attacks or to retaliate militarily. What they can do is to send their “revolutionary guards” and bomb some Israel embassy in South America (when there are large Shiites congregations).

      • Taxi says:

        You sure “nothing special” will occur after a strike on Iran by israel? Well what the heck you waiting for then? Go on bomb Iran – yeah I mean YOU personally. Cancel your life insurance, get yourself into an F35 and swagger off, do the dooz and come back and tell us all about how relaxing and easy it was and how ‘secure’ you now feel.

        Good grief! A somnambulist from zioland.

        • AbeBird says:

          Thanks for your approval to attack Iran’s nuke sites, but the attacker has his timeline and consideration to execute the mission in the proper time. I’m very much exited for your tempestuous reaction but you have to understand that living in the somnambulist Islamic Middle East is not like living in Bombston, it much enthusiastic mission.
          Thanks for you grief, I’ll pass it to the Iranians.

        • MHughes976 says:

          I would think that if a strike on Iran would have had some good and no bad consequences for whoever delivered the strike it would have happened years ago.

        • Taxi says:

          You’re welcome, average sleepwalker.

          Now go find a Bostonian and tell them how “Bombston” is better than “Islamic Middle East” – see how far you get with your compliment.

          Seems to me that no one is happier about the Boston bombing than those demented zionists parading themselves in the buff in cyberspace.

      • Walid says:

        “… What they can do is to send their “revolutionary guards” and bomb some Israel embassy in South America (when there are large Shiites congregations).”

        To be hinting to the 1992 Israeli Embassy and the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombings in Buenos Aires, you probably haven’t yet heard that a couple of months back, Argentina and Iran signed on to establish a joint Truth Commission made up of 5 investigators from 3rd countries to look into who was responsible for these 2 bombings.

        It’s now appearing that these bombings had the markings of other Israeli false flag operations:

        link to voltairenet.org

      • Donald says:

        Abe Bird–An attack on Iran’s nuclear sites would likely kill or injure thousands or even tens of thousands of civilians. Not that you probably care. But I wouldn’t expect Iran to just sit there and take it. One way or another, someone will pay. Not that any decent person would advocate such an attack in the first place, even if Iran couldn’t retaliate.


  2. alfa says:

    Pam’s book is very important today, which will be a classic adventure story in the future, she artfully paints pictures of a very critical period and the lives of the people under an inhuman occupation. It’s truly an inspiring story and a fine example of quite courage to adventure behind the veil obscuring reality to experience and record the effects modern colonial racism. I’m giving copies to my grand daughter and some other young women for graduation, Pam’s a great role model.

    Be a patron of the artist, buy several copies and help spread her work.

  3. yourstruly says:

    with the delegitimization of israel what could be?

    peace on earth and goodwill to all living beings, that’s what.


    the abyss

  4. ckg says:

    Great book. She reveals that which is, and which was, and which is to become. Have some faith. :)

  5. pabelmont says:

    Bamila (as she tells us she is called in Palestine) has written a fantastic book. It has, at least for me, put very personal, realistic, human, up-close flesh on the horrid bones of occupation. What were for me quasi-abstract Israeli crimes have become flesh-cringing reality. And her light touch nevertheless makes it possible to keep reading. I’ve been “with” the I/P on the side-lines here in America since 1980 and have never been moved as much as by this book.

  6. Accentitude says:

    Is there anywhere to get her book in Palestine, particularly in Ramallah?

    • Pamela Olson says:

      Last I checked, you could find it at the Educational Book Shop on Salah ad-Din St in East Jerusalem, and at the American Colony Book Shop. Might want to call ahead, though, as it’s probably not fast or easy having them shipped from the publisher if they run out. There’s also a Kindle version.

      Feel free to get in touch if you have any problems getting hold of it — pamolson @ gmail

      And thanks for the kind write-up, Jerry :)

  7. Citizen says:

    I hope Pamela’s book makes a dent in the ignorance of Americans when it comes to anything wrt Israel. She’s up against the long time winner on this subject: Zionist propaganda. Alan Hart fought to enlighten average Americans for thirty years and has just written his last post on the subject as he can no longer afford to fight the good fight–it’s, unfortunately, not too hopeful: link to alanhart.net

    • Taxi says:

      Thanks for Alan Hart’s link, Citizen.

      I betcha ten bucks he’ll be back pushing the grindstone soon as his new house is in order.

  8. Walker says:

    I just finished this book. The accolades are deserved. It primarily describes her personal life in Palestine, the people she knew (Israeli, Palestinian and other), and the difficulties of living there. It does not go much into history.

    It’s biggest virtue for American readers is the way it vividly humanizes Palestinians. One small example that took me by surprise: “I’d never heard anything as infectiously shoulder-shakingly danceable as Arabic pop music”.

    • RoHa says:

      “I’d never heard anything as infectiously shoulder-shakingly danceable as Arabic pop music”.

      Great rhythms, fun music. (As long as they don’t sing, of course.) We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant the other day, and She Who Must Be Obeyed had to stop me from tapping the table, plates, and glassses in time to the music they were playing.

      • Pamela Olson says:

        “As long as they don’t sing, of course.”

        Once you know a bit of the language, the experience becomes totally different. And no one can tell me Amr Diab and Nancy Ajram don’t have gorgeous voices (even if some of their songs are a bit silly, as pop songs tend to be).

        Coming back to American clubs after dancing in the Middle East was a huge let-down, though! Gosh, our music is so vapid and not even all that danceable (imho).