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!
Translation of Dutch to English - review (comparing two stories):
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 (www.wob.com). 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 PodiumVoorPalestina.nl, Diasporaliteratuur.nl and VerhalenPost.org. The book ' In Search of Fatima' was accompanied by a podcast that can be found on Spotify: #diasporaliteratuur.
Under The Tree Podcast: