A new documentary brings the hidden urban Palestinian history of West Jerusalem on to screens everywhere

Jerusalem – Based on a series of tours through Katamon and Baka, former Palestinian neighbourhoods where Arab identity was swiftly erased after the 1948 Nakba, the project “Jerusalem, We Are Here” is a web-based interactive documentary that takes viewers on a journey in Jerusalem.

The documentary revives the culturally rich landscape of Palestinian West Jerusalem, based around an interactive map embedded with original film footage, photographs, interviews and audio, directed and produced by Dorit Naaman.

“I realised that if we wanted to make it accessible to Palestinians, we needed to do something that is virtual,” Naaman told Al Jazeera. She began sourcing information about Katamon from Palestine and the diaspora by word of mouth more than five years ago. “1948 is almost 70 years ago, and we need to collect the memories and documents from the people who are still around, who remember. There’s a sense of urgency to this.”

Naaman, who is based in Canada, teamed up with Mona Halaby, a Palestinian whose family was expelled from Baka in 1948. Halaby’s extensive knowledge of the neighbourhoods provided the basis for the interactive map. “It was a very vibrant area with a lot of educated Palestinians, urban Palestinians, professionals, lawyers, educators, doctors, people in the media – people who were interested in the history, the politics, the culture, the literary world,” Halaby told Al Jazeera.

“I’ve always been interested in social history, and culture, lineage and genealogy, and I grew up fortunate to have a mother who enjoyed sharing that sort of story and history with me.”

Throughout the tours of Katamon and Baka, viewers meet individuals returning to their family homes for the first time since 1948, hear stories of notable residents such as educator Khalil Sakakini, and see the neighbourhood’s originally Arab homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis.

The documentary will keep expanding as more homes are mapped, and Naaman hopes they can “extend it to the rest of Jerusalem … It’s a place that we can start collecting all that information for generations to come,” Halaby said. “It’s going to be a living, breathing document.”

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