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BOOK REVIEW – Jerusalem Stands Alone

Jerusalem Stands Alone.

Written by: Mahmoud Shukair.

Reviewed by: Wasan Abu Baker.

Mahmoud Shukair is a Palestinian author, born in Jabal Mukaber, Jerusalem in 1941. He has written short stories and novels for adults and teenagers.  His work has focused on the Palestinian cause, especially Jerusalem.  Mr. Shukair has authored 45 books, six television series, and four plays, with his work translated from Arabic to English, French, German, Chinese, Mongolian, and Czech.  In 2011, he was awarded the Mahmoud Darwish prize for Freedom of Expression.

Mr. Shukair has such a command of the Arabic language that his stories are presented with an elegance and grace. He successfully presents his stories with beautiful rhythm, love, and creativity dedicated to Jerusalem.  In his writings he moves in this ethereal city’s lanes and depicts the faces of her people, young and old.  No matter how much he writes about Jerusalem, his writing knows no boredom and the reader does not feel distant from the city.

He tells Jerusalem “Don’t be afraid, Don’t be Afraid” more than once in this book, as she faced the strangers and occupiers who have come to it. The city stands strong and does not buckle under the weight of those unwelcome visitors.

In this story, Shukair seeks to preserve the Palestinian memory as a weapon in the face of the Zionists who seek to dominate the place and dispel the identity of the Palestinians who are the native inhabitants of Jerusalem. Shukair documents the Palestinian identity of Jerusalem as it has been subjected to attempts to dispel and dissolve it.  However, the Jerusalemites’ attachment to the land, the city, the neighborhoods, and shops have contributed to the preservation of the city’s identity.  The Palestinian Jerusalemites have increased their richness in view of their openness to the cultures of people who have come to the city without fanaticism or isolation.

In his fast-paced style, Shukair opens many windows on a variety of faces, including the familiar and the strange. The reader feels in successive scenes, a link to the people and their everyday life with its joy and misery.

The people he writes about have fears of what’s to come tomorrow of strange unfamiliar faces, and a life of uncertainty. And the city is not afraid, but watchful.  It has passed through a time of change and destruction, only to persevere with unending patience.  Jerusalem has stood alone among the sweeping waves that come and go, it stands alone and unafraid.

The writer reassures that Jerusalem is the heart of the Muslim world and the capital of Palestine. It is the cradle of the prophets Jesus and Muhammad peace be upon them.  It was the first of the two holy sites in Islam.  Shukair praises and defends Jerusalem, emphasizing its hope to overcome the Zionist aggression as it has other occupiers.  The writer portrays the tragedies of the Jerusalemites in occupied Jerusalem, the massacres, and displacement.  He reveals the falsity of the occupation and condemns its aggression.  Finally, the writer denounces the British Belfour declaration which displaced many Palestinians, establishing the Zionist rule in Palestine.

 

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