Family stories without facts, without real history as background, are more akin to fairy tales. This is a selection of books I’m reading/referencing in my efforts to put in context and flesh out My Palestinian Story.
In alphabetical order by title. Last updated 15 Aug 2021
~ Jerusalem ~
- Armenians of Jerusalem – Memories of Life in Palestine by John H Melkon Rose
Delightful and moving memoir by an Armenian Jerusalemite who tread the same paths as my family. He was also one of the few who stayed behind and as such provides rare first-person testimony of the detention camp that was set up in Baq’a to contain the “foreigners”, ie the locals!
- Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian – A Memoir by Jacob J Nammar
Nammar, another contemporary and not-too-distant neighbour of my mother, remained in Jerusalem till well after the 1948 war. His story involves imprisonment, impoverishment, displacement, discrimination, injustice and eventually emigration, and is simply and eloquently told.
- Feast of Ashes – The Life and Art of David Ohanessian by Sato Moughalian
Life and times of David Ohanessian, the father of the art of Armenian Ceramics in Jerusalem. Beautifully told and superbly researched by his granddaugther.
- I Am Jerusalem by John N Tleel
Memoir of an iconic member of the Greek Orthodox community of Jerusalem. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr Tleel before his 2018 death and although I have not read this lengthy volume (an amalgam of more than one books, in fact) cover-to-cover, I was excited to find references to family members.
- In Search of Fatima – A Palestinian Story by Ghada Karmi
Karmi lived only a few blocks away from my mother’s family. This memoir is the quintessential story of Katamon, their neighbourhood, and also of the dislocation of its residents.
- Jerusalem 1913 – The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Amy Dockser Marcus
Short but informative, it is the basis of the documentary 1913: Seeds of Conflict
- Jerusalem 1948 – The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War by Salim Tamari (ed)
“A compilation of essays on the fate of the Arab neighborhoods and villages of Western Jerusalem that were either destroyed or appropriated by Israel during the 1948 war.” (Available as free PDF)
- Jerusalem and I: A Personal Record by Hala Sakakini
An essential book for life in Katamon by the woman who experienced it as a young girl. Her book with its hand-drawn map was a key impetus behind the project Jerusalem, We Are Here
- Jerusalem and Its Environs: Quarters, Neighborhoods, Villages, 1800–1948 by Ruth Kark and Michal Oren-Nordheim
How Jerusalem and its surrounding regions developed in the 150 years up to the end of the British Mandate. It describes the expansion of the city beyond the confines of the old walls, mostly in geographical terms but with some interesting historical, political and cultural elements, too.
- Till We Have Built Jerusalem – Architects of a New City by Adina Hoffman
The story of three architects – one Jewish, one British, one Greek – who left their mark on the city. Hoffman’s writing is captivating and entertaining, and her research into the subject fascinating and informative.
- A War Without Chocolate by Betty Dagher Majaj
Majaj’s memoir left me in awe for her as a woman of her times and provided a wealth of information about the city, given that her husband was a leading medical and political figure in Jerusalem.
~ Palestine ~
- A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding of the State of Israel by Gudrun Krämer
The best exposition of the history of the Palestinian issue that I’ve read to date. Well documented and dispassionate in-depth analysis.
- All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi
Reference book of the 400+ Palestinian villages that were “disappeared” during the 1948 war, incl. Al Burayj where my grandfather managed an estate of the Patriarchate.
- Among Arabs and Jews: A Personal Experience 1936-1990 by P J Vatikiotis
A significant perspective from a member of the Greek community of Palestine, of which I’m a descendant. That Vatikiotis is an excellent writer is an added bonus.
- Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians 1876-1948 by Walid Khalidi
“A visual journey into Palestine before 1948.”
- The General’s Son – Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled
After his niece was killed in a suicide bombing, Miko Peled, son of a prominent Zionist family, chose not to give in to hate and instead set out on a journey of discovery. In the process he became one of the most outspoken voices for Palestinian rights. I was particularly touched to read how his mother rejected an offer of a Katamon house after Israel occupied West Jerusalem: for all I know it could have been my grandfather’s house!
- One Palestine Complete – Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate by Tom Segev
Essential primer on the history of the British Mandate leading to the partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Segev is very adept at weaving together personal stories and historical events.
~ Other ~
- The Balkans: A Short History by Mark Mazower
My first quick dip into the history of the part of the world where a sizeable chunk of family roots hails from: the Balkans.