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  • After the Nakba in Nuba:A Palestinian Villager’s Diary, 1949

This article uses diary entries recorded by a Palestinian villager from outside Hebron to explore individual Palestinian subjectivities and experiences in the immediate aftermath of the 1948 war; tropes of village life and displacement in Palestinian national narratives; and the difficulties and possibilities presented by diaries in approaching Palestinian history and life writing.

If the Nakba of 1948 has long been considered the pivotal moment of modern Palestinian history, what could life have been like for Palestinian villagers in its immediate wake? With sporadic fighting still taking place in various regions of Palestine, and negotiations between the new state of Israel and Arab governments ongoing, how might they have imagined the future? How did daily concerns and local politics intermingle with the momentous decisions being made during the armistice negotiations at Rhodes, in London, Tel Aviv, Amman, Cairo, and elsewhere? To where can we turn to try to recapture a sense of the lived experience of the uncertain new realities of post-Nakba Palestine? The diaries of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf, a Palestinian from a village outside Hebron, present one possible source for such an effort. Yet diaries are by nature personal and allusive, their references meaningful to their author but often inaccessible to an outside reader. Any historical narrative to which they might be harnessed is necessarily imposed, as diaries themselves are “stuck in the madness of repetition that is life itself” (Lejeune 170). The difficulties and tensions inherent to reading Shrouf’s diaries, however, also present opportunities to interrogate historical narratives and to raise questions about diaries as a particular form of life writing. The article and diary excerpts below seek to demonstrate the unique value of such a source for recovering individual Palestinian subjectivities in the aftermath of the Nakba, while also exploring the challenges that it presents, its resistance to dominant historical narratives and hegemonic understandings of diaries. [End Page 398]


Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf was born in 1913 in Nuba, a village situated some eleven kilometers to the northwest of Hebron, the urban hub of Palestine’s southern highlands. Village life largely revolved around agricultural production and trade within circuits of varying spans, from the group of five villages known as qura saff al-’Amleh, the villages associated with the ‘Amleh family,1 to Hebron, Jerusalem, and beyond. Shrouf himself held agricultural lands, and from November 1942 to May 1944 kept a shop selling cloth wholesale in Jerusalem’s Old City. However, for most of his adult life before 1948, Shrouf served in the Palestine Police, the force maintained by British Mandatory authorities: for one stint from 1935 to 1942, and again from 1944 until the end of the Mandate in May 1948. After the war of 1948 and the loss of Palestine, Shrouf remained in Nuba under Jordanian rule. Like many other villagers in the region, he lost most of his agricultural lands (153 of 169 dunams) to the newly established State of Israel when cease-fire lines were drawn.2 He worked for some time on road crews established by the Jordanian administration to ease West Bank unemployment, but in 1955 economic conditions forced him to al-Rusayfa, a Jordanian city between Amman and al-Zarqa’, where he had managed to find a job working for the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company. He remained in Jordan until the 1980s, when he moved to Syria and opened a shop in Khan al-Shih, a town southwest of Damascus with a sizeable Palestinian refugee camp. After several years, though, he returned to Jordan, where he passed away in 1994, not having returned to Nuba since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank.

From 1943 to 1962, Shrouf kept a journal, recording his daily activities and the events around him in nine pocket-sized calendars. He also saved one policeman’s notebook, in which he recorded—for inspection by superior officers—his actions and encounters as a patrolman in Jaffa. In an eleventh notebook, he wrote down the contents of various speeches at public events, letters sent to newspapers for publication, and appeals made to various government officials on behalf of his village and other “front-line” villages along the border with the State of Israel. In 2011, the family of one of Shrouf’s sons, ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf, agreed to let the Institute for Palestine Studies in Ramallah photograph these notebooks. Since 2012, I have been working with the Institute to transcribe and edit these notebooks to produce a manuscript for publication.3

The process has been arduous and, I hope, fruitful. It has entailed deciphering the handwriting and language of a Palestinian villager whose education combined “traditional” and “modern,” “native” and “colonial”: Shrouf was educated at the kuttab, the traditional school of basic Islamic education, in his village and as a member of the British Mandate police force, where he [End Page 399] developed the habit of recording his activities and events around him in a notebook. In this particular hybridity, Shrouf’s diaries reflect what S. Shankar calls a vernacular postcolonialism. The vernacular in question here becomes further complicated by the particular diglossic nature of Arabic—that is, its division between formal Arabic (fusha) and its colloquial dialects (loosely grouped together under the umbrella term ‘ammiyya). Shrouf’s Arabic style is, for the most part, both formal and formulaic. To take one of the most basic and commonly used verbs, “to go,” as an example, Shrouf almost always uses the fusha: dhahaba. However, at times he lapses into ‘ammiyya: rowwah. Shrouf’s diaries thus reflect a postcolonial hybridity of an author whose writing was shaped by both Islamic and British bureaucratic systems, as well as the hybridity of written and spoken, formal and informal iterations of Arabic.

This has raised particular issues in the attempt to translate the entries below into English. No simple way of differentiating between formal and informal Arabic exists in English: how to differentiate between dhahaba and rowwah? Indeed, Shrouf’s language also illustrates the impossibility of making any neat distinction between formal and informal. The problematic nature of such binaries can be seen in Shrouf’s language regarding another common activity: eating. Shrouf most often constructs his description of eating dinner, for example, as tanawala ta’am al-’asha’—most literally translated as “to take the meal of dinner.” Although perfectly “formal,” this phraseology—as opposed to other fusha constructions such as tanawala al-’asha’ (to take dinner) or ta’asha (to dine)—may reflect the linguistic influence of Palestine’s southern Bedouin in the rural areas around Hebron. It is thus both formal and colloquial, reflective of Shrouf’s education as well as his regional background. Such complexity is lost in translation.

Indeed, Shankar has emphasized the difficulty of rendering the vernacular in translation, its complex Janus-faced position as that which is in need of translation and that which resists translation (137–38). There are certain terms, for instance, that I have simply transliterated rather than attempting to translate them. These range from units of measurement for which no English equivalent exists, to words such as karam—a piece of agricultural land, usually planted with fruit trees or grape vines, that also includes a house that can be used for sleeping or hosting guests in pleasant weather—or ustaz, a word that means teacher but is also used more generally as an honorific.

The difficulty in translation is not solely a matter of language, however. Returning to the distinction between vernacular and transnational postcolonialisms, Shankar emphasizes that “the distinction is ultimately about varieties of postcolonial sensibility, which have a strong relationship to linguistic differences but cannot be reduced to them” (22). The act of translation, then, also requires an attempt by both translator and reader to imagine the [End Page 400] vernacular sensibility of the author. With Shrouf’s diaries, it has required a certain detective work to become familiar with the physical and social geography of Nuba and qura saff al-’Amleh and to discover and tease out various threads—disputes and reconciliations, alliances and rivalries—in family and village politics. Interviewing members of the Shrouf family has helped to fill some areas left unmapped by the diaries, while serving as a reminder that memory and stories passed down orally over generations inevitably produce a history different than what is recorded at the time. Although these efforts will hopefully result in the publication of a version of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf’s diaries in a legible and accessible form, Philippe Lejeune’s admonition remains inescapable: “In some ways, [a diary] is unpublishable. … To turn them into books, they are polished, cut, and reorganized. At that point, the diary is but a shadow of its former self. It has lost its unique charm but is still not really pleasing to its new master” (154).

Without question, what I have produced here is a distortion of Shrouf’s diaries. The excerpts reproduced below represent a sampling of the entries recorded throughout 1949—not even a full year of the nearly twenty during which Shrouf kept his diary. Further, these entries have admittedly been chosen with an historian’s eye. They reference larger geopolitical events (negotiations in Rhodes, a coup d’état in Syria); privilege Shrouf’s interactions with “historically important” actors (Jordanian officials, the Red Cross) over those with fellow villagers; provide information like salaries and prices that can be extrapolated to draw conclusions about the Palestinian economy in the wake of 1948, the class position of civil servants, and so forth; and include actions of a group nature that may shed light on the social organization of the southern West Bank in this period. I have sought to limit certain monotonies of repetition. I have eliminated entries whose importance lies in reference to entries that precede or follow the period that I have chosen—rather arbitrarily—to reproduce here, whose “story line” has thus been cut off.

On a basic level, I have eliminated entries in which “nothing happens.”4 On 24 June 1949, for example: “In the morning, Subha, Hasan, Faysal, and Sara went to Tarqumiya. After the afternoon prayer, the third and fourth returned to the village and the others remained in Tarqumiya.” Even if context is given—Faysal is Shrouf’s son, Sara his cousin, Hasan is his brother, Subha is Hasan’s mother—the entry remains one without an “historical” narrative: two relatives go with two other relatives to the next village in the morning and return in the afternoon. So what? This question—so what?—is posed twice by the historian reading the diary. First, from the historian toward himself: what larger story can this entry help elucidate? Second, from the historian toward the diarist: why compose this entry? The first question is easier, the second perhaps unanswerable. Still, let us take each in turn. [End Page 401]


Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf’s notebooks represent an unusual and valuable source for scholars of modern Palestinian history, both because of the crucial period that they span and the unique perspective from which they are written. Several published diaries record the experiences of Palestinians during the British Mandate and in the aftermath of the Nakba, but these were written by political and social elites.5 Although Shrouf was a man of some consequence within the village of Nuba, as is made clear in the diaries through his interventions in village disputes and his role as a representative of the village in various public events, on a regional and national level he was nothing of the kind.

Further, of the major cities and regions of Palestine, Hebron and its hinterlands remain understudied and even marginalized in the academic literature. In this sense, Shrouf’s diaries give an impression of a city and a region that are given short shrift, despite its size and economic significance, when compared to cities like Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Nablus. Although the recently published diaries of Sami ‘Amr, a young Palestinian living in Hebron in the 1940s, offer some corrective to both the trends outlined above, they too come from an urban educated perspective. Born in 1924, a full decade after Shrouf, ‘Amr’s teenage diaries end before 1948. Shrouf writes as an adult fully ensconced in village life, and the journals’ nearly two decades of entries span the rupture of 1948 and include the relatively under-examined period in the immediate wake of the Nakba.

The entries here, as mentioned earlier, were written by Shrouf in 1949. This year marked the beginning of a new era of Palestine’s occupation. After more than thirty years of British military and civil administration, the war of 1948 introduced a new entity, the State of Israel, to the scene. Historic Palestine was divided and different regions subjected to different administrations: Israeli, Jordanian, and Egyptian. Shrouf’s diary observes the solidification of the order that would prevail for almost twenty years until Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. Indeed, the basic foundation of this order—Palestinian statelessness—continues to prevail today, and therefore aspects of Shrouf’s entries of sixty-five years ago feel surprisingly current.

One of the most notable themes that emerges in these entries is Shrouf’s (and more generally, Palestinians’) relationship to authorities, governmental and non-governmental. Shrouf and the villagers of Nuba are subject to many authorities, but masters of none. Their relationship to these authorities is primarily that of supplicants rather than stakeholders. In the month of August 1949 alone, for example, Shrouf submits an appeal from Nuba’s mukhtar6 and its notables to the Hebron regional governor (mutasarrif) requesting [End Page 402] ration cards for the villagers (3 August); two petitions from the mukhtar and notables to the mutasarrif requesting aid and tax relief (9 August); an appeal from the mukhtar and notables to the regional commander to establish a guard post west of Nuba (12 August); an appeal from the two villages of Nuba and Kharas to the Hebron District Inspector of Education to allow the expansion of the villages’ school (13 August); a request for rations from the mukhtars and notables of Nuba and Kharas to Hebron’s district officer (qa’immaqam) (27 August); and a personal appeal to the qa’immaqam to provide aid for Shrouf and the eight members of his family (29 August). On top of this, on 25 August Shrouf goes to Hebron to ask the qa’immaqam to intercede on behalf of Shrouf and the villagers of Nuba with the International Red Cross and Hebron’s mutasarrif.

These appeals rarely met with much success. (On 3 September, for example, Shrouf is denied his request for ration cards for himself and his family.) At the same time, the villagers of Nuba are frequently acted upon by these same authorities. Jordanian legionnaires come to the village to investigate matters, imposing themselves on the hospitality of a village already bearing the heavy burdens of war and an influx of refugees (see, for example: 20 May, 31 May). Even the Red Cross, to whom the villagers so frequently appealed for assistance, is mentioned as coming to Nuba only to spray it with D.D.T. (5 July, 20 July) and to inspect (tadqiq) the documents of refugees from Jaffa and Jerusalem (2 December). The disconnect between the Palestinians and the authorities that objectify them is particularly clear in the incident of 29 March, when Jordanian military forces “occupied” (qamat … bi-ihtilal) Hebron’s shari’a court and girls’ school.

The reaction to this violation also illustrates the degree to which Palestinians do in fact appear as more than mere supplicants in Shrouf’s diary. Hebron’s civil servants immediately convened a meeting at which they declared a general strike of three days. The following day they held another meeting that led to a demonstration through Hebron’s streets. Shrouf himself officially resigned from the police on the day the Jordanians assumed control of the Hebron area from the Egyptian military, proving his generally defiant attitude toward any foreign authority.7 A similar independence is evident in Shrouf’s efforts to retain control over the rifle issued to him by the Palestine Police in 1948. Though he ultimately cedes the rifle to Jordanian military authorities, he manages to hold them at bay for over a month, even buying a different rifle in Hebron and attempting to submit it instead of the British-issued one.

Not only defiant, the villagers are also resourceful. Their appeal to expand the village school includes a proposal to fund it from the school’s garden. Indeed, in the absence of efficient aid delivery or easy access to credit, villagers turned to family and other connections to borrow money (see, for example, [End Page 403] 5 March, 19 June, 16 August, 31 December). Beyond cash, Shrouf’s diary illustrates the degree to which the currency of village credit and debt was not just the Palestine pound,8 but hospitality: Shrouf is meticulous in noting meals shared, nights passed at others’ houses, and countless cups of tea and coffee. This is not to say that all was harmonious among the Palestinians of Nuba or qura saff al-’Amleh. But conflicts, too, were at times hashed out between the villagers through reconciliation sessions (sulh) rather than turning to outside authorities.

A remarkable feature of Shrouf’s diary is his recording of events of various levels—international politics, local connections, and individual acts—in a direct and succinct style that seems to render each of them equally important. The entry of 10 January, which opens the selection below, is divided into four parts of similar length: plowing the karam, listening to the news broadcast on the radio, planting grape vines, and the first negotiating session between the Egyptian and Israeli delegations at Rhodes. Similarly, on 19 December, Shrouf writes that he planted lettuce seedlings while Syria underwent one in a series of coups d’état in this tumultuous period. In this way, Shrouf’s diary continually brings the global political machinations after 1948 quite literally down to earth. It is not the symbolic power of the land of Palestine that one reads in Shrouf’s diary, but its literal value: a source of food, livelihood, and community. Given the equal treatment they are given in the text of the diaries, the reader is forced to grapple with the notion that a soaking rain and the progress of Egyptian-Israeli negotiations in Rhodes may have held equal significance to a Palestinian farmer who held forth hope for stability and prosperity after the trauma of 1948.

Meanwhile, larger geopolitical events are often mentioned in the context of traveling with others from Nuba to Kharas, the neighboring village, to listen to the radio news broadcasts in a café. This image once again underscores the vast gulf between Palestinian villagers and those whose decisions and actions have such a significant impact on their lives; thus, it parallels the more recent experiences of Palestinians who—though perhaps now prevented from traveling to the next village—continue to gather around radios, televisions, and (increasingly) smart phones to find out how those far removed from their everyday experiences will seek to determine their fates. This pairing of uncertainty and waiting finds its most poignant episode in Shrouf’s entry of 13 December, when he joins Hasan Mahmud Hijazi, one of the village school-teachers, and Hasan’s father to wait for a convoy of refugees who are scheduled to arrive from Gaza. Hasan and his father expect Hasan’s brother Ahmed to be among the refugees, but they wait in vain: Ahmad never arrives. They wait for a car to pass that could take Hasan to Hebron, where he might learn more of Ahmad’s fate, but no car comes. Eventually they return to the village [End Page 404] by foot. Not an additional word about Ahmad is recorded in the diary, leaving us with the same irresolution—with an immeasurably smaller degree of consequence—experienced by his family.

Thus, in their humble way, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf’s diaries capture an experience of Palestinians under occupation: the disruption of families, the impotence of waiting and not knowing, the subjugation to decisions made by others. Still, they are not simply a record of powerlessness. Woven through his entries are other stories: of attachment to land, of community, of defiance and resourcefulness. They speak to the dispossession and political frustration that accompanied the loss of Palestine in 1948, though Shrouf was neither displaced from his home during the war nor a member of the Palestinian political elite. Recording the daily life of a villager, Shrouf’s diaries affirm a Palestinian rootedness on the land while standing in distinction to the romanticization of rural Palestinian life that has been a key trope in Palestinian national narratives. As Ted Swedenburg has argued, the peasant or fallah has acted as a national signifier in the Palestinian national movement: “The figure of the fallah is employed not to rally an actual peasantry to the national cause, but to constitute a unified people-nation and endow it with an authentic history and culture” (19). Though such representations “fulfill crucial mobilizing and unifying functions in the struggle against the occupation,” at the same time they produce a homogenized and sanitized peasant-signifier that often subsumes or elides peasants as historical actors (25). In these diaries, Shrouf’s relationship with land emerges not merely as a symbolic site of resistance, but grounded in the complexity and mundaneness of the cultivator as historical actor.

Indeed, one element in the construction of the fallah-as-symbol has been to juxtapose villagers’ rootedness with the displacement and dispersal of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian experience is thus implicitly dichotomized: exile, displacement, diaspora, refugees, and (in terms of chronology) the post-1948 period are placed on one side of the ledger; on the other side are found rootedness, village life, and the pre-1948 period. The experience of Palestinians in exile is that of being out of place, while the experience of those who remained in the villages and cities of historic Palestine, and especially those who lived before the Nakba of 1948, is one of being in place, of stasis.9

Yet, Susynne McElrone has recently put forward a compelling critique of the notion of a timeless and motionless peasant past in Palestine. McElrone uses Ottoman-era court documents to demonstrate that Palestinian villagers were hardly static. Instead, “a plethora of subaltern networks of so-called ‘inter-regional’ relations had been forged on the ground by the last third of the nineteenth century” (57). I will further address the importance of thinking about “subaltern networks” when reading Shrouf’s diaries in the section [End Page 405] that follows. Meanwhile, Magid Shihade’s study of Kafr Yasif village, which appears in this issue of Biography, is illustrative of how villagers continued to be actively enmeshed in complex linkages—and indeed figured as significant nodes within them—throughout the Mandate period and after 1948.

Taken as a whole, then, the diaries of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf are both representative of the broader Palestinian experience and reflective of an uncommon perspective on this experience. While they provide a glimpse into the life of a Hebronite villager of relatively modest means and thus complement the dominant histories and life narratives of urban elites, at the same time Shrouf’s diaries, despite their simplicity and directness, offer a rich embodiment of how occupation gave and continues to give shape to the lived experiences of Palestinians of various social, economic, and geographic origins.

But it is also important to underscore how the marginalization of villagers, except as foils to the urbanite and the exile, dovetails with larger themes that have driven academic interests for the past half-century. As Shihade’s reference to Raymond Williams’ critique of representations of rural life illustrates, this phenomenon is not unique to Palestinians. Even as postcolonial studies has struck a blow within the academy on behalf of marginalized groups, Palestinian intellectuals-in-exile (Edward Said and Mahmud Darwish foremost among them) have held the relatively privileged position of transnational postcolonialism as opposed to the vernacular postcolonialism theorized by Shankar and exemplified well in Shrouf’s diaries.

This privilege is in large part the product of framing colonial and postcolonial experiences within “the Western tradition of the unified self.”10 Within this framework, for example, exile can be a productive, if painful, experience for the individual. In his landmark essay “Reflections on Exile,” Said writes:

For an exile, habits of life, expression or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment. Thus both the new and the old environments are vivid, actual, occurring together contrapuntally. There is a unique pleasure in this sort of apprehension, especially if the exile is conscious of other contrapuntal juxtapositions that diminish orthodox judgment and elevate appreciative sympathy.


It is not difficult to see the affinity between Said’s examination of the exile’s inner tensions and Steven Kagle’s assertion that “the life of a diary is often born of tension, a disequilibrium in the life of its author, which needs to be resolved or held in check” (17). With this in mind, let us now ask how the diaries of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf, and the particular sensibility to which they give voice, might complicate and enrich our understanding of Palestinian life writing. [End Page 406]


Shrouf’s diaries challenge certain expectations of life writing in that they offer little insight into him as a private individual. They do not, as many have come to expect of diaries, provide a window onto an interior or private world. Irina Paperno, for example, describes diaries as “archived intimate writings of potential historical as well as literary value.” “The diary,” she continues, “is also firmly committed to the first-person narrative; but not to an addressee. What follows is the diary’s special relationship to privacy, intimacy, and secrecy” (561, 562).11 Anita Shapira, writing on diaries of Jews in Jerusalem in 1948, also associates diaries with intimacy: “The culture of writing diaries or letters is part of the culture of literacy, education, and appreciation of the written word as a means of interpersonal communication and as a means of internal dialogue between a person and him- or herself” (79–80, emphasis added).12 One finds no evidence of this internal dialogue in Shrouf’s diaries; if they have a special relationship to privacy, intimacy, and secrecy it is defined by the nearly complete absence of these characteristics.

Recently scholars working outside the Western literary tradition have called assumptions about the intimate nature of life writing into question. The authors of Interpreting the Self, a 2001 collection on autobiography in Arabic literary culture, argue that the traditional denigration of the Arabic autobiographical tradition

is based on a model so steeped in a particular modern western conception of biography and autobiography that scholars are unable to address effectively an auto/biographical tradition possessed of different literary conventions. This line of thought derives in part from modern expectations that an autobiography should reveal an interior self different from, and even at odds with, the exterior public self.

Enriching our understanding of life writing through the inclusion of texts that do not to conform to a particular Western expectation, rather than their dismissal or marginalization, means disentangling the implicit linkage of interior-personal-private, set in opposition to exterior-impersonal-public.13

To move away from an interior-exterior division does not mean reading Shrouf’s diary as necessarily impersonal: in addition to reporting on the larger geopolitical events swirling around him, Shrouf gives precise details on his daily comings and goings, his meetings with others over meals and coffee, his interactions with local notables and state officials, and his purchases at market. Shrouf, though, almost never comments on his thoughts or emotions, and rarely does an event spur him to lengthy exposition: the entries are characterized by nearly uniform dispassion and brevity. The diaries are thus [End Page 407] personal but not private.14 At times, Shrouf chooses to make note of a past event on its anniversary (see, for example, the entries of 22 and 24 March 1949 below), indicating his reflection on past events and their significance in his understanding of his present circumstances. It is through form, rather than content, that such nods to memory and commemoration are made.

Further, through these diaries we can read the multilayered and overlapping levels of public interaction—the multiple public spheres—within which Shrouf was embedded. These range from his immediate family to his hamula or clan,15 from the village level to qura saff al-’Amleh, from the Hebron district to the West Bank more broadly. This particular example of life writing thus de-emphasizes the individual and gives prominence to the collective nature of Palestinian-ness. If we ask of Shrouf’s diaries what it means to be Palestinian, the beginning of an answer can be found in the dynamic networks and relationships that can be traced in his entries and whose disruption as a result of occupation has been so devastating.

In this, I find much in common with Cemal Kafadar’s study of the diary of Seyyid Hasan, a seventeenth-century Ottoman dervish. Kafadar finds “the most refreshing illumination” found in Hasan’s diary to be “the social networks, the web of spaces and forms of sociability spun by a dervish in the seventeenth-century Istanbul, and his day-to-day attitude to life” (125). Kafadar’s description of the diary, with its obsessive listing of people socialized with, food eaten, and nights spent outside his own home, and its “funny shifts between the serious and the frivolous, between the solemn and the mundane” are strikingly reminiscent of Shrouf’s methodical record-keeping. Kafadar could as easily be speaking of Shrouf’s diaries when he writes:

it feels that the real protagonist … is not any particular individual … but the labyrinthine network of companionship spun by a group of individuals neither of whom the diarist cares to singly depict or analyze. Instead, as if steeped in a particular sociological school, he focuses on meticulously mapping out the daily interactions among them.


The strength of such parallels, though separated by three centuries and nearly 1,200 kilometers, and coming from different social classes, bespeaks a genealogy of diary writing in the Eastern Mediterranean that is deserving of more thorough investigation.

Such an investigation, however, should not be used to reify an understanding of “Western” life writing that scholars of marginalized subjects have done much to unsettle, and to pose an Islamic or Arab tradition of diary writing as its Other. Instead, any such endeavor should be undertaken as part of a broader effort to understand indigenous voices on their own terms, [End Page 408] taking into consideration a wide range of human experiences, subjectivities, and identifications. Such a task, it goes without saying, requires much more scholarship and many more diaries to be unearthed. Unfortunately, the dispersal and destruction of documents, inaccessibility of archives, and relative dearth of scholarship on diaries in the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman periods in the Arab world renders such a task truly daunting.17

Despite these obstacles, those interested particularly in Palestinian diaries are better off than most. In addition to the diaries of the abovementioned Sami ‘Amr, the past decade has witnessed the posthumous publication of diaries by Ihsan Salih Turjman and Khalil Totah and eight volumes of diaries and letters penned by Khalil al-Sakakini. Two of the most internationally prominent contemporary Palestinian writers, Suad Amiry and Raja Shehadeh, have published “diaries” in the same period. (Indeed, in his interview in this issue of Biography, Shehadeh notes that he has always kept a diary, and that it has served as the basis of his books; even A Rift in Time: Travels with My Ottoman Uncle emerged as a sort of dialogue with the diaries of Najib Nassar, an Ottoman-era relative based in Haifa.) Though these diaries differ—from one another and especially from the diaries of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf18—in style and content, it is also worth noting that diary writing is defined less by the product than by the praxis.

Most simply, Philippe Lejeune has defined the diary as “a series of dated traces” (emphasis in original) The act of writing, whether daily or less regularly, produces this series, which differentiates diary from memorial: “An isolated dated trace is a memorial rather than a diary: the diary begins when traces in a series attempt to capture the movement of time rather than to freeze it around a source event” (179). Diaries emphasize continuity rather than rupture. Though Palestinian memory and memorialization, especially around the Nakba, has been a particularly fruitful area of scholarship, the study of diaries offers radically different possibilities and new readings of the Palestinian experience.

Shrouf’s diaries, for example, offer a perspective different from the numerous memoirs penned by Palestinians who were made refugees in the wake of the 1948 war. These memoirs often present the Nakba as a clean break, dividing a pre-Nakba life from the displacement, exile, or estrangement that followed it. The authors of these memoirs frequently recall the day and even the hour that marked the passage from the former to the latter. Shrouf’s account makes no such distinction, in part because he stayed in Nuba after 1948 and in part because, proceeding a day at a time and on an individual and localized scale, it lacks the nostalgia that so often accompanies hindsight. In these diaries, the Nakba plays out in slow motion: both the warfare [End Page 409] of 1947–1949 and the large-scale economic, political, and social crises imposed upon West Bank Palestinians after military defeat are infused with and complemented by the rhythms of daily village life—planting and harvesting, disputes and reconciliation between neighbors, and moments of inactivity. Shrouf, like all diarists, wrote his diary “on the very crest of time moving into unknown territory” (Lejeune 208). Just as memoirs and autobiography are written with knowledge of their “endings,” historians too easily allow themselves to read their sources with a similar knowledge of the outcome. Diaries thus allow their readers to think with diarists about future possibilities, to recover subjectivities that have been lost by overarching narratives. As important as it has been to recover Palestinian histories that others have sought to erase, these diaries and others present an equally precious opportunity: the recovery of Palestinian futures.

Figure 1. Page from the diary of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf.
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Figure 1.

Page from the diary of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf.

[End Page 410]

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Shrouf’s diaries for 1949 locate him squarely within the villages of qura saff al-’Amleh—Surif, Kharas, Nuba, Bayt Ulla, and Tarqumiya—with frequent trips to Hebron and Jerusalem, but for much of his life, including his time as a police officer in the British Mandate, he traveled widely.

[End Page 411]


15 January 1949: (1) We plowed the western karam by mule; Yusuf Ahmad and Ahmad Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman worked with me. Around the time of the afternoon prayer, one of the mule’s shoes broke and we did not finish the day. (2) In the evening, I went with Isma’il Tayyim to Kharas and we listened to the six o’clock evening broadcast and returned. (3) I planted four grape vines next to the rock wall by the eastern opening of the house. (4) The first session was held on the island of Rhodes between the Egyptian government delegation and the Jewish delegation to negotiate a permanent ceasefire in the south of Palestine. …

24 January 1949: In the morning, I left the village for Bay Ulla and from there I took a car to Hebron and slept this night in the Hebron Hotel in Hebron. At night I was afflicted by a heavy sweat. Today the ongoing negotiations in Rhodes between the Egyptian government and the Jewish delegation broke off and each delegation went to its capital to deliberate with its government about the course of the negotiations there. The delegations will return to the island this coming Thursday. …

31 January 1949: There was a very good rain day and night. The night of 31–1/2/1949, 16 cauliflower seedlings were stolen from us from the karam.

1 February 1949: Today in the morning I went with Mahmud Ibrahim Salem,19 ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman, al-Hajj Muhammad Tayyim, Mahmud Ibrahim Husayn, and Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman and initiated a reconciliation with the sons of Muhammad Khalil al-Dubbas and the sons of Ahmad Salameh al-Dubbas regarding the theft of the cauliflowers. Around noon, I went to Bayt Ulla and had a lunch of meat at Mr. Nimr Shakir Nimr’s. Hasan ‘Abd al-Salam Shakir attended the lunch and after the afternoon prayer I returned to the village. Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman met me on the road as I was traveling. …

5 February 1949: This morning I went to Bayt Ulla and took a car to Hebron. I secured a permit to take seedlings from the forestry department in Hebron and I met with Abu Fathi. After noon I took a car to Wadi al-Qaf. The weather was very cold and after I took the trees from the farm at ‘Ayn Wadi al-Qaf, I continued my journey to the village on foot. … [End Page 412]

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[End Page 413]

7 February 1949: The weather was rainy and very cold. I planted mango seeds in the tin drum. I bought a grey jacket from Ibrahim … al-Habul from ‘Ajjur, a refugee in our village of Nuba, for one Palestine pound, witnessed by ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman, Mahmud Ibrahim Husayn, Muhammad Nawfal, Yunis ‘Abd al-Qadr, and Hasan Ahmad. …

24 February 1949: Yusuf Ahmad worked with me. At 10:30 a.m. today, 24/2/49, the permanent cease-fire was signed in Rhodes by the Egyptian and Jewish delegations.

25 February 1949: The weather was rainy and cold. In the morning, I went to Bayt Ulla village and from there, I went with the Palestinian policemen Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman, and Muhammad Kafafi to Hebron by car. After meeting the station sergeant, I returned by car to Tarqumiya and Abu Fathi and Riyadh accompanied me to Bayt Ulla to take a look at the flourmill’s engine there. From there, I continued on my way to the village on my own, and Abu Fathi and Riyadh returned to Tarqumiya.

26 February 1949: The weather was rainy and cold. In the morning, I left the village for Bayt Ulla village and from there by car to Hebron. Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman were with me, and we reported for our first duty at the Hebron Police Station in the morning. In the evening, I went to Abu Taysir’s house and had dinner and I slept at his that night. …

1 March 1949: After noon, the Jordanian-Jewish talks began at Rhodes. In the morning today I left the village for Bayt Ulla by foot and from there to Hebron by car. I met with Abu Fathi and in the afternoon I reported for reserve duty in the station. …

5 March 1949: I received my salary for the months of December ‘48 and January ‘49, £P 45.150. Subtracting from it 480 mils for the refugees and 200 mils defense tax, my earnings were £P 44.470. I gave one pound to the sweets vendor to repay Abu Fathi.

6 March 1949: The remaining residents of al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiyya fled their villages.20 The department of the executive [da’irat al-ijra’] in Hebron brought Maryam Ibrahim back to Sulayman Sha’ban in case number 19/47. I took a shot against typhus from the Health Department in Hebron. … [End Page 414]

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11 March 1949: In the morning, an exchange of fire took place between a force of Arab fighters and Jews in the Wadi al-Sur region. I left the village in the morning for Tarqumiya village by foot and from there I rode in a car to Hebron. It was raining and cold and I reported for reserve duty after noon at the post. At night I was severely ill as a result of a toothache. …

22 March 1949: I went to Jerusalem by the eastern route through Bethlehem, taking a taxi for 250 mils. In Jerusalem I presented myself to the office for settling the accounts of employees of the former government of Palestine regarding my bonuses. I returned to Hebron in the afternoon by bus for 150 mils. On Thursday 22/3/49 it was announced in the local newspaper al-Difa’ issue number … that the High Commissioner had declared that the leadership of the Jerusalem municipality would from now on alternate, one year to a Muslim, one year to a Christian, and one year to a Jew, with the introduction of two British members of the municipality and the appointment of Antun Effendi ‘Atallah as a member of the municipality. The Christian head of the municipality may be a Palestinian.

24 March 1949: On Saturday, 9 Rabi’ Thani 1364, 21/3/1945 the Arab public of Palestine announced a general strike and all the shops and markets and cafés and places of amusement were closed. Vehicles of all kinds stopped running. This was to protest the decision of the government regarding the formation of the Jerusalem municipality. …

26 March 1949: After the afternoon prayer, I planted parsley seeds in the karam. In the evening, I gave Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman £P 1.250 for plowing the eastern and western karams. On this day, I signed my contract of service for the Egyptian administration in Palestine before the Egyptian military governor in Hebron. I bought 1 cubit of bedding at 17 [£P 1.700 per cubit] and 7 cubits of broad dulis [a kind of cloth] at 28 [280 mils per cubit] and 9 cubits of muslin at 8 [80 mils per cubit], the total coming to £P 4.280. In the afternoon, I left Hebron by car for Bayt Ulla and from there to the village by foot. …

29 March 1949: A force of the Jordanian Arab Army occupied the shari’a court in Hebron, evicting its employees, and occupied and searched the girls’ school in Hebron. As a result of this, the employees of the Egyptian administration in the Hebron region held a meeting in the salon of the house close to the former English Hospital. Those assembled decided to convene a general strike of employees for a period of three days, starting the following day, Wednesday, and another meeting of all employees at 9 the following morning. [End Page 416]

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30 March 1949: At 9 a.m. today all the department employees of Hebron held a meeting in the hall of the secondary school in Hebron to discuss the actions of the Jordanian army in the shari’a court and the girls’ school of Hebron. After the meeting adjourned, all of the employees held a peaceful demonstration through the streets of Hebron. Close to the Haram al-Ibrahimi,21 some followers of the Jordanian government fired several shots at the demonstrators. From there the demonstration returned to the headquarters of the Egyptian leadership and presented a grievance to the Egyptian governor. After noon, I left Hebron for the village by way of Halhul and al-’Arqub. Muhammad Ibrahim Kafafi was with me. This was after the demonstration’s end.

31 March 1949: Early in the morning yesterday, Wednesday 30/3/1949, the Syrian army, led by the Syrian chief of staff, Husni al-Za’im, undertook a coup d’état in the fraternal country of Syria. He succeeded and deposed the president of the Syrian Republic, Shukri Bek al-Quwatli. …

5 April 1949: Today in the morning I left the village for Hebron by way of Bayt Ulla. Upon my arrival, I went to the former English Hospital and attended a meeting of employees. After that I returned to the village by car, taking the same route, with four rotls of lentils for a price of 155 and 6 wuqiyas of dried tomatoes for a price of 60 mils.22

10 April 1949: I entered my son Faysal, my brother Hasan, and my nephew Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman in the Husayn ‘Abd al-Fattah Husayn Ahliyya school for a monthly tuition of 70 mils each. Before leaving the village, I bought three panes of glass for windows for a sum of 600 mils. In the morning today I left the village for the Duqas23 station with Isma’il Tayyim. Upon my arrival there, I met [illegible] with Abu Fathi and I went with him to a shop and drank tea. A taxi arrived and I took it to Hebron and attended a meeting of police employees of the Egyptian administration. An agreement was reached to perform our duties as usual starting the next day, Monday 11/4/49. I had lunch and dinner and slept that night at Abu Taysir’s house.

11 April 1949: In the morning, after having breakfast at Abu Taysir’s house, I left for the market. That day the Egyptian administration’s police resumed their duties as usual after the employees ended their strike which began Wednesday 30/3/1949. … [End Page 418]

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18 April 1949: I planted zucchini, winter squash, and okra in the karam. Before noon, Umm Fathi and her son Ibrahim left my house for Tarqumiya. At my house, in the presence of ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and the mukhtar, I wrote a list of owners of lands occupied by the enemy. In the evening, Ahmad Hasan al-Masri, Muhammad Khalil Jubran, and Mahmud Ibrahim Husayn came to my home and we also talked. …

21 April 1949: I was on reserve duty at the station. Muhammad Ahmad Salih and I presented a list of names of owners of lands occupied by the Jews in al-Khalayil24 to the financial director of Hebron so that they might be given rations. After noon, I left Hebron by car to Bayt Ulla and from there to the village by foot. …

24 April 1949: Around 10 a.m. today, 24/4/1949, Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr and I met the Egyptian administrative governor Abdallah Fahmi and we talked with him regarding [our] future employment. After noon, I left Hebron for the village by car with 4 and a half kilograms of sugar and 2 kilos of coffee. With evening’s arrival, I met with ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and Mahmud Ibrahim Husayn and we discussed the return of Maryam Ibrahim to her husband Sulayman, and agreed to refuse.25

30 April 1949: In the morning today I left the village for Hebron by car and had lunch at Abu Taysir’s house. After noon, a convoy of Egyptian cars arrived via Bi’r al-Saba’ to transport the Egyptian forces from the Hebron and Bethlehem regions. At five o’clock in the evening, the flag was lowered from Government House in Hebron and at the end of the day, the Egyptian administration over this region ended, a Jordanian administration taking its place.

1 May 1949: Today in the early morning I left Abu Taysir’s house for the market and from there I went to the police station in Hebron and turned in my service record, thereby ending my service in the police by my own free will. After noon, I left Hebron by car to Tarqumiya and drank coffee and tea in Abu Fathi’s shop. After that, I left them for the village and we planted another section of tomatoes. On 1/5/1949, the first regiment of the Egyptian forces departed, returning to their country. …

3 May 1949: Early in the morning today, Isma’il Muhammad ‘Awda and I left Abu Taysir’s house for the market, and before noon I went with all of the police force and employees of Hebron to Bethlehem and received salaries for the second and third months of 1949 from the Egyptian government, which was £P 45.153. After the afternoon prayer, we left Bethlehem for Hebron and I slept that night in the … Hotel. … [End Page 420]

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10 May 1949: I left the village in the morning for Bayt Ulla by foot and from there by car to Hebron. I met with Abu Fathi and we sat over coffee and I talked with him about marrying his daughter Samiha.26 He agreed and I gave him five Palestine pounds. At … o’clock I left Hebron by car for Bethlehem and from there to Jerusalem by the eastern route and I presented myself to the office of former employees’ accounts. I went to al-Hajj Muhammad ‘Abd al-Fattah Tayyim’s shop and we had lunch at his. At two p.m. I left Jerusalem by taxi for Hebron, arriving around 3:30 p.m., and I slept in the new Palestine Hotel. …

13 May 1949: Before noon today Abu Fathi, Mahmud Salameh from Tel al-Safi, and Mahmud Hilmi from Yazur came to my place in the village and had lunch with me in the karam. Abu Fathi and I had a conversation regarding what was mentioned on the page of Tuesday 10/5/49 [i.e., the marriage between Shrouf and Samiha]. It was agreed to postpone it until after this year’s planting season. …

20 May 1949: Commander of the legionnaires ‘Abd al-Ra’uf Bek, First Lieutenant Isma’il Effendi ‘Amr, Corporal Muhammad al-Nadhir, and a force of legionnaires, and with them the mukhtars of Bayt Ulla village Abdallah ‘Amr and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi, came to investigate an incident that happened with individuals from Bi’lin village27 who were living in a cave during the war. This night, armed men attacked them and opened fire on them. Two of them were wounded, one of them seriously. They [the investigators] had lunch with the Tarman [hamula]; the officers had dinner of chicken with the mukhtar, and the Dababisa [hamula] slaughtered a lamb for the legionnaires.

21 May 1949: The force of legionnaires under the command of ‘Abd al-Ra’uf Bek and Lieutenant Isma’il Effendi ‘Amr and a force of Hebron police left the village for Tarqumiya after having lunch with the Shrouf [hamula].

23 May 1949: We divided ownership of the threshing floor and a dispute arose with Mahmud ‘Abid Rabbuh Salameh as a result of the division. We divided the expenses of the force that came to the village headed by Commander ‘Abd al-Ra’uf Bek and First Lieutenant Isma’il Effendi ‘Amr and each share of my rub’ reached 115 mils, so I paid 575 mils. …

31 May 1949: After sunset, a force of legionnaires visited us and passed on to Mahmud Ibrahim Salem’s house pursuing the theft of cattle from the Christian [village] Dayr Rafat. [End Page 422]

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1 June 1949: Riyadh worked turning up the western karam and finished. After the afternoon prayer he left the village. I had given him pants in Tel Idris and boots as a gift. Around sunset, I went to Mahmud Ibrahim Salem’s house where there was a patrol of Jordanian legionnaires because of the theft of a cow. Those accused were Ibrahim Mahmud, ‘Isa Husayn, ‘Abd al-Qadr al-’Alul, and Jibrin al-Suqur. After having dinner with [the legionnaires and the mukhtar], I left them. I had gone there having been summoned by the legionnaires.

2 June 1949: The legionnaires left Mahmud Ibrahim Salem’s house and they took the abovementioned four accused with them to Hebron. I bought a rotl and a half of beef for 750 mils. …

13 June 1949: In the morning, I left the village for Halhul station by way of al-’Arqub and at 7:15 a.m. I took a bus to Bethlehem. Abu Taysir met me on the same bus. From there we rode the bus to Jerusalem and I presented myself to the office of former employees’ accounts. We went to the market and drank tea with the children of al-Hajj Muhammad Tayyim in their shop and around 12 o’clock I left Jerusalem by taxi to Bethlehem and from there to Hebron by bus. I slept that night in the new Palestine Hotel in Hebron. …

16 June 1949: The teacher at our school, ustaz Abdallah ‘Abd al-Rasul, had lunch with me at home and Ahmad Mahmud Ibrahim with him. After lunch, both ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and al-Hajj Muhammad ‘Abd al-Fattah Tayyim came to us at home and we paid for a petition to confirm the abovementioned teacher at the school. After the afternoon prayer, we the notables of the Shrouf hamula and notables of the Turman hamula met in the Dababisa guesthouse to solve the problem between ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and ‘Ali Hasan al-Suqur. It was postponed, upon oath, to the coming Friday 24/6/49.

17 June 1949: A conflict broke out between ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and his children and Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman and his children. …

19 June 1949: Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman’s lawsuit against ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman. Today before noon Khalil ‘Amir al-’Alul left my house for Hebron by way of Bayt Ulla. After that al-Hajj Muhammad Tayyim and Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman went to Tarqumiya to the Jordanian Legionnaires’ post. They requested that we produce ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and we sent back Muhammad Abdallah to bring him. Al-Hajj Muhammad and I went to ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Awad’s house and had lunch with his brother, ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Awad and after noon ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman came to the post with Mahmud Ibrahim Salem and Muhammad Nawfal and Muhammad Abdallah Sulayman. We withdrew the [End Page 424]

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lawsuit and we all returned to Nuba and I met with Abu Fathi and gave him £P 2.200, the cost of 4 rotls coffee.

21 June 1949: The health officer ‘Arif Badr came to Tarqumiya, and with him a Jordanian lance corporal, and they ate lunch with me in the guesthouse. Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr also came and had lunch with them. After that they left us for Kharas village. …

25 June 1949: I bought 3 kilos of camel meat at 150 mils [per kilo], totaling 450 mils. In the afternoon, the two teachers Husayn ‘Abd al-Khaliq Ahmad ‘Ali from Zakariya and Hasan Mahmud Hijazi from Tel al-Safi came to our village school. They were placed here to teach the students instead of ustaz Abdallah ‘Abd al-Rasul who was transferred to Halhul. In the evening, I went to them in the school and we stayed up with them until 11 o’clock in the evening. I invited them to have lunch with me at home tomorrow and they accepted the invitation. …

27 June 1949: Early in the morning, Muhammad Khalil Jubran and I left the village for Jerusalem by way of al-’Arqub and Bethlehem. We arrived around nine o’clock in the morning and I presented myself to the office of the payment of compensation to former employees in Jerusalem for the fourth time. I wrote two reports. The first of them was sent to the general accounting office in London by airmail and insured under number 1909, for which I paid 100 mils, and the second to the British consul in Jerusalem, for which I paid 30 [mils]. After that, I returned to the village by way of Bethlehem and al-’Arqub, arriving there with evening. Today was the first day of Ramadan 1368. …

4 July 1949: Ustaz Husayn ‘Abd al-Khaliq Ahmad ‘Ali, ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman, and I broke our Ramadan fast at Muhammad Khalil Jubran’s house and we stayed there until nearly 9:30 p.m. and then we left. Today, the registration of men in the village between the ages of 18 and 45 took place in shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Kafafi’s house. The tomatoes ripened for the first time [this season].

5 July 1949: We ground 24 rotls wheat and 16 rotls barley. A team from the Red Cross came to the village by car to spray the village with D.D.T.

6 July 1949: The incident between Isma’il Abu ‘Ammar and his wife and the notification of the authorities. The grapes ripened for the second time. Shots were fired by the Jews toward shepherds in the Wadi al-Sur plantation. After the afternoon prayer, a Jordanian force comprising two legionnaires came and proceeded to the house of ‘Abd al-Fattah Husayn Abu ‘Ammar to investigate. After sunset, I gave testimony to the legionnaires on Isma’il Tayyim’s contract. [End Page 426]

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7 July 1949: In the morning, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-’Amleh and Falah ‘Abd al-Fattah came to Nuba and tried to bring about reconciliation in the tribal manner, but they did not succeed. Before noon today the Jordanian force left our village, taking with them ‘Abd al-Muhsin and Isma’il, ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu ‘Ammar’s sons, and their wives to the Tarqumiya guard post. ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman and I went to the Tarqumiya guard post and met the officer in charge and we spoke with him about the matter. After that, I went to Abu Fathi’s shop and the others returned to Nuba. And after I broke the Ramadan fast with Abu Fathi on the roof of Diab al-Murqatan’s house with chicken and rice, I returned to Nuba.

8 July 1949: Training of the village youth [for the national guard] began. We are plowing the tomatoes. The two teachers Husayn ‘Abd al-Khaliq Ahmad ‘Ali and Hasan Mahmud Hijazi and Abu Sa’id—the first and the third from Zakariya and the second from Tel al-Safi—broke the Ramadan fast with me at home. …

17 July 1949: With reference to the page of 27/6/1947, I received two letters from London dated 7/7/1949 indicating that my bonus from my previous period of service in the Mandate government had been sent from the general settlement office in London to the payments office in Jerusalem. I received a letter from Mr. Hasan ‘Anani of Halhul, sent with somebody from Halhul who slept that night with me, with twenty Palestine pounds to buy grain and figs.

18 July 1949: Early in the morning today I left the village to the Halhul post, and the man sent by Hasan al-’Anani was with me. I did not buy anything for [Hasan] and returned the money to him. I rode the bus to Bethlehem and from there to Jerusalem and presented myself to the office of payment of employees’ accounts in Jerusalem regarding my bonuses. I learned that they had not arrived in Jerusalem. I met with Abu Taysir and al-Hajj Muhammad Tayyim in Jerusalem and around 3 o’clock in the afternoon I left Jerusalem by bus for Bethlehem and met with Shakir Nimr near the police building. After that, I left him, going by car to Halhul, and broke my Ramadan fast and slept that night in Hasan ‘Anani’s house. …

20 July 1949: A Red Cross team visited us in the village and sprayed the houses of the village a second time with D.D.T. They ate lunch in the village school at my expense and that of the schoolteachers.

21 July 1949: Two Jordanians came from the Surif guard post to oversee the training of the villagers [for the national guard]. Fifty youths were registered. The cactus and the melons in the karam bore fruit. I sent a letter to Abu Fathi and invited him and whoever he would like to bring with him to my house in Nuba on the morning of the second day of ‘Id al-Fitr. … [End Page 428]

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3 August 1949: I submitted an appeal from the mukhtar and the notables of the village to the mutasarrif of Hebron district to give the villagers food ration cards. In the morning today I went to Mr. Nimr Shakir al-’Amleh’s house in Hawara28 and had a normal lunch with him in the karam. I spoke with him about the issue between me and Abu Fathi. After lunch I returned to the village and Mr. Hasan ‘Anani and Mr. ‘Abd al-Jabbar Musallam of Halhul came to visit me and had (normal) lunch with me at home. In the evening, they and the two teachers Husayn ‘Abd al-Khaliq Ahmad ‘Ali and Hasan Mahmud Hijazi and Abdallah Sulayman had dinner of chicken and rice with me in the karam. …

9 August 1949: I submitted two petitions from the mukhtar and notables of the village to the Hebron district mutasarrif, the first of them in connection to the request for granting rations to the villagers and the second to exempt the villagers from the property tax for this year and the preceding year. Mahmud Salameh of Tel al-Safi and living in Tarqumiya, Isma’il Muhammad ‘Awda, ‘Abd al-Fattah Abul-Dhaynayn, and Hasan Taha of Tarqumiya all came—this was in the morning—and had lunch of chicken and rice in the karam with me and the two teachers, Husayn Ahmad ‘Ali and Hasan Mahmud Hijazi. In the evening, the abovementioned, ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman, and I had dinner of chicken and rice in the house of ustaz Husayn Ahmad ‘Ali, who lives in Ibrahim Islaym’s house. After dinner, we returned to the karam and slept there. Fatima Ahmad and her daughter Dhiba both came to my house.

10 August 1949: In the morning, Abu Fathi and his son Ibrahim came to my karam in Nuba and I drew up a promissory note in my name for a period of six months from this date for each of ‘Ali Muhammad ‘Awda, Isma’il Muhammad ‘Awda, ‘Abd al-Fattah Abul-Dhaynayn, and Hasan Taha from Tarqumiya for seventy Palestine pounds, dated … After they had breakfast with us in the karam, at Muhammad Khalil Jubran’s expense, they all left my house for Tarqumiya with great respect.

12 August 1949: An appeal from the mukhtar and village notables was presented to the regional commander to put a guard post to the west of the village.

13 August 1949: Al-Hajj ‘Ali Safi, the mukhtar of Kharas, came and I wrote an appeal to the Hebron district inspector of education in the name of the mukhtars of Nuba and Kharas and the notables of the two villages seeking to spend fourteen Palestine pounds from the guarantee of the garden established by the school to rent a new room for the third and fourth grades. Shahid, Samir, and Ahmad, the sons of Mahmud Salameh of Tel al-Safi, came to my house in Nuba and after lunch with me they took a basket of tomatoes, a basket of grapes, and some tobacco and left for Tarqumiya, where they live. I moved the vetch from the village school to the new rooms in ‘Abd al-Hadi Abu Husayn’s house to set up the third and fourth grades. [End Page 430]

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14 August 1949: At three o’clock in the morning today, Sami al-Hinnawi and a number of the high command of the Syrian army undertook a general coup d’état in Syria. They arrested Husni al-Za’im, president of the Syrian republic, and the prime minister Muhammad al-Barazi and after trying them immediately they were executed by firing squad in the Mezzeh Palace in Damascus. Ustaz Hasan Mahmud Hijazi, Hasan Ghnaym—the first from Tel al-Safi and the second from Zakariya—and I went to the Kharas café and listened to the news broadcast and returned to Nuba. I received a letter from Mr. Mahmud Musallam ‘Ar’ar from Jerusalem that included the publication of my name on the list of employees the night of 12/8/49. …

16 August 1949: Early in the morning I left ustaz Hasan Mahmud Hijazi’s house for the market and from there I hired a taxi to Bethlehem. I continued my journey to Jerusalem, also by taxi, and went to the office of disbursement of employee compensation and received a check for £P 106.404 for three months. I cashed it at the Arab Bank in Jerusalem, after a withholding of 374 mils. I gave ‘Abd al-Ghani Abu Khudayr a sum of five pounds to give to Abu Taysir and returned to Hebron by car, where I gave H.-J. 3 Palestine pounds.29 I slept that night at Hasan Mahmud Hijazi’s house in Hebron. …

25 August 1949: In the morning, I left Halhul for Hebron by car and went to the office of the qa’immaqam in Hebron to meet the qa’immaqam so that he might give me rations and to have him intercede on some matters with the International Red Cross and the mutasarrif of Hebron district. After the afternoon prayer, I left Hebron by car to the Duqas junction and from there to the village on foot. I bought 3 and a half [units] of gunpowder at 23 [230 mils] for a total of 815 mils.

26 August 1949: Before noon today, the mukhtars and notables of Nuba and Kharas held a meeting, attended by ustaz Hasan Hijazi, and school matters were discussed. I wrote an appeal to the qa’immaqam of the governorate in the name of the two villages requesting rations, dated 25/8/1949.

27 August 1949: The appeal signed by the two mukhtars and notables of the villages of Nuba and Kharas requesting rations was presented to the qa’immaqam of Hebron. …

29 August 1949: Early in the morning today, I left the village for Hebron by way of al-’Arqub and from the Halhul station to Hebron by car. I went to the government offices and met the qa’immaqam of Hebron, Ahmad Effendi Kashif Murad, and gave him the appeal in my name signed 23/8/1949 requesting rations for me and the eight members of my family. I wrote a second letter to Musa Iqayni dated today. … [End Page 432]

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3 September 1949: I left the village in the morning for Bayt Ulla and from the latter to Hebron by car. I went to H.-J.’s house and from there I went to the rations office in Hebron and I received the [response to the] appeal that I presented to the qa’immaqam on 27/8/49. It did not approve the issuing of a ration card. From there, I met with Muhammad Khalil al-Tawil from al-Mughar and I went with him to his house and Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul came and we ate lunch in [Muhammad Khalil al-Tawil’s] house. After that, we left his house for the market and from there we took a car to the guard post and from there to al-Tayba by foot. We had a slaughtered lamb for dinner and slept that night in the karam of ‘Awad Salem ‘Awad in Tarqumiya. I sold 625 pomegranates for £P 1.250 with a discount of 230 mils, the result being £P 1.020. I met the representative and regional commander ‘Abd al-Karim Bek al-Barghuthi. …

15 September 1949: Ahmad Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman and Yusuf Ahmad ‘Abd al-Rahman both worked with me to fix the stones of the threshing floor for a daily wage of 150 mils each. In the evening, Ibrahim Mahmud Ibrahim got married. On this night, I received a request from the gendarmerie’s regional commander to meet him on Saturday 17/9/49 regarding the rifle that was given to me from the former Mandate government. …

17 September 1949: In the morning today I left the village for Bayt Ulla and from there by car to the Tarqumiya guard post and from there in the same car to Hebron. Ahmad Abdallah ‘Amr was with me and we met Corporal Ibrahim Karishan and then the deputy regional commander ‘Abd al-Karim Bek al-Barghuthi. We spoke with the two of them regarding the rifles distributed to us and put the matter off until another time. After the evening prayer, Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul and I went to Kurum al-Rama and returned to his house. We slept there, along with his father ‘Amir al-’Alul. Raghib al-Nashashibi came to Hebron for a visit, and he was hosted by the governor-general. …

8 October 1949: Around 11:30 a.m., the mukhtar and notables of the village and I, along with a number of delegations from different villages, took a taxi for £P 1.750 and went to the Kfar Etzion junction. We waited there and around 3:30 King Abdallah bin al-Husayn came with his royal retinue. He descended there for a bit and greeted the high-ranking employees. At that point we took a car in His Majesty’s entourage to Hebron. The intersections were decorated with victory banners guarded by the national guard and when he arrived he rested a bit at the secondary school and from there visited the Haram al-Ibrahimi and returned to the guest house in the school. I slept that night at Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul’s house. … [End Page 434]

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18 October 1949: In the morning I left the village for the Tarqumiya junction and from there by bus to Hebron. I met ‘Abd al-Karim Bek al-Barghuthi, the deputy regional commander, regarding the rifle given to me by the former Mandate government. Then I went down to the market and met with Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul and went with him and Muhammad Fayyad of Dura to Dura by bus, at the latter’s expense. We met with ‘Abd al-Fattah Duhaydal and Mahmud ‘Amir and I ate dinner of meat and rice and slept that night in the house of Nayif Husayn al-Haj Hajja of Dura along with his brother Ramadan.

19 October 1949: In the morning, I left Dura village and Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul and Nayif Husayn al-Hajj accompanied me by bus to Hebron, at the expense of the third [i.e. Nayif]. The three of us had breakfast of hummus in a restaurant at my expense. I bought a rifle from Hebron for a sum of £P 12.500 and presented it to the regional commander in lieu of the rifle given to me previously. He did not accept and I slept that night in Hotel … in Hebron.

20 October 1949: In the morning I went to the government offices in Hebron with the rifle and met the deputy regional commander, ‘Abd al-Karim Bek al-Barghuthi, and Fayiz Bek. I talked with the two of them regarding the rifle. I hoped that the matter would be resolved once and for all when they consulted the commander of the army and I returned the rifle to its owners. After noon I returned to the village by a taxi in which sat shaykh Mutlaq … the clerk of the Hebron shari’a court, who was coming to the village to examine a legitimate house for the wife of Muhammad Sulayman al-A’ma. …

27 October 1949: Around 9:30 a.m., we held a meeting with Michel Qattan, one of the Red Cross observers, attended by Kamal al-Qatnani, and from there we went to the headquarters of the Committee of the Red Cross in Hebron and presented an appeal to the director’s secretary in which we explained the conditions of our village and its bad state and requested rations for the villagers. The appeal was dated 26/10/1949. After noon we all left Hebron by taxi to Bayt Ulla and from there to the village by foot. I bought a rotl of sugar for 300 mils and a rotl of rice for 460 mils.

28 October 1949: Mahmud Ibrahim Salem, ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman, Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud, ustaz Hasan Hijazi, and I held a meeting in Ibrahim Husayn’s house. After that, we left for the school and wrote an appeal in English to the Red Cross, requesting rations for the village. We and ustaz Husayn al-Kawamila had lunch at Hasan Mahmud Hijazi’s house with his father. After the afternoon prayer, I sent 11 sidsiyyas30 of dried olives to the olive press on Mahmud ‘Abd al-Rahman’s camel and ‘Abd al-Latif ‘Abd al-Rahman’s donkey. The two teachers, Hasan Mahmud Hijazi and Husayn al-Kawamila, went with me to Kharas and after sunset we returned to the village. … [End Page 436]

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31 October 1949: The mukhtar and notables of the village went to Hebron to visit the Red Cross. …

4 November 1949: Muhammad Khalil Hasan also worked lifting the rubble of the old house. In the evening, I sat with Mahmud Ibrahim Salem, Mahmud ‘Ali, and Muhammad Ahmad Salih in the village plantation to write a list of the names of the needy in the village to present to the Red Cross organization in Hebron. With sunset we went to ustaz Hasan Mahmud Hijazi’s house and we completed the work, the total reaching 650 poor. …

6 November 1949: In the morning, Mahmud Ibrahim Salem, Muhammad Ahmad Salih, Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud, and I left the village for the Tarqumiya junction and from there we took a taxi to Hebron. Upon our arrival, we sat at Abu Zayna’s café and we wrote a list of 769 residents of the village and presented it to the secretary of the director of the Red Cross in Hebron, Kamal Effendi Sultan. From there, after afternoon prayers, the four of us went to [Kamal Effendi’s] house and we explained to him the situation in the village. He promised us to help and we returned to the market and slept that night in Hotel al-Ahram in Hebron.

7 November 1949: We went to the Red Cross offices in Hebron and amended the list. Before noon, Mahmud Ibrahim Salem and Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud and I left Hebron by taxi. I got out at the Tarqumiya junction and stopped by the clinic in the hopes that I would find my son ‘Abd al-Hadi. I did not find him, so I left the clinic for the village by foot. In the evening, I went to ustaz Husayn’s house and I spent the evening there in the company of ustaz Hasan Hijazi. …

14 November 1949: In the morning, Mahmud Ibrahim Salem, Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud, Muhammad Ahmad Salih, and I left the village for the Duqas junction, and from there we took a taxi to Hebron. On this day, it was impossible to meet with any of the employees of the International [Red] Cross, so Muhammad Ahmad returned to the village to bring … I had dinner of meat and rice at Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul’s house with Badawi Ahmad Mujahid and Muhammad Khalil al-Tawil and afterward I slept that night in the latter’s house.

15 November 1949: I spoke by telephone this morning with the Hebron district inspector of education, Muhammad Effendi al-Tahir. We requested a meeting with him and, indeed, Mahmud Ibrahim Salem, Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud, Muhammad Ahmad Salih, and I went and met with him at the Husayn secondary school. We talked with him about appointing a third teacher to the school for our village and Kharas and he promised good news. In the evening, we went to Kamal Sultan’s [End Page 438]

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house, but did not find him and returned. I had dinner of meat and rice at Muhammad Khalil al-Tawil’s house with Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul and Badawi Ahmad Mujahid. I slept that night at Muhammad al-Tawil’s house.

16 November 1949: In the morning, the meeting with Kamal Effendi Sultan took place at his house. Mahmud Ibrahim and Mahmud ‘Ali and Muhammad Ahmad Salih—I was absent—raised several issues. After that, I went with the abovementioned to Jerusalem to meet Raghib Pasha al-Nashashibi in his capacity as general administrative governor of Palestine and minister of refugees, but we did not find him there. We presented an appeal signed by us and dated on this day to the bash-katib [head clerk] of the department and met with Jawad Bek al-Husayni to request rations for 750 individuals from our village. After that we met with First Lieutenant Sa’adeh Bek Jallad and from there we returned to Hebron and I had dinner of chicken and rice and slept that night at Badawi Ahmad Mujahid’s house. …

26 November 1949: In the morning, I went to Hebron by way of Duqas, from which I hired a taxi. I met the secretary of the Red Cross, Kamal Sultan, and spoke with him about the list presented in the name of our village. I bought a brown cotton qumbaz31 of 2 and three-quarters yards at 750 mils per yard for a total of £P 1.920 and three and a half cubits of lining at 850 [mils per cubit] for a total of 295 mils and thread for 300 mils, the grand total coming to £P 2.515. I slept that night at Mahmud ‘Amir al-’Alul’s new house. …

30 November 1949: Today, 30/11/1949, I wrote four memoranda: one to the general administrative governor in Jerusalem, the second to al-Difa’ newspaper in Jerusalem, the third to Filastin newspaper in Amman, and the fourth to the mutasarrif of Hebron district. The first was insured by the post office for 40 mils, the second and third were sent by regular mail for 15 mils and 30 mils [respectively], and the fourth I submitted to the department. They explained the poor conditions of the residents of our village and their dire need for rations. After noon, I returned to the village by car to Bayt Ulla, and we brought 3 kilos of qanar onions at 45 mils and 1 kilo of garlic at 90 mils. …

2 December 1949: Three representatives from the Red Cross in Hebron, at their head Fu’ad ‘Aranki, came to examine the cards of refugees from Jaffa and Jerusalem among the villagers. After they finished, they returned by car to Hebron. In the morning, a dispute broke out between Musa Salim ‘Aql, one of the dervishes of the zawiya,32 and two women from the ‘Abbas family of Dayr al-Dubban.33 The mukhtar and notables of the village and I went to the zawiya and we took an ‘atwa34 and determined a meeting of the two parties for Friday 15/12/49 for [determining] [End Page 440]

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the punishment and justice for the assailant [i.e., Musa Salim ‘Aql] before a chosen judge on the aforementioned morning. The guarantors for the group from al-Dayr [i.e., Dayr al-Dubban] will be me and the mukhtar and for Musa Salim, Hasan Khayri and ‘Amr Jibril. …

5 December 1949: In the evening, Mahmud ‘Ali Mahmud, Muhammad Ahmad Salih, and I went to Mahmud Ibrahim Salem’s house and the four of us agreed to go on the coming Wednesday, 7/12, to Hebron to settle some issues related to the welfare of the village. …

8 December 1949: I left Mr. Hasan ‘Anani’s house in the morning for Hebron, and on this day we wrote an appeal to the general administrative governor and sent it by insured post. We sent a similar appeal by post to al-Difa’ newspaper and after that we went to the Forestry Department in Hebron and we met ‘Uthman Effendi al-Hamuri. After that, I went to Bethlehem and had lunch and dinner of meat and rice and slept that night in the house of Ahmad ‘Abd al-Salam and ‘Abd al-Qadr ‘Abid Rabbuh Ahmad from Bayt Ulla.

9 December 1949: Today I wrote two letters by typewriter in English. I sent one by insured airmail to the Colonial Office in London and the second by post to the Colonial Office in London via the British commissioner in ‘Amman. I kept one copy with me. This was to request compensation for my previous period of service. After that, I left Bethlehem for Hebron and from there to the village in the bus to Bayt Ulla. I received one Palestine pound from Badawi Ahmad Mujahid and bought two packs of cards for 280 mils and 2 kilos of rice for 210 mils. The two teachers, Hasan Hijazi and Husayn al-Kawamila, and Husayn ‘Abd al-Fattah, Ibrahim Muhammad Abdallah, and Muhammad Ahmad Salih came for the evening at my place.

10 December 1949: I spent the evening at ustaz Hasan Hijazi’s house with his father. Today light rain fell. The general assembly of the [United] Nations organization agreed on the internationalization of Jerusalem and its area by a majority of … votes against … votes with … votes abstaining. This was based upon the Australian suggestion, which was agreed upon by the political committee of the aforementioned body. Among those approving internationalization were all the Arab states except for Jordan, and among those who voted against internationalization were England and America. …

12 December 1949: At 9:30 a.m. today a convoy of cars carrying a number of refugees wishing to leave the Arab area of Palestine and to reside in the Gaza region controlled by the Egyptians left Hebron by way of Bayt Jibrin. This was through an agreement between the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Jewish authorities. In the evening, [End Page 442]

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the two teachers Husayn al-Kawamila and Hasan Hijazi, Husayn ‘Abd al-Fattah, and I went to Kharas and listened to the 6 and 9 p.m. broadcasts and then returned to the village.

13 December 1949: Ustaz Hasan Mahmud Hijazi had lunch of “dumplings”35 with me at home, along with Muhammad Khalil Jubran. After that, the former and I walked to the Tarqumiya junction and we waited for the convoy that will arrive from Gaza by way of Bayt Jibrin to reunite [Hijazi] with his brother, who will come in the convoy from the Gaza area. There his father, Mahmud Hijazi, met us. Around 2 p.m. the convoy arrived and his brother Ahmad was not in it. I waited with ustaz Hasan on the road so that we could go to Hebron, but no car came. After that, we left the place for the village by foot and we arrived here around 5:30 p.m. …

16 December 1949: I planted radishes and spinach. Today the Shrouf hamula divided Salim al-Sahra’s land. My rub’‘s share was 35 feet to the south and 30 feet to the north. I wore Western-style shoes. In the evening, Mahmud ‘Abd al-Hadi and his friend came from Bayt Ulla and they slept the night in the guesthouse.

19 December 1949: I planted lettuce seedlings in the karam. In the first hours of morning today, with the break of dawn, Colonel Adib al-Shishakli, commander of the first brigade of the Syrian Army, undertook a military coup d’état in Syria resulting in the arrest of General Sami al-Hinnawi and his brother-in-law [Muhammad] As’ad Talas. …

30 December 1949: The notables of Hebron and its governorate held a meeting in Hebron’s secondary school regarding the coming parliamentary elections, to be held on Tuesday, 11 April 1950. Another meeting was held in Government House by the governorate’s mukhtars and attended by the district mutasarrif Hakim Bek ‘Abd al-Hadi. He distributed leaflets to the mukhtars that included the [names of the] heads and members of voter registration committees, dated 29/12/1949.

31 December 1949: At 10:30 a.m. on 24/2/49 the cease-fire for a period of a full year was signed by the Egyptian delegation and the Jewish delegation on the Island of Rhodes. The morning of 31/12/49 I walked to Duqas and took a car to Hebron. I received nine Palestine pounds as a loan from Badawi Ahmad Mujahid. After that I went to the police offices and met the deputy regional commander ‘Abd al-Karim Bek al-Barghuthi and informed him of the matter between me and ‘Ali ‘Awda of Tarqumiya and presented him with a “complaint” in this regard. I had dinner … and slept that night at Muhammad Khalil al-Tawil’s house. [End Page 444]

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Alex Winder

Alex Winder is a PhD candidate in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, and associate editor of Jerusalem Quarterly. He is thankful for the generous support for this research provided by the Shrouf family, the Institute for Palestine Studies, and the Palestinian American Research Center.



I would like to thank the Shrouf family, the Institute for Palestine Studies, and the Palestinian American Research Center for their generous support for this research.

1. For an historical analysis of the ‘Amleh family and its place in the social, political, and economic life of Jabal al-Khalil—the greater Hebron region—in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Büssow 194–210. The villages comprising qura saff al-’Amleh are, from north to south, Surif, Kharas, Nuba, Bayt Ulla, and Tarqumiya.

2. One dunam equals one thousand square meters, or roughly one-quarter of an acre. Honaida Ghanim provides an insightful and nuanced examination of the impact of these imposed boundaries—and the efforts undertaken to circumvent them—on al-Marja, another “front-line” Palestinian village on the opposite side of the armistice line, in her piece “Once Upon a Border” in this issue of Biography.

3. The diary, edited and with an introduction, will be published in Arabic. For a modified version of the introduction in English, see Winder.

4. I am cognizant of the distortion produced by eliding such entries. In her work on the diaries of working class women and the strategies of interpretation employed when reading such diaries, Elizabeth Hampsten writes: “private writings of women ask of us, if we wish to read them knowingly, a special inventive patience. We must interpret what is not written as well as what is, and, rather than dismiss repetitions, value them especially. ‘Nothing happened’ asks that we wonder what, in the context of a particular women’s stream of days, she means by something happening” (4).

6. The village headman, generally appointed by the government to act as an intermediary and handle administrative matters in the village.

7. This reason, though not explicit in the diary, was emphasized in an interview with members of the Shrouf family (Shrouf family).

8. The Palestine pound (£P) continued to be the currency of the West Bank until 1950. One pound comprised 1000 mils.

9. The reference to Edward Said, whose own memoir is titled Out of Place, is intentional. In After the Last Sky, Said writes that the lives of Palestinian exiles are characterized by “the paradox of mobility and insecurity” (11). By contrast, Said writes of the Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifa, living in the West Bank city of Nablus: “one feels about her, and other Nabulsis, that—Israeli occupation and social tensions notwithstanding—they are securely in place, their lives are led where such lives have always been led” (83).

10. Bunkers and Huff make this argument specifically regarding the marginalization of women’s life writing and recent efforts to challenge it, which emphasize individual women’s situations within “personal, social, and historical circumstances” (6–7). [End Page 446]

11. Paperno continues: “In recent decades, a new branch of historiography claimed diaries, along with letters and other forms of personal writing, as elements of the ‘private life,’ constituted by forms of intimate (as opposed to public) existence” (563–64).

12. Shapira also writes: “Among the questions one can pose with regard to such writings are: How did the writers internalize the ethos of the period? How did they interpret reality? What was their emotional and physical habitus? How did they react to situations of stress, changing realities, and personal and national problems?” (79).

13. Challenges have also been raised from those working on life writing by subjects who have been marginalized—in terms of gender, race, class, or otherwise—within the “West.” On women’s diaries, for example, Bunkers and Huff write: “Women’s daily, lived experience, however, has been denigrated by mainstream Western epistemology in favor of universality and the separation of the mind from the drudgery of daily bodily tasks” (5); see also Huff.

14. In this sense I have reversed the definitions of “personal” and “private” implied by Philippe Lejeune’s description of the journals kept by ancient Roman households (of which Shrouf’s diaries are also reminiscent): “there was nothing personal about the private journals of the Romans. They always dealt with the life of a small community; they were written by a secretary; they contained either accounts or an objective chronicle of daily life” (53).

15. Hamula (pl. hama’il) is a larger family grouping that was a significant structure of social organization in Levantine Arab society. There were three major hama’il in Nuba: al-Shrouf, al-Dababisa, and al-Tarman. The Shrouf was the largest hamula, followed by the Dababisa, and then the Tarman. Further, each hamula was itself divided into subcomponents. The Shrouf hamula, for example, was composed of four “quarters” (arba’, sing. rub’): the rub’ of Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf; the rub’ of the Tayyim family; the rub’ of the Salem family; and the rub’ of the Thalji family.

16. Similarly, Shrouf’s diaries, just as well as Hasan’s, could be described as a “log of companionship” (141).

17. Zachary Foster, in his own valuable contribution on the diaries of a young Turkish-speaking conscript in the Ottoman army during World War I, notes a “small but growing library of diaries from the war years in Syria” (78).

18. This is especially the case when comparing Amiry’s and Shehadeh’s books to Shrouf’s diaries. Though they conform to the format of a diary, they were also written with a reader other than the self in mind: they record daily life in order to present it. Shrouf’s diaries, on the other hand, share the characteristics of what Lejeune calls the “true, authentic diary (meaning an honest diary)”: it is discontinuous, full of gaps, allusive, redundant and repetitive, and non-narrative (170).

19. Mahmud Ibrahim Salem was the mukhtar of Nuba. He was from the Shrouf hamula, though he and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf were often at odds.

20. In February 1949, an agreement between Egypt and Israel allowed for the evacuation of some 4,000 Egyptian troops from these towns located about thirty kilometers northeast of Gaza City, while allowing the civilian population to remain and guaranteeing their security. However, after the Egyptians withdrew, Israeli military forces harassed, threatened, and eventually forced out the Palestinian population. See Morris 522–24. [End Page 447]

21. The Ibrahimi Mosque complex, also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are supposedly buried. Holy to Muslims and Jews, the site remains a point of high tension between the two communities in Hebron.

22. The rotl is a unit of measurement used throughout the Arab Mediterranean and varying quite widely. In Palestine at this time, it was around two and a half kilograms; 12 wuqiya = 1 rotl.

23. An area between Bayt Ulla and Tarqumiya.

24. An area west of Nuba that straddles the post-war border between Israel and the West Bank.

25. See the entry of 6 March for reference.

26. Shrouf had divorced his first wife, Halima, in 1948. Later, he and Halima reconciled, though ultimately they divorced for good and Shrouf married another woman.

27. A small village about forty kilometers northeast of Gaza City destroyed and depopulated in July 1948.

28. An area near Bayt Ummar.

29. In several entries, Shrouf refers to an “H.-J.” (ha-jim) by initials only (see also 3 September, below). Curiously, this is the only individual that appears unnamed in multiple entries, and no individual named elsewhere in the diaries seems to correspond to these initials.

30. A sidsiyya is a cubic tin vessel generally used to measure quantities of grain after threshing. The measurement equals between 18 and 20 kilograms. My thanks to Ulrich Seeger for finding this information.

31. A long, sleeved men’s garment.

32. A holy place administered by and serving members of a Sufi order, in this case the Khalwatiyya order.

33. A village some 26 kilometers northwest of Hebron, depopulated in 1948.

34. A payment and admission of guilt by the perpetrator, considered the prelude to a sulh, or full reconciliation between parties.

35. The word used, zalabiya, is generally used for sweet dumplings, but could refer here to savory dumplings since they were eaten for lunch. The word appears between quotation marks in the original.


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