Sunday, June 16, 2013

An African-Palestinian

Palestinians come in all skin shades, as any visitor here will notice immediately.  It shouldn’t come as any surprise, given that the current population stems from ancient Canaanites and Hebrews, Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Kurds, Turks and other people who inhabited or invaded this land at various times.  Some Palestinians look entirely white and could be European; some are quite dark, but with non-African facial features; the rest fall into every shade in between.

But there is also a small Palestinian population of direct African descent, especially here in Jerusalem, and their acknowledged leader is a man named Ali Jiddah, who I have known for ten years.  Ali is a descendant of Africans who came as pilgrims or servants to Jerusalem in past centuries and stayed on to form a small community based in the Bab al-Majlis neighborhood, just off the Suq al-Qitaneen street that leads up to the Dome of the Rock. 

Ali Jiddah, with my son Andrew, 2011
 You can watch a video about Ali here:

Because of his radical activity in opposing the Israeli occupation, Ali spent many years in Israeli prisons.  He was released eventually in a prisoner exchange, after taking advantage of his time behind bars, like many other Palestinian prisoners, to learn good English and Hebrew.  His health has suffered in recent years, and Ali ekes out a living as an “alternative tour guide”.  If you want learn the fascinating history of Africans in Palestine and get a close-up and political view of Old Jerusalem far from the tourist throngs you couldn’t do better than to get in touch with Ali Jiddah: / tel – 00972-52-283-1542 from the US or 052-283-1542 from Palestine or Israel.

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