Musician’s diaries depict religions at peace as Jerusalem goes electric

“This book undermines the notion of a sectarian and backward Jerusalem through a living testimony,” says Professor Salim Tamari of The Storyteller of Jerusalem, the newly-translated diaries of Palestinian musician Wasif Jawhariyyeh. Normal life in the city captured by these contemporary documents includes Muslims, Christians and Jews routinely celebrating one another’s religious holidays.

The diaries, spanning the first few decades of the twentieth century, also introduce readers to a city which was home to vigorous political debates, a vibrant cultural life and even a little scandal among Palestine’s notable families. Jerusalem was also a rapidly changing city at the time; the introduction of electricity and the growth of neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi Joz outside the old city walls saw shifts in social behavior as well.

This video, filmed by launch organizers from Jerusalem’s Educational Bookshop, features Salim Tamari discussing the new book in Ramallah, and reading sections from the diary.

Tamari, who is a well-known historical sociologist and a professor at Birzeit in the occupied West Bank and Georgetown University in the US and director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies, has written on the significance of Jawhariyyeh’s diaries in his book The Mountain Against the Sea (University of California Press, 2008). That book also discusses other prominent figures in Jerusalem before the foundation of Israel in 1948 such as the anthropologist Tawfiq Canaan and writer and politician Omar Saleh al-Barghouti.


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.