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Jenin is one tough neighbourhood and well worth writing about

Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts (History), McGill University

MORNINGS IN JENIN  by Susan ABULHAWA is a novel  reflecting the reality of the  Palestinian plight and suffering. Its original title in 2002 was THE SCAR OF DAVID which  becomes  relevant in the story. The SCAR of David is a metaphor for the Star of David. The book is well researched and  is also a personal account.

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 Mornings in Jenin follows four generations of the ABULHEJA  family  from 1948. The first NAQBAH ( the catastrophe)  to the NAKSA (disaster)  to EL GHURBA (state of being a stranger ). Creating refugees is not a good portent . It is like a festering wound that  never goes away. The Palestinians despite their own diaspora always remember BILADI, my country .

That whole episode is the mirror image or  the other side of the coin when Israel declared statehood in 1948  which Israelis call MILHEMET HA SHIKHROUR war of liberation. Jews know the feeling of being a stranger,

First in Egypt in the  land of Pharaoh then in the diaspora . Jews never forgot Israel or Jerusalem.

 In 1948 , being displaced from EIN HOD,  Dalia ABULHEJA  is forced to  move to a refugee camp in Jenin, on the West Bank. In the process , an Israeli soldier snatches her baby Ismail from her arms.  The Israeli soldier brings the Palestinian child to his wife a Holocaust survivor , founding a family based on a lie . Baby Ismail grows up as David , an Israeli who will fight against his own people  in wars to come . Surprisingly , the author has no animosity nor a  grudge against Israelis and Jews.

In Jenin , the family has a daughter AMAL , who loves nothing more than listening to her father's stories.

Arabs are great story tellers . They can  narrate  stories from the Crusades up to today  with accurate memory and description..

Thousand and one night  ALF LEILAH WA LEILAH TIN  is a vivid example like the CHANSON DE ROLAND.

The father’s story to his daughter is really about  hope (AMAL)  and Arabs are the most patient people. Crusaders came and went eventually after 100 years presence in the Holy Land.

The book does not end with Amal . The novel ends with words from Youssef in exile. The book makes you  angry, not on your behalf , but on behalf of the people whose voices are not allowed to be heard .

The novel has an important message because it tells a human story and fills a gap in the Palestinian narrative .

The  book was first published in French  as LES MATINS DE JENIN. French philosopher, Bernard HENRI-LEVY  dismissed it as fiction and anti-Semitic.  People put forward antisemitism as a defensive shield. Antisemitism is a red herring . Israel and its supporters have attacked their critics as being anti-Semites or racists. It is a tactic to undermine the rational debate.


The author Susan ABULHAWA  was born in Kuwait and eventually lived in America. She considers herself a poet first and foremost, and a political activist . She is

Active in the BDS movement to bring  pressure to bear against Israel . She believes  BDS will bring about freedom for her people.  

She is  the founder of playground for children .

Palestinian scholarship and literature is quite varied. Further readings from other authors are suggested in the Appendix. Israeli writings are also plentiful and serious.  Palestinians and Israelis are two solitudes.

 I highly recommend the book . It is part of the Palestinian collective memory.

MORNINGS IN JENIN by Susan ABULHAWA, BLOOMSBURY Edition, First published in Great Britain in 2010, 338 pages.

September 25, 2017.

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This article is part of

Benbaruk, Leon
By Leon Benbaruk

Leon was born in Morocco. He immigrated to Canada in 1964. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Modern History Cum Laude, Loyola College (1968 - 1972).

He was an elected Rhodes Scholar in 1972  and studied at Keble College...
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