Alexandra Handal

From The Bed & Breakfast Notebooks


What would it be like to wake-up on the other side of Jerusalem? For me the other side meant the areas where the entire Palestinian population was ethnically cleansed in 1948, the ones that in turn became exclusively Jewish. How might traveling there provide me with a renewed perspective of the city that until then, I only knew through my experience of living in the eastern part? For those who are newcomers to Jerusalem, it might not be immediately obvious where the border between east and westlies in this divided city. The No Man’s Land that kept them apart for nineteen long years might have been dismantled after the 1967 war, but even after Jerusalem was no longer physically divided, new types of borders emerged for Palestinians. They are psychological, emotional and mental and they dictate how people live, navigate and interact in the city. Beyond the imaginary borderline that is etched in each person’s mental map, are places west of the city that represent an entanglement of pain, melancholia and sorrow for Palestinians. In those areas, many expropriated Palestinian homes that are now occupied by Israeli Jews have been converted into bed and breakfasts promising tourists ‘an authentic experience of Jerusalem’. It is in one of those accommodations in West Musrara that I spent thirteen nights in August 2007. I wanted to capture the feeling of the place as I experienced it. The result is an account where multiple stories unfold through layers of sound, image and text, uncovering – like a crime scene investigation – the remnants of a denied past against an oppressive present.

Alexandra Handal, London/Jerusalem 2009

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