The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904-1948

Written by Issam Nassar (ed.) Nada Elzeer (trans.) Salim Tamari (ed.) Wasif Jawhariyyeh
Review by Viviane Crystal

Music is the art that unites all people. This memoir is an intriguing look into a musician raised in Old Jerusalem City, prior to the wars that eventually separated Arab and Jew into Palestine and other Arab cities and Israel. Wasif Jawhariyyeh grew up with a father who was politically active and acted out of compassionate beliefs common to the Arab Greek Orthodox Church. The British takeover in 1917 as well as the Turks’ previous involvement in the Great War is precisely described, as well as the harsh British rules that later became the norm and the beginning of the partition of Arab and Jewish lands. Before these momentous events, one of the highlights of this biography concerns the beautiful music – of which Wasif learned and loved through the darbuka, tanboor, rebeck, oud, violin and cumbus of Arabic, Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish and European origin. Wasif particularly mastered the oud and the decision to form an Arab music collection that has clearly become identified as famous. Also of special note herein is the respect conveyed about the Jawhariyyeh family, the Arab cities and rural areas. A fine historical work of a too-often-overlooked Arab culture worthy of attention!