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Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian
A Memoir
Jacob J. Nammar, foreword by Salim Tamari

published 2012 • 5 1/4" x 8" • 152 pages • b&w photos
ISBN 9781566568869 • paperback • $15.00

“Very compelling and personal… fragrant details, great zoom-lens scenes of Palestinian family life… pull us right into the landscape and the domain… I support this book and salute its honesty and stirring intentions. We need it in our world. We need every single politician to have a copy in his/her back pocket. As the daughter of a Palestinian also from Jerusalem, I can say that this book rings deeply true to me, and assuages my sorrow somewhat over all the injustice which has pervaded the Holy City for far too long… Nammar makes a strong stride in all the right directions.”
—Naomi Shihab Nye, award-winning author, writer and poet


More Reviews »

A poignant memoir of an eye witness of a major historical event in Jerusalem

When Jacob Nammar was a young boy growing up in Harret al-Nammareh, his family, his friends, and the streets of his West Jerusalem neighborhood were the center of his life. It wasn’t long, however, before his existence was turned upside down when his family was forced out of their home during al-nakba, the catastrophe that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of nearly 750,000 natives and the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages and towns.

In this heartwarming memoir, Jacob paints a vivid portrait of Palestinian life—from his childhood days in pre-1948 Jerusalem, the struggles of the Palestinian community under Israeli rule, to his ultimate decision to leave for America at age 23. It is a relevant and deeply personal tale of a man struggling to hold his world together as his beloved homeland is torn apart before his eyes and a chronicle of a love story with a city and a Palestinian family’s resilience and determination to survive even in their weakest moments.

Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming coming of age story set amid the backdrop of one of the most tragic historical events that engulfed the region.

Jacob Nammar was born in Jerusalem in 1941. He is a retired business executive. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Media Reviews

“There is so much in this autobiography to savor. The history we know so well is told to us through a Palestinian life that survived it. It shines with the richness of Palestinian culture, expansive generosity and the hills we cherish in our hearts and memories. It is filled with a sad patience and a dream tarnished with decades of impunity. This is a Palestinian narrative that should be read far and wide…”
Susan Abulhawa, author of Mornings in Jenin

“Told with exquisite detail and beauty… this readable memoir will help many people around the world understand the reality of Palestine and its dispossessed people.” 
—Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan

“This is a compelling and compassionate memoir of a Jerusalem life during wartime and after… stands out as one of very few works that addresses the life for those Palestinians who stayed behind in the Israeli occupied part of (West) Jerusalem… On this level the book is original and has significant ethnographic value for the historical researcher, as well as for students of the Arab Israeli conflict.”
—Salim Tamari, editor, The Jerusalem Quarterly, Institute of Jerusalem Studies

“His memoir of his experiences in Israel until he emigrated to the U.S. is heartfelt and engrossing, and it provides an immensely valuable perspective from among the rarely heard voices of Israeli Arabs… his story provides valuable insights into the hopes, difficulties, and sorrows of Israeli Arabs.”

“Nammar was born in Jerusalem in 1941 to wealthy landowners with ancestral ties to the region stretching back hundreds of years; his childhood was rich with family, friends, and educational opportunities amidst a diverse and tolerant population. But all that changed when his school bus was brutally attacked by machine gunners, killing two of his classmates, and injuring many more. Though his ‘body had been spared,’ Nammar writes that thenceforth he was ‘spiritually wounded.’ That metaphysical grievance become all too real when just a few years later, at the age of seven, he and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced in the exodus (which some considered an ethnic cleansing) known as the Nakba, a result of Israel's declaration of independence and the violence visited upon them by Menachim Begin and his ‘paramilitary gang.’ In a surprisingly measured voice, the author details the ensuing struggles faced by his family and countless others, the solace he found in swimming at the YMCA, and his difficult decision, at 23 years old, to finally flee his conflict-ridden homeland for the United States. Nammar writes that Israel ‘didn't afford me a voice, economic independence, or a future. It had torn apart…my cohesive self.’ His story is moving and serves as an argument in its own right for peace in a region that has been characterized for far too long by politico-religious strife. B&W photos & maps.”
—Publishers Weekly

“This timely autobiographical story, Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian, written by Jacob Nammar, a Palestinian Christian, recounts his bittersweet yet, fervent family life memories and his despondent world of experiences as a youth. Nammar's spiritual ethos recaptures and etches out his visions firmly throughout the archives of his personal and family history, during, before and after the 1948 Nakba… Jacob's story will eventually be recognized as a tribute and evocation of contemporary human beings who have suffered under ethnic cleansing and in particular the Palestinian experience of separate and unequal laws of injustice and racism.”
Leila Diab,

Reader Reviews
I am half way through this fascinating biography with so many cultural, personal, familial and historical details. I'm captivated by both the innocence, blessings of opportunities, and the horror of ethnic cleansing. It really is a must read. — AL Esh

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