Meet the Guardian of Palestine's Past

Historians in the News
tags: Palestine, Ahmad Mrowat



Nazareth, the storied biblical city filled with the ghosts of Christianity’s past — or so the narrative goes. Ahmad Mrowat, a 6-foot-5 tower with a gentle countenance, wants to show you a different side to the Arab capital of Israel (and beyond). Using old photographs, documents and artifacts he obsessively hunts down, the 37-year-old archival specialist is slowly painting a picture of what transpired between biblical times and Nakba Day — the name for the 1948 exodus when, according to a mural on the city’s periphery, “more than 780,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and land” by Zionist forces.

The stories of who lived on this slip of parched earth and howthey livedbefore Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — is shrouded in obscurity. That’s in large part because the Israelis confiscated much of Palestine’s archives documenting their history, according to Dr. Rona Sela, a curator, researcher and Tel Aviv University lecturer, and the director of a new film called Looted and Hidden: Palestinian Archives in Israel. (The Israel Defense Forces did not respond to an email request for comment.) Mrowat has devoted his entire adult life to completing and correcting the record — for the roughly 12 million Palestinians living around the world, to be sure, but mostly for posterity.

To understand the importance of his work, consider this: In June, Israeli writer Assaf Voll published A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era, which was made available as a free download and flew off the virtual bookshelves. The fact that it secured a spot on Amazon’s best-seller list is all the more surprising when you consider that each of its 120 pages is blank. The book was inflammatory and has since been pulled from the site. An article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, said its “author” explained his work to the local radio station Kol Hai this way: “The Palestinian people believe they are apeople, and someone needs to tell them the truth even if it hurts.”





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