Omar Dajani and Mira Sucharov

Mira Sucharov, professor of political science, and research partner Omar Dajani of the University of the Pacific are collaborating with Zochrot, an Israel-facing NGO concerned with Palestinian refugee rights, to create a research project and podcast that will focus on the micro-history of a single piece of land in Jaffa. The podcast will be called “The Vacant Lot.”

“The podcast tells the story of a single piece of land — the seaside plot in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa where Omar’s family house once stood,” according to the researchers.

“From that vantage point, and through conversations with Jaffa’s present and current residents, historians, city planners, activists, politicians, and each other, they trace the tumultuous and largely forgotten 20th century history of Jaffa: its transformation from a cultural, economic, and political center of Arab Palestine into a ghost town, emptied of almost all of its residents practically overnight; the establishment by the new state of Israel of what came to be known as the Ajami Ghetto, where Jaffa’s few remaining Palestinians were corralled and fenced in for almost a year, as the rest of the city was confiscated; Jaffa’s evolution into a “mixed city” that is home to a diverse, if at times uncomfortable, mix of Palestinians and Jews; and continuing attempts to build community in a place riven by gentrification and ethnic conflict. In addition to bringing Jaffa’s past and present alive for listeners, they undertake — with listeners — to imagine a range of alternative futures — both for the vacant lot and for the ancient city where its located.”

The research team will analyze British and Israeli land records, Israeli legislation and municipal planning documents and interview local and national officials as well as past and current residents of Jaffa to piece together the historical narrative.

The project, “Public Persuasion on Palestinian Refugee Return: A Microhistory of a Vacant Lot in Jaffa,” is supported by a Partnership Engage Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Friday, April 21, 2023 in
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