Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian: A Memoir

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian: A Memoir

Article excerpt

Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian: A Memoir By Jacob J. Nammar, Olive Branch Press, 2012, paperback, 152 pp. List: $15; AET: $12. Reviewed by Leila Diab

This timely autobiography written by Palestinian Christian Jacob Nammar recounts his bittersweet yet vibrant family life and his youthful experiences, recapturing his personal and family history before, during and after the 1948 Nakba, or Palestinian "catastrophe."

Nammar reminisces about growing up in Al-Quds (Jerusalem), the capital of his beloved Palestine, where his prosperous family owned several tracts of valuable properties in Haret Al-Nasara (the Christian Quarter). His clan enjoyed good relations with the city's Jewish residents, even contributing 200 Ottoman coins to help renovate a synagogue in the 19th century.

Despite decades of acceptance and mutual respect, however, a reign of terror descended on Palestine during the Nakba. As a prosperous, harmonious, tolerant and peaceful Palestinian society was replaced by Israel's military occupation, Palestinian life became centered on insularity, survival and cohesive family structures.

Nammar witnessed his family's trauma, as well as the suffering of many prominent and well-to-do Palestinian families who were forced to leave their homes in Jerusalem, had their property confiscated, and endured the torture, imprisonment or disappearance of male family members, including Nammar's father and brother. For Nammar's mother, who was born in Armenia and as a young child witnessed the massacre of her entire family under the Ottoman Turks, the Nakba represented yet another historic tragedy with devastating personal consequences.

According to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the laws against such interference or attacks." Readers of Nammar's story will wonder why this human tragedy has not yet been resolved, why the Nammar family and their fellow Palestinians still are denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to return to their homes. …

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