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.