Mother of Strangers
Paperback, 304 pages
Based on the true story of two Jaffa teenagers, Mother of Strangers follows the daily lives of Subhi, a fifteen-year-old mechanic, and Shams, the thirteen-year-old student he hopes to marry one day. In this prosperous and cosmopolitan port city, with its bustling markets, cinemas, and cafés on the hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, we meet many other unforgettable characters as well, including Khawaja Michael, the elegant and successful owner of orange groves above the harbour; Mr. Hassan, the tailor who makes Subhi’s treasured English suit, which he hopes will change his life; and the very mischievous and outrageous Uncle Habeeb, who insists on introducing Subhi to the local bordello.
With a thriving orange export business, Jaffa had always been a city welcoming to outsiders—the “Mother of Strangers”—where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived peacefully together. Once the bombardment of the city begins in April 1948, Suad Amiry gives us the grim but fascinating details of the shock, panic, and destruction that ensues. Jaffa becomes unrecognisable, with neighbourhoods flattened, families removed from their homes and separated, and those who remain in constant danger of arrest and incarceration. Most of the population flees eastward to Jordan or by sea to Lebanon in the north or to Egypt and Gaza in the south. Subhi and Shams will never see each other again.
Suad Amiry has written a vivid and devastating account of a seminal moment in the history of the Middle East—the beginning of the end of Palestine and a portrait of a city irrevocably changed.