To celebrate Arab American Heritage Month this April, we wanted to take the opportunity to explore a piece of Arab history with which readers might not be as familiar.
Suad Amiry’s Mother of Strangers is a moving novel set between 1947 and 1951 and based on a true story set during the beginning of the destruction of Palestine and displacement of its people. It paints a vivid picture of Jaffa, an ancient port city located in what’s now the southern part of Tel Aviv.
To get a better understanding of the true events that inspired Mother of Strangers, Suad Amiry joined us to explain some important topics and moments from that are referenced in the book.
To delve deeper into Palestinian history, grab your copy of Mother of Strangers and get an intimate look at the lives of two teenagers living in Jaffa during this time.
By Suad Amiry
As a result of its prosperous orange exports, the cosmopolitan Arab city of Jaffa was the richest and most vivacious city in pre-1948 Palestine, with a busy harbor, numerous cafés, restaurants, and cinemas.
Jaffa acquired the nickname of “Mother of Strangers” since it welcomed the different ethnic communities that worked and lived together peacefully.
The British Mandate of Palestine (1921-1948)
During this period of British occupation of Palestinian land, the policies created were geared towards establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. As a result, it encouraged Jewish immigration to Palestine while crushing Palestinian revolts against establishing a state on their lands. During this time, the Jewish population increased from 3% in 1921 to 30% in 1948.
On November 29, 1947, the UN approved the Partition Plan: dividing historic Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. Just before the British Mandate ended on May 14, 1948, the British Government failed to stop the ethnic cleansing committed by the Jewish militia against Palestinian villages and cities, including Jaffa. On May 15, the Jewish State was declared on a much larger area than originally designated by the UN.
The Nakba (1948)
The Nakba (also known as the catastrophe) refers to horrors of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes, cities, and villages by the Jewish militia and later by the State of Israel (established in 1948). Up to 90% of the Palestinian population, who were in the areas that became Israel, were forced out to become refugees up until this day.
The 1950 Israeli Absentee Law declared Palestinians who fled or were forcibly removed as absentees. As a result, Israel seized all Palestinian owned property and declared it as Absentees Properties. Many of these “absentees” were and still are physically present in Israel proper, in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.