By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
A Rift in Time: Travels with My Ottoman Uncle
By Raja Shehadeh (Profile, $32.99, softcover, 256 pages)
From the 2008 Orwell Prize-winning author of Palestinian Walks comes an illuminating, true story of his remarkable great-uncle’s political struggles.
A Rift in Time goes back to the life of Najib Nassar, who edited the Haifa-based newspaper al-Karmil in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, before World War I.
Accused of spying for the British against Ottoman Turkey and its German allies, Nassar went on the run for three years leaving behind his wife and children and traversing the invisible borders between Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. At the start of his exile in 1915, Palestine belonged to the Ottoman Empire.
The idea that Turkish nationalism and the break-up of the Middle East into small states was “detrimental to the entire region” is one of the themes explored. Others include depriving the Palestinians of their possessions, the failure of their own leadership and the international community to deliver justice and the abuse of Palestinian rights by the Israeli military and civil authorities.
Raja Shehadeh feels that even though he and his family were brought up with very negative views of the Ottomans, this thinking has started to change.
Nassar had also been a writer who had, like Raja, not only tangled with authorities but had dedicated his life to the freedom of the Palestinian people. As he traces Najib’s footsteps, he discovers that today it would be impossible to flee the cage that Palestine has become.
This family chronicle is also a reflection on the transformation of Palestine, particularly the disputed Jordan Rift Valley.
While most of the region’s history and that of its people is buried, Raja passionately sees a larger picture of the unending freedom struggle. This journey opens up a rift in time where a better future, free from oppression, might one day be possible.
Communicated most sincerely, this is a compelling, poignant story.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.