Movie Review | Lemon Tree

In 2009’s “Lemon Tree”, Israeli Director Eran Riklis takes the story of a rather ordinary situation under occupation and turns it into a fairly extraordinary journey into life under occupation. Salma Zidane (portrayed by Hiam Abbass), a 45-year old Palestinian widow who spends her time tending to her family’s lemon grove finds herself living next to an unexpected neighbor when the Israeli minister of defense moves in next door. As expected, the minister’s secret service personnel decide to cut down the grove, which has been in Zidane’s family for 50 years, in the name of national security, fearing that would-be “terrorists” could use it attack the house.

What follows is a legal battle as Zidane sues the minister and, along with her lawyer, Ziad, played by Ali Suliman, attempts to take the case all the way to the Israeli supreme court. Media attention begins to shine its spotlight as the minister’s wife starts to take an unexpected position on the issue.

The grove is perhaps allegorical of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but Riklis does a fairly decent job at creating a story that doesn’t aim to take a position from the start. Instead, the focus is on the characters and the storytelling. How all that plays out may be an inevitable depiction of Israel as an overbearing occupying force, casting its policy of land-confiscation as an ordinary act of occupation. On the other hand, any human being with half a heart, regardless of skin color or creed, will probably be inclined to sympathize with the protagonist of the film, the character of Salma Zidane.

Nevertheless, it remains a fascinating unfolding of events that are as realistic as one can imagine, and, in fact, the story is somewhat based on actual events (replacing lemons with olives in reality). And although the film can be taken for its most common denominator, an allegorical tale of a decades-old conflict, at the heart of it, Lemon Tree is also about the often-ignored role that women play in the midst of such conflicts. That alone makes it a rather worthy watch.

I sincerely hope cinemas in Amman will manage to fit this film in between this summer’s slew of blockbusters.


  • is it based on the book by the same name? The Lemon Tree by Tolan… because the book was recommended to me by a friend but i got the impression it was baout a Palestinian-Israeli friendship..

  • Man, how do you pick your documentaries? The last five you mentioned in your blog and twitter are just amazing and my question is how do you find such interesting documentaries?

  • @Deena: nope. but i heard that’s a good book!

    @Jad: recommendations from friends, online reviews, what’s lying around at hammudeh’s…etc πŸ™‚

  • What, the version you saw had the entire subplot with the romance between Zidane and Ziad removed? I found that one of the more distracting, and not well-executed, parts of the movie. It was also central. The rest of it, I agree, was good.

  • Was an interesting movie to watch, but a little disappointing. I saw a version without subtitles so I missed the parts in Hebrew, but the context was clear enough.
    I felt that the romance subplot was unnecessarily imposed on the main plot. The climax was when Salma Zidane started throwing lemons on the Minister and his guests, could have been done better.
    The two characters I found most realistic were secondary ones; her son (funny guy), and the person who seems to be her brother in law (or her husband’s close friend, Abu something). Both reminded me of real people I know.

    The book Lemon tree is unrelated, and is worth reading. It addresses a different question, which Ghassan Kanafani had bravely addressed in his novel “3a2ed ela Haifa”. Who does the land belong to?

Your Two Piasters: