Exploring the Palestinian side of my family

Tag: Jerusalem (Page 1 of 4)

Yiayia Vitsa’s German Biscuits

Before succumbing to the juggernaut of consumerism, the Christmas season was filled with the smells of baked goods wafting from home ovens. None evokes Christmas more vividly in my mind than the spicy, rich aroma of Yiayia Vitsa’s German Biscuits. (Biscuits in Brit speak, cookies in American lingo.)

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Semiramis Revisited

When you write a story and publish it for the world to read, the story is then set free to follow its own journey. If you’re lucky, you can tag along for the ride and be richer for it. And sometimes the story comes back to you, asking more of you. 

On the 70th anniversary of the January 1948 bombing of the Semiramis Hotel in Katamon, Jerusalem, by the Haganah, the Jewish militia, I published a blog post about the incident. Not only was it a story I had grown up with but also a milestone for the neighbourhood of Katamon. Katamon was the place my mother and her family – her parents and two sisters – called home until it was no longer so and they found themselves as refugees in Cyprus. The end of their lives in their neighbourhood began, as I wrote in that initial post, with the explosion at Villa Semiramis, two doors down from their home. And it was the beginning of the end for Katamon itself for it caused its residents, like my own family, to abandon the neighbourhood in search of safety elsewhere. 

My post travelled as far as Spain to the screen of the nephew of one of the victims of the explosion. Last year it was also discovered by a young woman from Gaza who is related to another victim. 

Those two encounters in cyberspace looped me back into the story, this time causing me to dig deeper and farther. 

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Encounters with the Past – 2.2

Continued from Part 2.1: Touring Israel – Aug 1986

Part 2.2: Jerusalem – Aug 1986

Thursday Evening

Back in Jerusalem by early evening, I rushed to the Hilton (today’s Crown Plaza) to meet my mother. She had flown in to Tel Aviv airport and had been transported to the hotel as part of her package tour. It was too late to do anything so we spent the evening in the hotel. Her room was in a top floor, so while it was still light outside we stood on the balcony to survey the area. She was eager to take a look at her hometown but the hotel was at the edge of modern-day Jerusalem so nothing looked familiar. In her days, this part of the city was probably not even developed. 

We then went downstairs for dinner. After nearly a week of subsisting on falafel and shawarma, I was glad to be treated to a nice, juicy steak (those were still my carnivorous days). I’d had an exciting time full of fascinating experiences and adventures, and I couldn’t wait to tell Mum all about it. 

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At The Regent

Two heads, one bald, one full-hair, are peeking out from above the red velvet chairs. Their owners, Anwar Ben Badis and Mona Hajjar Halaby, who conduct the Arabic and English tours, respectively, of the Jerusalem, We Are Here (JWRH) interactive documentary, are exchanging family memories of the place. Dorit Naaman, the creator and director, joins them as up on the big screen fragments of an old reel start rolling.

It’s July 2015 and we are filming the opening shots of JWRH at the Regent, the longest-running cinema in Jerusalem. Today it has a different name, but to us, as we go about remapping this area and bringing back, albeit digitally, the people and the life that existed here till 1948, it is and always will be the Regent.

Filming at the Regent – July 2015
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