February is Black History month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. I thought it was a great moment to record an episode about the Afro Palestinian community in Jerusalem.
My friend Issam who runs Bassem's Gallery Bookshop Cafe in the Via Dolorosa helped me to connect to Mohammed Qous, a 22 year old member of the Afro Palestinian community, who grew up in the African quarter in the old city. His grandfather originates from Chad. He married seven women in his life and with a Palestinian woman from Jericho he had several children, among whom Mousa, the father of Mohammed. Mousa married a Palestinian woman from the United States and Mohammed was born and grew up in the African quarter.
In this episode he talks about the Afro Palestinian community. Most of the first generation came from Chad, Sudan, Senegal and Nigeria. They were in Jerusalem as part of a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem. When the Zionist militias occupied Palestine in 1948 and the State of Israel was declared, they remained in the city to protect Al Aqsa mosque. And the changed political situation made it hard for them to travel back to their countries. They remained in the city and they were given a quarter to live in, close to Bab al Misjla, one of the entrances to Al Aqsa compound, in two old Ottoman prison compounds. The African quarter exists until today and is overly crowded. It is considered one of the hotspots by the Israeli forces and there is constant Israeli police presence in the quarter.
On my way to the interview I had the incredible luck to meet Ali Jeddah, one of the icons of the Afro Palestinian community. Recently he has been spending more time with his family in Akko because he needs health treatment in the hospital in Haifa. But he loves Jerusalem and he can't stay away for long, so he came for a visit and he was sitting at his usual spot near the Damascus Gate. I was not prepared to interview him but I did record a conversation we had before I headed to the Cafe in the Via Dolorosa to meet with Mohammed.
Website of the African Community Society in Jerusalem: https://www.afropalestinians.org/
Some videos : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOnL80yhiko
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