Author Hannah Moushabeck recollects ‘Dream of Palestine’


Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2023 5:23 PM

Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine
By Hannah Moushabeck
Illustrated by Reem Madooh; Chronicle Books

Growing up mostly in Leverett, Hannah Moushabeck remembers hearing any number of bedtime stories from her father, Michel, alongside her two sisters.

Sometimes these were imaginary tales — “a hero climbing a tower to rescue a magical princess” — but more often they were stories her father related about growing up in the Mideast and visiting his family’s ancestral home in Palestine.

In “Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine,” Moushabeck, today a marketing manager for Simon & Schuster, has written her first children’s book, based on the family stories she heard, including the times her father visited his grandfather, or “Sido,” in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“[O]ur homeland,” she writes, is “a place we’ve never been.”

As Moushabeck relates in an afterword, her extended family lived in West Jerusalem until May 15, 1948, the day Israel was declared an independent nation and the first Arab-Israeli War began.

Forced into exile, some of her relatives, including her father, would return to Jerusalem for summer visits, but these ended when the 1967 Arab-Israeli War began.

But in the colorfully illustrated story, her father, as a boy, visits his grandparents’ home in Jerusalem, where his “Teta” (grandmother) Maria urges him to eat more at breakfast, and his grandfather, Abu Michel, a community leader, takes him round the neighborhood, greeting everyone in turn.

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Hannah’s father recalls the smells and sights of the city — the muezzin’s call to prayer, food in cafes, shops selling all manner of goods — and the unique work of a juice vendor, who bangs out rhythms on cups and saucers to get people’s attention.

“We know the ending of this story is not a happy one,” Moushabeck writes. “We know that we may never sit and watch the juice man by Jaffa Gate. But we whisper the hope of return as we turn out the light.”

Kirkus Reviews calls the story a “beautiful tale of family, love for a lost homeland, and remembrance.”

“Homeland” is in keeping with the literary tradition of the Moushabeck family: Michel Moushabeck is the founder of Interlink Publishing in Northampton, and Hannah Moushabeck and her sisters are all involved in the business.

There will be a book launch for “Homeland” April 6 at 6 p.m. at the Media Education Foundation in Northampton. Hannah Moushabeck will also give a Zoom-based talk April 5 at 6 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop.