Once and Future Bride of the Sea: A historian discusses the history of Jaffa from the Nakba until today

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This upcoming Thursday, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque will host its first Nakba film festival, featuring films about the Israeli-Arab War of 1948 and the catastrophic repercussions it has had for the Palestinian Arabs. The official Zionist narrative of Israel’s War of Independence and its causes and effects is drummed into every citizen from the earliest age, but the Palestinian Arab perspective on the same sequence of events is nearly unknown to almost all Israeli Jews. The Nakba film festival hopes to educate the Israeli public and facilitate a deep discourse about the ramifications of the 1948 war and its implications for the future.

The festival’s opening film is a full length documentary by my colleague, friend and fellow Canadian-Israeli, The Real News producer Lia Tarachansky. This past February, while working on the film, called On the Side of the Road, Lia and I collaborated to interview the historian and Tel Aviv – Jaffa City Councillor Sami Abou Shehadeh about the history of Jaffa, pre- and post-Nakba. Unfortunately, none of the sequences we shot with Abou Shehadeh made it into the final cut of the film, but Lia and I both felt that the material was far too important to be abandoned, so I edited it into a half-hour mini-movie for your viewing pleasure.

From the ancient Jaffa port, to the windy alleys of the old city, from the neglected neighborhoods of Ajami to the new gated garrison communities overlooking it, Abou Shehadeh weaves a compelling portrait of what was, before the 1948 war, the economic and cultural capital of Palestine. As one might expect, Abou Shehadeh is highly critical of many of the changes that have been wrought on Jaffa since Israel conquered it. At the end of the guided tour, Abou Shehadeh opens up about his own vision for the future, suggesting that an acceptance of the Palestinian Nakba narrative could precipitate a real peace between Arab and Jew.

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