First of a two-part post from last year’s trip, originally posted on Facebook on 14 Jul 2014. Lightly edited and with the addition of photographs.
One of the things I was hoping to achieve during this trip was to find the graves of two family members on my maternal grandmother’s side who I knew for certain were buried in Jerusalem.
The first one was my great-great-grandfather, George Schtakleff, who hailed from Tetovo, a town/village in what is modern-day Macedonia, and was, as far as we can tell, an ethnic Bulgarian albeit Greek-speaking. He came to Jerusalem as a pilgrim sometime in the mid- to late-1800s, felt there was a business opportunity to set up a flour mill and had his brother, Zachar(ias), join him. He married twice, ‘importing’ his wives from Tetovo, and built his life in Jerusalem. His first-born was my great-grandfather, John. (You still with me?)
When I became involved in the Katamon Project, I made available to them a series of short video clips I had extracted from a film that was part of great-uncle Nando’s (Ferdinand Schtakleff’s) extensive library. ‘Nando’ and ‘films’ are synonymous in our family’s parlance. Rarely was he to be found without a camera in hand. In his Jerusalem days, he even ran the Regent Cinema in the German Colony for a spell.
A copy of this particular film, labelled Jerusalem 1946-47, had been given to us in VHS which I then had transferred to DVD from which I extracted the individual short clips. The quality, as a result of all these transformations, is poor but the content, depicting as it does various aspects of our family’s life in Jerusalem, is simply precious.
The second of last year’s reports from my trip to Jerusalem, first posted on Facebook on 11 July 2014. Once again, ligthly edited and with the addition of photographs.
It’s Friday, Muslim holy day of prayer. But in Jerusalem, this particular Friday is not just that. Not only it’s in the month of Ramadan but also in a week where rockets have been flying out of Gaza aiming at the city and in return Gaza is being pummelled by the Israeli Air Force with the BBC reporting 100 dead already. To say things are tense would be far from stretching the truth.
In July 2014 I visited Jerusalem for a few days to meet Dorit Naaman as part of the Katamon Project. The tragic events that culminated in the Gaza war were already under way. By the time I left, the onslaught had begun.
Below is my first dispatch, posted on Facebook on 9 Jul 2014. I’m reposting with minor edits and the addition of photographs.
Third night in the old city of Jerusalem. This is a place that exudes history and religion from every nook and cranny: churches of more denominations I knew existed, domes, belfries, spires, synagogues, mosques, minarets, cemeteries. It’s also a city rife with conflict. Police barricades are stacked along the streets, ready for deployment, soldiers armed to the teeth walk up and down all the time, and there are enough cameras in every corner of the old city to make even a Londoner uncomfortable.
In August 2012 my aunt Cynthia from New York forwarded me an email from a lady called Mona who in her turn was forwarding an email from a Dr Dana Olwan, at the time Assistant Professor in a British Columbia university (and currently at Syracuse Uni). Dana wrote: