Stranger in My Own Land - Fida Jiryis - READ ME!
Stranger in My Own Land: Palestine, Israel and One Family’s Story of Home is an incredibly moving, powerful story that will move all besides die-hard supporters of Israel, who won’t listen to any message incongruent with their perspective. Fida Jiryis tells her story in a deeply personal way that brings up nearly all the issues relevant to what has and continues to go on. She humanizes and criticizes many, including Arafat, Jewish Israelis, as well as fellow Palestinians, including herself.
Jirysis has a perfect right to be bitter and angry. She takes her anger, and uses it to try to reach us Jewish Americans and many others - who could choose to listen. She cares about others, both near and afar. Fida Jiryis is one who remains an outsider wherever she lives and whatever she does. She is fluent in Hebrew, English and Arabic. She has seen so much! She has learned so much! It goes well beyond “facts” - and does include a lot that is factual.
What is so difficult for me to acknowledge, is that for so - so many - her words and she don’t matter! The Palestinian leadership that she seeks, has largely been obliterated by well over 50 years of murders, assassinations, imprisonment, exile and much more. She asserts the obvious, that The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are both corrupt and ineffective. Her father, a former Arafat advisor, a lawyer educated at Hebrew University (in Jerusalem), perhaps is no longer perceived as a threat. He is now 85 years old!
He lost his first wife to a political bombing in Beirut - which was at a minimum, supported by the Israeli Government. His second wife, a younger sister of his first wife, and and the author’s second mother - was deeply loved by Fida Jiryis. Her death of a heart attack at 57, while kidney disease and diabetes ravaged her body, no doubt was really “caused” by the pressures of living as a Palestinian Israeli citizen in Israel.
When forced to live for several months in Safed in the mid-1960’s, unable to do his normal work as a lawyer, Sabri Jiryis, Fida’s father came into a local bookstore, filled with works of noted Zionists:
The titles were by Theodor Herzl, Leon Pinsker, Moshe Hess, Moshe Lilenblum, Asher Zvi Ginzberg (Ahad Ha’am), Zvi Kalischer, and Max Nordau. Sabri bought one book, read it that evening, and came back the next day. The books were small and focused upon the thought behind the movement. They were written before the First Zionist Conference in 1897. On the third day, he asked the shopkeeper: ‘Can you sell me everything on this shelf?’ … Sabri bought more than 20 books. (p.110)
1982 - in Lebanon:
It went on for two days. While the Israelis kept guard outside the (note: refugee) camps, about 350 Palestinians and Lebanese were butchered with knives or gunned down as they pleaded for their lives and for their loved ones. (p.218)
The death of Fida’s mother:
No one anticipated the force of the attack that took place. As the employees were coming out, a car carrying 550 pounds of dynamite exploded outside, setting the building on fire and blowing the windows out of nearby apartments. (p.222) (note: Jirysis’s father survived the attack while in the same building they both worked at)
My father went to the American University Hospital, where the ambulances had taken the dead. When he walked into the lobby, he say my mother, lying on a stretcher.
She had lost her life. (p.223)
Fida Jiryis learned as she moved from Lebanon, to Cyprus, to her parent’s village in Israel, to Canada, and then to Ramallah, on the West Bank. She noted:
Yet, the Druze did not gain much from their allegiance to Israel. The state did not treat non-Jews with equality, even if they served in its army. The majority of Druze lands were confiscated for Jewish use, and the state demolished homes in Druze villages where building permits were denied - just like it did in other Palestinian communities. Their neighborhoods were congested, underfunded ghettos, like those of Christians and Muslims. (p.298)
Equality? Who is kidding who?
‘A few Arab boys were working in Atzmon for a while, but some people were upset and made them leave. And for a few days now they’ve been throwing stones at our cars as we pass. It’s really stressful!’
‘Why were they fired?’ I asked.
‘Oh, you know…’ she looked uncomfortable, waving her hand.
‘Some people just don’t want Arabs working in the community.’ (p.320)
I guess it’s really tough to be Jewish - in Israel!’
Eva explained. ‘You’ve created a big problem for her.’
‘You were educated abroad, your English is fluent, you hold a higher position than hers, you make more money than she does, and she can’t handle it. You’re not the Arab she’s been told about, the backward, illiterate savage who lives in a tent and keeps camels. She doesn’t know what box to put you in.’ (p.348)
Are we talking about apartheid South Africa where we united to take away “white power”? Is this Mississippi in the early 1960’s? No - this is what Palestinians must live with over and over and over and over again. The Settlers rarely, if ever, are punished! Palestinians - nearly always!
His mother fought with the assailants and the child managed to wriggle free. But, in the early hours of the morning, a group of Jewish settlers kidnapped, tortured, and burned alive another boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (p.410)
Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden endorse Israel and condemn the Palestinians - even more so now, than when these atrocities happened! It has gotten much, worse, the natural progression - from the past. The recently elected Israeli Government wasn’t in power yet, when this book was completed.
The Palestinians didn’t push Anti-Semitism upon us Jews for many centuries as the Europeans and Russians did! The Palestinians didn’t kill six million of us - as the Germans, and their collaborators did!
We have been traumatized and need to heal ourselves! Until we do so, we will persist in committing Apartheid - my word, not Fida Jiryis’s.
She is remarkably patient - seeking to meet on Zoom with us Jews, who support her cry for justice!
Watch Peter Beinart of Jewish Currents interviewing her on February 17, 2023 at:
Maybe then, you’ll make the extra effort to buy this book. Bookstores won’t carry it - because they would have to sell it well above “list” for it to be commercially viable. It is well worth the effort! I got it one day after ordering it.
This is an incredible book! The occasional odd typo - can’t detract at all - from the incredible heart that Fida Jiryis has. Her research for this book is excellent. Her father and others in her life are and were real - caring people like her. You won’t be disappointed!
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