October 2003

A shopkeeper running a small souvenir business in Nazareth has made a sensational discovery that could dramatically rewrite the history of Christianity Elias Shama’s small souvenir shop in Nazareth, the town of Jesus’s childhood, barely catches the eye. Tourists usually pass by it on their way to the neighbouring Mary’s Well church, claimed by the Greek Orthodox church as the site where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she was carrying the son of God. Before the Palestinian intifada erupted three years ago, the shop did a steady trade selling the usual pilgrim fare……..

Beit Fauzi Azar, my home for the past two years, is one of the “hidden palaces” of Palestine, according to the Israeli conservation expert Sharif Sharif. These mansions, built in the late 19th century, are one of the few windows left on Palestinian society from before the advent of modern Israel. In the old quarters of Acre and Nazareth in the Galilee, in the Arab sections of Jaffa and Lod in east Jerusalem, in Gaza City and in the casbahs of the West Bank cities of Nablus and Bethlehem, there are still a smattering of these living museums. The most famous is Orient House, the PLO’s headquarters in Jerusalem until it was shut down by Israel during the intifada.

August is known to journalists as the “silly season”—when editors struggling to fill space ask their staff to spice up run-of-the-mill stories with drama or humor. By every journalistic yardstick, the Israeli media’s recent report of a “children’s summer camp of terror” was a silly season story. None of the journalists, however, were smirking as they delivered the punchline. They were all deadly serious. The report originally surfaced July 30 on the Channel 10 news. The station “revealed” that 300 Israeli Arab children—from the community of one million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship—were being trained to become terrorists at a summer camp in the village of Kabul in the western Galilee.