top of page

East Jerusalem Noir

Reviewed by Dymphna Crowe

Edited by Jarjoura Burbara (Akashic Books Brooklyn New York 2023)

I often browse the shelves of the excellent Dial Lane Bookshop in Ipswich in search of a new and interesting gem. This book was the result of a recent visit. It is part of a series, all set in a particular location or city neighbourhood. East Jerusalem Noir was published simultaneously with West Jerusalem Noir, a companion collection. The books reflect an image of the national, religious and socioeconomic tension in the complicated city of Jerusalem. 

This book comprises thirteen stories that vary in length and in the quality of the writing. Each story is written by a Palestinian author and they mostly focus on the everyday life of the city’s Arab Palestinian residents as they contend with the realities of Israeli occupation. Themes include the confiscation of land, displacement from their local neighbourhoods, and restrictions to travel. Two stories deal with the anger and despair of families who are forced to relocate before Israeli authorities demolish their homes. In “The Ceiling of the City”, a native of East Jerusalem has his sense of place shaken when he is jailed because he forgot his ID on the way to pray at his local mosque. There are few happy endings. But the stories are written with passion and empathy. The reader gets a sense of their pride in the city: the buildings, the culture, the food. 

There are hopes also, but sometimes unrealistic ones, as in “An Astronaut in Jerusalem”, where a young boy’s dream of becoming a spaceman comes up against the reality of the movement restrictions imposed on his Arab family.

The aim of the book was to present the lives of those who live in East Jerusalem, and we get a sense of the varied experiences of Palestinians who live, work, and write in one of the world’s most complicated cities. We also get a fascinating and moving glimpse of life under occupation.


bottom of page