The Arty Semite

An Arabic Bestseller About Beirut's Jews

By Ezra Glinter

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The Magen Abraham Synagogue in Beirut.

A new book, documenting Lebanon’s largely vanished Jewish community is a bestseller — in Arabic.

In fact, “Wad Abu Jamil,” a book by BBC journalist Nada Abdelsamad named after the formerly Jewish neighborhood in Beirut, is available only in Arabic, though translations into English and French are forthcoming.

According to Alexandra Sandels of the LA Times’ Babylon and Beyond blog, “Wad Abu Jamil” began as part of a series on Lebanon’s religious communities, but quickly evolved into a book-length project. Despite the fact that Abdelsamad couldn’t find any Jews still in Lebanon to speak with, she found plenty that were living elsewhere:

“It was a chain of interviews,” she said, adding that she was met with a bit of skepticism at first by some of the people she interviewed. “People asked me, ‘Will it be harmful for us to talk?’ They were skeptical because this is a topic that has been sleeping for all these years.”

The book was launched in December at the Beirut book fair, and has apparently become a huge hit.

Read the entire piece here.


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