How it all started
It all started with a hand-drawn map, neatly folded into the back of a memoir by Hala Sakakini. The memoir was published in 1987 in Ramallah, but the map was drawn from memory in 1951 in Egypt. The Sakakinis — like most other non-Jewish Jerusalemites – were expelled by Israeli forces from their Katamon home on April 30, 1948.
Like most Israelis all I knew was that the neighbourhood was Arab until 1948. In 2002 I read Ghada Karmi’s memoir In Search of Fatimah but I did not know where the Karmi house was or the Semiramis hotel or the Sakab grocery store. In 2007 I rented an apartment in the neighbourhood for a six-month sabbatical. I had no way of mapping Ghada’s Katamon to the neighbourhood I was walking in until I found Hala’s memoir and map.
The map covers the immediate neighbourhood of Katamon, listing the residents most of whom Hala knew by name. With map in hand, and a few more memoirs read, my vision of the neighbourhood shifted. I would imagine recent building additions and temporary structures removed and I could name the people whose gardens and houses I was walking by.
Katamon was populated in my mind with the architects, educators, doctors and intellectuals who shared the public and private spaces. The map gave me an idea: to find the residents and their descendants and collaboratively make short films about their home. I imagined projecting films on houses, a walking app and tours, and thus began a long journey resulting in the interactive documentary Jerusalem, We Are Here.
— Dorit Naaman