Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

Updated 01 October 2019

Book Review: A haunting tale from the shores of Jaffa

CHICAGO: From the shores of Jaffa, where the sea has remained the same but the land has changed, comes a powerful tale of two cities that are one and the same. One city’s memories weave in and out of new buildings and language, and the other overlays ancient street names and former inhabitants, as an old resident complains: “I walk in the city, but it doesn’t recognize me.” 

From Palestinian author and journalist Ibtisam Azem comes “The Book of Disappearance,” a story that follows the life of Alaa Assaf and his family, the children and grandchildren of the only woman in their family to stay in Palestine after 1948.

When the reader meets Alaa and his grandmother, all the Palestinians in Israel, four million people, disappear overnight and are not seen again. Is it a miracle or a security operation? No one knows, but as fear and elation grip Tel Aviv, journalist Ariel tries to look for his friend, freelance cameraman Alaa.

When he cannot find him, Ariel finds his red notebook, the one in which he has written his memoir, in which his memories overlap with his grandmother’s — hers from old Jaffa, and his from new, and the surrounding villages now known as Tel Aviv. As Ariel tries to make sense of the mystery, he reads Alaa’s notebook and Alaa’s grandmother’s past comes to the fore.

Through Alaa, we read of his grandmother’s life in Al-Manshiyye, and later in Ajami, where she and other survivors were surrounded by barbed wire. She did not flee to Beirut but stayed and watched as the city around her left — its people dying or fleeing — and its survivors learned to live the lonely existence of strangers in their own land.

Through his grandmother’s memories, Alaa tries to understand himself and the city he grew up in. He writes about her Jaffa and his, “Two cities impersonating each other. You carved your names in my city, so I feel like I am a returnee from history...”

Azem’s work is powerful, her creativity stretching to far reaching corners and her recollections of an ancient land vivid in the mind. Her characters are resilient but shattered on the inside.


Birthday tributes pour in for US-Palestinian DJs Simi and Haze Khadra

Palestinian twins and DJ duo Simi and Haze Khadra celebrated their 27th birthday this week. File/Getty
Updated 28 min 26 sec ago

Birthday tributes pour in for US-Palestinian DJs Simi and Haze Khadra

DUBAI: US-Palestinian twins Simi and Haze Khadra turned 27 on Tuesday and, naturally, social media feeds were flooded with birthday tributes for the DJ duo. Though the twins, who share a joint Instagram account, couldn’t exactly celebrate their big day with their nearest and dearest due to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders in the US, their family, friends and fans made sure to take to various social media platforms to celebrate their big day.

“Happy Birthday to my sisters @simihaze! I’m pretty much the only person who could always tell you apart. You are both so much cooler, smarter, funnier than me but hey you're stuck with me forever! (sic)” wrote their older brother Fai, alongside a series of heartwarming images of the siblings as children. “Love you, thank you for always having my back and being the best sisters a brother could ask for,” he said.

The twins took to the comment section to respond, “Omg Fai!!! These pics. Love you more than you can imagine. Thank you thank you love you x1000000000 (sic).”

Born in Saudi Arabia and having grown up in Dubai, Sama and Haya Khadra, known around the world by their moniker “SimiHaze,” also received a special message from model Bella Hadid.

Part-Palestinian Hadid shared three photos of herself with the twins on her Instagram Stories,  captioning them: "Happy," "Birthday," and “To bunny 1 and 2.”

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid also shared a special birthday tribute to her friends. Instagram

Also taking to social media to celebrate the twins was Justine Skye. The singer uploaded a photo of the trio from their space-themed 24th birthday party and captioned it, “Happiest birthday to my twin angels! I love you guys so much, incredible supernatural beings.”

A$AP Nast, member of hip hop collective A$AP Mob, also posted his own heartfelt tribute, posting a snap of the sisters and captioning it: “I wanna wish a major happy birthday to the adventurous, the iconic, the lovely, the beautiful and the stylish, the unmatched, the two most gangsta twins I know. I love you both loads and I’m so happy we met (sic).”

The birthday girls made sure to thank well-wishers for their thoughtful messages, writing on Instagram: “Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes. We feel so lucky to have the most fulfilling friendships and to continuously feel completely surrounded with love and light. Today marks another year of commitment to learning, loving, and having more fun!”

Naturally, the fashion set — including Imaan Hammam, Hailey Bieber, Alexander Wang and Joan Smalls — took to the comment section to wish the twins a happy birthday.