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Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian: A Memoir Paperback – April 2, 2012
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Very compelling and personal... fragrant details, great zoom-lens scenes of Palestinian family life... pull us right into the landscape and the domain... I support this book and salute its honesty and stirring intentions. We need it in our world. We need every single politician to have a copy in his/her back pocket. As the daughter of a Palestinian also from Jerusalem, I can say that this book rings deeply true to me, and assuages my sorrow somewhat over all the injustice which has pervaded the Holy City for far too long... Nammar makes a strong stride in all the right directions.
Naomi Shihab Nye, award-winning author, writer and poet
Told with exquisite detail and beauty... this readable memoir will help many people around the world understand the reality of Palestine and its dispossessed people.
Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan
This is a compelling and compassionate memoir of a Jerusalem life during wartime and after... stands out as one of very few works that addresses the life for those Palestinians who stayed behind in the Israeli occupied part of (West) Jerusalem... On this level the book is original and has significant ethnographic value for the historical researcher, as well as for students of the Arab Israeli conflict.
Salim Tamari, editor, The Jerusalem Quarterly, Institute of Jerusalem Studies --.
A Palestinian-American remembers an idyllic pre-1948 childhood in Palestine. Because of restrictions on economic opportunity, Nammar was forced to leave his beloved homeland at age 23. Here, he looks back at this bittersweet era of his youth. "Balance" marked the community he knew as a child, where the three Abrahamic religions resided in harmony, socializing and patronizing each other's businesses within a curious mixture of Turkish, Armenian, Arab and Jewish customs. Born to an old, well-established family in the Haret al-Nammareh neighborhood--his father was a tour guide, and his mother was an educated refugee of the Armenian genocide--Nammar generally enjoyed a bountiful, bucolic first six years of life in Palestine. All changed abruptly when Zionist agitation broke out, marked by such events as a machine gun attack on his school bus and the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, where Nammar's older brother, Mihran, worked at the front desk. After Israeli independence, the Palestinian neighborhoods were inhabited by Israelis in what Nammar describes as a deliberate Zionist policy of nikayon, or ethnic cleansing.
Herded into a military zone, Nammar's father and Mihran were detained in prison without explanation. Eventually, the family was reunited but without employment or prospects. The author writes movingly of his education by the nuns and his refuge at the Jerusalem YMCA, where he was both embraced for his athleticism and eventually marginalized, rejected for Israel's national basketball team because of his nationality. An authentic, matter-of-fact, nonpolemical depiction of Palestinian life --Kirkus Reviews
From the Back Cover
?When Jacob Nammar was a young boy growing up in Harret al-Nammareh, his family, his friends, and the streets of his West Jerusalem neighborhood were the center of his life. It wasnt long, however, before his existence was turned upside down when his family was forced out of their home during al-nakba, the catastrophe that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of nearly 750,000 natives and the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages and towns. In this heartwarming memoir, Jacob paints a vivid portrait of Palestinian lifefrom his childhood days in pre-1948 Jerusalem, the struggles of the Palestinian community under Israeli rule, to his ultimate decision to leave for America at age 23. Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming coming of age story set amid the backdrop of one of the most tragic historical events that engulfed the region.
Top customer reviews
Jacob Nammar sets the stage by describing his childhood and his family’s life in Jerusalem before the 1948 partition of Palestine. He then tells of how the family - one of the few who chose not to flee at the creation of Israel - were treated under the new regime. It’s a heart-breaking tale that involves imprisonment, impoverishment, displacement, discrimination, injustice and eventually emigration - told simply and eloquently.
But it's also an inspiring story. Despite the inhumane treatment Nammar was subjected to, he strove to make the most of his adverse circumstances and to integrate in the new milieu he found himself in, becoming an accomplished athlete. Sadly, his efforts and goodwill were no match for the bigotry and fanaticism of this new society.
The book's only shortcoming is the dearth of historical details, probably due to the author’s desire to avoid giving it a political slant. However, some basic dates and facts would have given a necessary background to the book, particularly for readers unfamiliar with the history of Palestine. For example, he says that “The day before my seventh birthday, May 15, 1948, was one of the most horrible of my childhood. The day marked the beginning of al-Nakba, the great catastrophe, the exodus of Palestinians from our lands.” It would be important here to explain that that was the date the British Mandate of Palestine came to an end thus allowing the creation of the state of Israel.
Admittedly, though, the author's insistence on avoiding politics and adhering to the human side of the story makes it that much more powerful.
The book is beautifully narrated, using the old art of story telling that has existed in Jerusalem from time immemorial, but almost lost to our modern times but for a few modern written books. It is a rare gem in that it gives you a rare personal perspective that is rarely relayed by the media, and with the detail that is always missing from such reporting. A historical account of a historic place at a special time in history.
Highly Recommended Reading!
His early childhood was full of adventure that turned scary when the land held for generations by his extended family was taken over by occupying Zionists. But the courage of his parents held the family together in spite of deprivation and hardship. As a young adult Jacob blossoms into a budding athlete as a swimmer and, later, basketball. But his athletic carreer turned sour due to discriminitve politics and forced him, eventially, to emigrate to the United States to pursue his education and sports carreer.
What struck me the most throughout this book was the absense of resentment or hatred for the oppressors. Those feelings would have been well justified, but true to his Christian upbringing, Jacob voiced his frustrations and fears but never hatred.
I couldn't put it down until I was finished. This book, like a few others I have, will be read again and again over the years.