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.

Jiryis 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:   .  

Canadian Book Interview - March, 2023

NESP Book Talk 5/2/2023

Interview in Arabic from Palestine

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!

Interview in Arabic from Amman

A MUCH better review of this wonderful book!


 Sam Bahour (excellent!) Review


 Canadian Book Interview - March, 2023

Translation of Dutch to English - review  (comparing two stories):

1 History, family  and  person  closely  intertwined  Memoirs    of strong  Palestinian  women  The commemoration of   75 years of   Nakba is a  call  not to   be forgotten. To   continue  to  empathize  with the plight of  the people  affected by the Nakba     and  the generations  after  them. And  to   continue  to  resist    the injustice  that  has been done to them. Memoirs are  literary  sources  to   capture  and    share memories. There are  numerous  memoirs written  by Palestinians, eyewitness accounts  and  experiences  of future  generations. In this  article I  zoom   in on two examples. First, In Search of Fatima written  by Ghada  Karmi who   personally experienced  the Nakba. Second, Stranger in my own Land by Fida  Jiryis. She represents  the next  generation  and  was  born  into exile.  Both  memoirs show the intertwining    between  historical  events,   fate of families  and   individual  emotions  and  experiences. By Marianne Dagevos  In  Search of Fatima. A Palestinian Story - Ghada  Karmi  April 1948 "A  huge  blow  shook the house.  Something, a   bomb, a   mortar,  a   weapons cache  exploded  with  a  deafening  bang. The little  girl  felt  it inside  her  head. She put   her   hands   on   her  ears  and  automatically lay   down   with  the others  on  the cold  tile floor  in their  liwan, as  she did  the last       time had  become  accustomed. They heard  shots, immediately  followed  by bullets  whistling  past the windows   and  bouncing  off the walls  of the empty  houses  across from    them. "Hurry  up!  Hurry  up!" The danger  was palpable  in the air. The taxi was    waiting  outside, the doors  were  open  to   take   them somewhere    she  didn't want to    go. The little  girl wanted to   stay  there, in her house   with Rex and  Fatima, she wanted to   play in the garden,   jump over the fence  in  the garden  of the Muscovite    house next to    them, her   friends    see again   and  go  back  to  school that had been   closed since  Christmas . She wanted to  do  all those familiar  things  that   were part  of her  young  life.  Not  this  madness.  Not  this  departure  away from  everything  she knew  and    loved." With this  passage begins  'In Search of Fatima. A Palestinian Story' by Ghada  Karmi  (London, New York: Verso, 2002, translation  MD). In April  1948,   Ghada was  forced to leave  her  home   at  the age   of 9. She left  with  her   parents, sister and     brother, first  to  Damascus where  her maternal  grandparents    lived,    and  a  few  years  later  to  London.  Her  father  had   found  work there in the Arab  section  of the BBC and  so   they became  exiles  in Europe.    Katamon, Jerusalem  In this  memoir that   covers almost  sixty  years  of Ghada  Karmi's life,   she tells extensively  and  very personally  how her  life   , the the lives  of her  relatives  and  developments   in Palestine  have  passed. In  the first  part  Palestine, covering  the period  from 1939-1948 at  the time  of the British Mandate,  she describes  the Palestinian  class society  with  a   majority  peasant  (fellahien) and a    small  upper class  rural  landowners  and  urban  elite. Her  father  came  from  a  family  of landowners  in Tulkarem and   this  allowed  him to   study  and  move  to  the city. The family    settled in Katamon  (Greek   for 'next to the monastery ' in this  case  the Greek Orthodox  monastery  Sant Simon), a  residential  neighborhood    in   Jerusalem  with detached  houses  where  a  mixed  population  of Christian and   Muslim  Palestinians had     settled    along with Jewish  migrants  and  other  foreign  families .    Karmi  paints  a  vivid  picture  of these  neighborhoods  in Jerusalem, just outside  the Old  City. They were bustling  with life, had  their own newspapers, radio stations, literary  circles and   organizations  that   dealt with  politics, culture   , humanitarian  work  and     social   encounters.     At   the   same time , Jewish  migration increased and  these migrants  became  increasingly militant. The British       rulers   used  a  double  agenda  and   played  the Arab  citizens and  the Jewish migrants   against  each other. Karmi's  father    gradually lost    faith in   protecting  the   British and  noticed  that  they  were facilitating  the Jewish  migrants to    take power   in Palestine  .  Meanwhile,  Ghada  grows  up in that beautiful  neighborhood, befriends   her  neighbor girls  and  builds  an  intimate  bond with the domestic  help  Fatima who is daily  from  neighboring      village Maliha comes  to     work for  the   Karmi family. That Fatima figures  in  the title  of the memoirs.  Torn  between  cultures  In  the second  part,   Ghada  Karmi  herself  comes  into  the picture  more emphatically. She describes  her  childhood in   the 50s  and   60s   in London. The family  has found  a  home  in Golders  Green, an  expansion district  in  the north  where  many  Jewish  families from  the European  continent have  also settled    . At school   ,   Ghada tries to  appear as English as possible,  yet   she   is treated    as   the 'dark  girl  from outside'.     Major  historical  events  such as the   Suez crisis in 1956  and the June War  of 1967 make  it painfully  clear  how wide the   gap is between the Arab  exiles  and    the native  English.    Ghada and   her  brother and   sister  feel    misunderstood  when  they   express  their   solidarity  with the Arab  population    and  their  criticism  of Western  interference. Their parents  go through  a  completely different  processing process, for them Palestine is   dead, they want to  forget the past   and  never   return  to  the area  that gave    them   has decreased.  Her  mother  creates  an  Arab  community  around    her to     continue  her  former  life  as  much as possible  and  she refuses  to   speak English   for a long  time.   learn. Her  father  works  for   and   with the English  but keeps  private  and  work  strictly  separate.  His  main  motivation  in exile  is that  his  children  receive a   good  education  and  learn  a  useful  profession. Within her  family ,  Ghada  feels  most torn   between  the two  cultures. She loves  English  culture  and  feels    connected to  Arabic.      Ultimately,  she   decides  to  embrace her Palestinian   identity    and commit   herself to  the Palestinian  cause.   This development  is    discussed in  the third  part of the book  about  the period   1969-1991,  the period  that coincides  with  the rise  of the PLO.    Karmi  returns    to the Middle East, works    as a doctor in   Palestinian  refugee camps, maintains  contacts  with the PLO and  searches for  her   former  home in Katamon    . Looking for   the       house I also    went with my  partner in 2022   in Katamon  in search of   the house of the   Karmi family. No   address is   known, but  we   did know that  after  1948 the house was expanded  with an  upper floor.  Katamon  now belongs  to West Jerusalem  and, with its  atmospheric  historic  houses  with large  gardens,   is one  of  the most expensive  neighborhoods  in the city. It is a  green, pleasant  neighborhood, spacious and   quiet  and  incomparable  to the neighborhoods  of East Jerusalem. Only     Jewish  families live there, the Palestinian  past  and the memories  of  the former  owners  are  carefully  hidden away. Based on a  few  clues,  we wandered  the streets  until  we   came face  to face with the building with   the landing  where  Ghada had   once sat  with Fatima     during  the afternoon rest.   To  underline the transfer of power,   a  flag garland was   hung over the façade.    We   did not  meet residents,   but it moved  us  that  this  house   still stands  as a  silent  witness  of   another  time.   Ghada  Karmi  has always remained  an  exile. In England,   she   is known    for her   tireless  advocacy of   justice  for the Palestinians and   her    criticism of the hypocritical  and  complicit  role  of     the   English   politics.   Unfortunately, her  memoirs have    never  been translated  into Dutch  and  are only  available  antiquarian,  for example  from  World of Books ( In Search of Fatima is an  extremely  good  example  of diaspora literature. Anyone who reads this  memoir   will get  an  intimate  and  penetrating  picture  of what exile  does  to human lives. 3 Stranger in my Own Land - Fida  Jiryis ' We're  leaving.' "Leave?"  my    grandfather  Elias responded. "The Jews  are getting closer   and closer. We have  decided  to   leave  until  the weather  calms down    and  we can  return,"  replied  his  friend, the old  shepherd. In two days  they   were gone. They took  everything  with them: their  clothes, blankets, pots  and  pans. They   even took  their  chickens  with them. Elias' son Sabri knew  that  because he  had   gone to  see  their  village. On his  father's  donkey he  had ridden  to the   Deir, as  the village  was  commonly  called. Deir el  Qasi was five  times  the size of   Sabri's village  of Fassouta  and  was always  very lively.      He  had often  seen  the farmers take their   harvest    from the land to  their    homes. But as  he    approached  that day, it was quiet. There was no  human  or animal  to  be seen.  He  urged the donkey    to  walk  through  the streets and the sound  of his  hooves  reflected  off the facades  and  was    interrupted    only by     the   rustling   of the wind in the trees. "The whole village, the houses,  the gardens  and  the streets  were  empty,"  he  says   years  later. "The wind blew  through  the houses  and  cracked  the windows. It was the most  depressing  thing  I  had   ever seen. That image  continues to haunt  me   when  I  think  of  the war.' Galilee This  excerpt is in   the fist-sized  memoir Stranger in my Own Land. Palestine, Israel  and One's Family's Story of Home (London, Hurst & Company, 2022, translation  MD) written  by Fida  Jiryis.  Her  grandparents  and  parents  experienced the   Nakba  in Fassouta, a  Christian  village  in the Galilee, not  far  from the Lebanese  border.   As the flow of refugees    passes  by  their  homes, the residents of Fassouta do   not let   themselves  be chased away  and  become residents  of     the new  state. Galilee came under  military     rule         in the   50s and 60s,   and  Palestinians  who   resisted  Israeli  rule  faced severe  repression. So did the brothers  Sabri and  Geris Jiryis  who founded Al Ard, an  organization  that stands  up for  equal  rights  for  the Palestinians.    Jiryis  poignantly  describes  how  the lives  of the brothers  and  their  families  are    systematically  made impossible  by house arrest, administrative  detention, court cases,  searches   and  retaliation, even    decades later. The book    also  shows  how  the Palestinian  inhabitants of Israel   have  been systematically  deprived of   development opportunities since  the establishment of   the state  due to  lack of  education, lack   of   job  and career opportunities, lack    of  space and   expansion opportunities and   constant  discrimination      and    humiliation. For     Sabri, who   is now  married to   Hanneh, the situation  becomes  so dire  that  the couple  has to  flee  and in       1970 in  exile  goes  into Beirut.  A  large  Palestinian  community is   active  there at that  time.  A  few  years  later,   Fida is  born. Her  father  is director  of the Palestinian  Research Center   and   tirelessly  writes  articles  and  reports. The young  family  experienced the beginning of the   Lebanese  civil war as well as  the large-scale  invasion  of Israel in 1982.    In  a  bomb attack  outside    the research centre  in 1983,   Fida's  mother was  killed.   Sabri, Fida and   her  brother  Mousa leave    Beirut  together  with  the other  Palestinians  and  the family  settles      in Cyprus. All  this time,   contact with the   remaining relatives  in Fassouta is   minimal. Only during  the Oslo Accords  can  some  exiles  return  to  their  birthplace. Sabri seizes  that opportunity,   he  is   still an Israeli  citizen, and  so    the family returns  to Galilee   after  25 years . The family reunion is   considered    a  miracle and  is celebrated     in a big  way. Father Sabri goes  to work  for  the PLO as  an advisor  and  confidant  of Yasser Arafat.  Even  though  the military  rule in   Galilee  has now been  lifted,  the young  Fida  has  difficulty  getting used  to the reality  of the homeland she   had     so much about   in exile  heard. She sees how   the Palestinian  past is   being erased,  how the Jewish  migrants  have  taken over  the land  and   power   and  how segregation  between  Jews  and  Palestinians  is  rampant   celebrates.  Even  with  her   good  university  education  in ICT  and   her  flawless  knowledge  of English, she can hardly  find a   job  at a high level and    if  she is     hired  is  systematically  ignored  by an  Israeli  company.    A  single  conversation  with Israeli  colleagues  reveals  how ignorant  and  indifferent  they  are  about  the presence  of Palestinians  in the country. Based on  his own observation,   Jiryis  explains  how Israel       perpetuates a   myth    based  on ideological  benchmarks  such as the   army, flag, security  and the enemy   (= the Arab) who   poses a  threat    for  that safety. 4 Nowhere  at Home  Fida  and  her  husband Raji decide  to  immigrate  to  Canada in search of    more  opportunities. They discover  that  while life  in Canada  is   calmer  and  freer  (no  control at   malls),   as   new  migrants they   are also  dangling  at the   bottom  of the labor market, if   Production workers  have to  work  long  hours for   a  low  salary  and can  hardly  save  money   for    family visits. Their marriage  breaks down, Raji returns    to  Fassouta  and  Fida  settles    in Ramallah. She finds      out  that  she  is not  completely  at home anywhere   ,  has to   compromise everywhere    and  has to  watch  her   Palestinian  identity under   pressure. In this  book, on which  she   has  worked for ten  years,   Jiryis tells the history  of the Palestinians, based  on research  from historical  sources    ,   and   the story  of Palestinian  families, based  on interviews with her  father   and   uncles  and  aunts.   In addition,  Fida  reflects  on  her   own life  and  describes  her  emotions.  On the one hand, the need   to       belong  and  show  solidarity   with her  fellow  Palestinians, on the other hand,   the need    for  a life  of its own   with    economic  independence  and  room  for  personal choices. Church of  Iqrit  During  several  visits  to  Galilee   we have  also  visited  the remains  of destroyed  villages, often  fenced  or hidden  under  a  sponsored  forest, an  archaeological    site or a  park with picnic areas.      We also  visited   the descendants of the residents  of Iqrit  who still  hold church services   in  the church  on   the hill  and  have  set up  camp    there. For decades,   residents of   the Christian  villages of   Bahram and  Iqrit have been waging    lawsuits  demanding resettlement. This was   promised  to them by the occupiers  in 1948. Until then, they   continue to   visit  the remains  of their  village.  Strong  women  City-rural, Muslim-Christian, living  within  Israel  or beyond, exile in England  or in Lebanon and   Cyprus;  the differences  between  the Karmi     and  Jiryis families      are  legion. But the daughters, Ghada  and  Fida, show in their  memoirs   that  they  have  much  in common.   First of all,   they   must deal with the great  trauma  of loss and   humiliation, and then   with  the ignorance, indifference   and  denial  of Palestinian   injustice  in  the      people  around them. But both  writers  are  strong  women,     well-educated and   independent, who don't  get  bogged  down in nostalgia  and  victimhood. They document, analyze and     reflect on their   lives and   on their  history        and  they choose  a  position  of strength.  A  place  to   live  where  human rights  are   respected must  be  possible.   They will  not  settle for less. Marianne Dagevos  is the initiator  of, and   The book ' In Search of Fatima' was accompanied by a  podcast   that can be  found  on Spotify: #diasporaliteratuur.     

Under The Tree Podcast:  

Episode # 77: Stranger in my Own Land with Fida Jiryis

Memoir of an Arab Jew - Avi Shlaim - 
Review of a most relevant book to Fida Jiryis's book -

Letters to the Editor: Praise For Fida Jiryis’ Stranger in My Own Land

Review of Richard Sanders - Middle East Eye - August 10, 2023

CAABU Book Launch -

Another Interview


A thousand thanks to Professor Issa Shuaibi for this wonderful presentation on the website of the "New Arabi" newspaper.
"At the invitation of six sacred cultural institutions active in Jordan, Palestinian writer Fida Grace arrived in Amman, coming from her village of Fassuta in the Upper Galilee, to publish her first novel, published in English (450 pages) about a year ago, and was welcomed by a generous crowd of writers and friends, who received this diverse literature." Talents with a flood of prudence and attention, especially as a product of the cultural ransom (three story groups and one play, alongside its novel "strange in my homeland"), had swept through some Palestinian cities, from Ramallah to Nasra, Bethlehem and others abroad, preceded by the good reputation to the houses of Shtat, ...
... During the conversation, I found Fida Grace in that long cultural evening, a writer who climbs the ranks of the literary ladder with confidence and managed to exceed expectations, as the young woman coming from within the Palestinian interior appeared to present her release that sweaty accomplished ten years, with a national message, resisting her soft way, has a special voice distinctive from the harsh experience that The small family has experienced it first, and the arc of shared torments among the rest of its people second, especially those who have remained clinging to the land, the dream and the right that is not lost in the future, which adds to the novel of "strange in my homeland" added value to the Palestinian cultural capital, to which novels, novels, artists, thinkers and a book have contributed immensely. Of the 48 Arabs, i.e. in the land where the flags of the great Palestinian creators flew in the sky, who narrowed the space to have them in this position.
Fida Grace, the shy and humble writer, remains that if she hadn’t made a difference in this gripping text of hers, or made a move in the Palestinian fiction course, at home and in the diyar Alshat, this edition, which will be translated into Arabic and nine foreign languages, as promised, has come as a distinctive addition to architecture the Palestinian novel with multiple voices. "


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