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A Palestine story

Journey From A Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
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5.0 out of 5 starsBy Michelle Cohen Corasanti August 3, 2013

A Must Read book for all,
Children of Catastrophe by Jamal Kanj should be required reading for all. Jamal was a descendant of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes in 1948. In 1958, Jamal came into the world in the refugee camp Nahr el Bared in Northern Lebanon. He was his parents' first born in a room and not a tent. The story tells of the crude structures that gradually replaced the tents. I hope one day his book will become a movie so that people can see what it was like to be a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon.

As I read his book, I was just amazed at how people can be so cruel. And how instead of celebrating differences and working together to advance humanity, we focus on differences and destroy it. At the end of the day, we all belong to the human race. We all want the same things for our children: a safe environment, a place to call home with a roof over our heads, education, freedom, love, happiness, a future, a world in which our children's worth isn't judged on their religion, race, color of skin or any other dividing factor and their basic needs are met.

As a Jewish American, I was taught that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a "land without a people for a people without a land" and made the desert bloom. When I first went to Israel, an Israeli told me that there were 21 Arab countries and the Palestinians needed to choose one as they didn't want them in Israel. I had no idea who he was talking about. I thought Palestinian was a synonym for Israeli and referred to the Jews who were in Israel before 1948. I thought it was like Persian and Iranian. How would I know otherwise when I was indoctrinated that we Jews found a land without a people? All we learned was how Israel was the safe-haven for Jews. We never understood what Zionism meant to the Palestinians. Our entitlement to the land was inculcated into our heads because of the Holocaust even though Palestinians weren't responsible for the Holocaust. We need to see what Zionism meant to Jamal and his people, the Palestinians. How one people's dream can be another people's nightmare. So often we only think of our own desires and not how what we want affects others. How would we feel if a non-Jewish religious group decides to claim a US state for themselves, banishing Jews from that state and telling us to choose from any of the other 50 US States for our new home?

Despite the overwhelming hardships, what I found so incredible was how his family could persevere as a unit under such conditions. Here in the US with the divorce rate is said to be around 50%, in a culture of instant satisfaction, people jump ship when things get difficult. I doubt many couples would remain together when faced with the hardships that Jamal's parents faced and yet, through thick and thin, his family lived for each other. They faced everything as a solid unit that could not be broken.

It also amazes me how resourceful children must become to survive. Although Jamal came into the world with the material bare minimum, a refugee in a country that did not want his kind, in anything but a stable political environment, throughout his life he had the love and encouragement of a unshakeable family that would do anything for each other. Where drinking and drugs are prevalent in our American society among our youth, Jamal and his friends were fighting to survive. I also noticed no sense of entitlement or laziness that we experience in the US among many of our youth. Instead I could see the deep desire to improve not only one's own life, but the lives of one's family members as well.

I stand in awe of the distance Jamal had to transverse as a refugee to make a new life in America becoming a registered professional engineer in California with graduate and post graduate degrees in civil engineering, management and executive leadership.

I also think it's important to read this story, not just as a Palestinian, but as a Muslim. With the prevalent Islamaphobia in America, I think it's important not to only focus on the extreme cases as we find those in every religion and culture. It is more important to see how other Muslims face injustice and overcome adversity. In the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el Bared, the brutal environment motivated parents to stress the power of education to excel and succeed in life.

We need to hear these stories because awareness leads to understanding and understanding leads to change. By reading his story, we become aware of ourselves as human beings and the horrors we create for others. We cannot afford to be ignorant to the truth, holding onto fallacies. In the words of Stephen Hawkins, "The greatest enemy of knowledge isn't ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." Through awareness we can put an end to these great injustices committed against the Palestinians. No one lives in peace when we condemn others to misery.

author of The Almond Tree       
5.0 out of 5 starsBy MS, July 25, 2013, Amazon, USA
Awesome!, easy to read and follow ...

The book "Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America" is a real-life testimony by someone who indeed was born in a refugee camp and who lived the catastrophe day by day. The author have the ability to describe the settings, events, camp, characters in a very clear and real way that it made the reader feels as she is part of the camp and the refugees where she lived their sufferings and felt their pain

"Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America", is a life experience saga that documents history in a profound, unique and engaging approach leaving the reader with wealth of knowledge about the never ending Palestinian cause since 1948. I recommend the book because its full of events and surprises, its easy to read and follow and it is an informative book with an engaging approach.
3.0 out of 5 stars By Eve Firor, April 17, 2013
Impressions of Children of Catastrophe

Very detailed, give Gestalt of the impact of the eviction of Palestinians from their homeland and relentless persecution of them since 1948.

5.0 out of 5 stars By Michael Fox, September 11, 2011, Amazon, USA
Kanj writes with a sense for justice & his heart pointing to the homeland he lost before he was born,

The parents of Jamal Kanj, the author, were alongside 800,000 other Palestinians, evacuated from their villages and towns by Israeli terrorist groups, an ethnic cleansing that was supported by the founding Israeli Government and overseen by the former British occupiers of Palestine. One of these terrorist groups, the Haganah, served as the foundation of the now official army of Israel, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

Jamal wasn't yet born when his family was pursued through the upper Galillee and into Southern Lebanon. He was born a refugee in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp in Lebanon where his family was placed with several thousand other Palestinians. The rights afforded to other Lebanese nationals: the rights for travel and education and self-determinacy were stripped from him and his family. Through no fault of their own, the Palestinians were now exiled from their homeland.

This book describes the life of Jamal. He lives his whole childhood in the square mile refugee camp. What starts off in 1949 as a shelter for Palestinian refugees set up with basic tent facilities, transforms over time to a vibrant town supporting its own community through trade and development. It is also a story of a victim that keeps getting punished. The camp is continuously targeted by Israeli forces in retaliation attacks for crimes committed elsewhere or through acts of aggression aimed at instilling fear in the population, trying to extinguishing any flailing hopes left of them one day returning to their homeland. Jamal leaves the camp at 16 or 17 to study in Baghdad and soon after is accepted to an american university.

Much of the book is interspersed with political events of the time and of historical background. This is the history that wasn't taught to students at school and wasn't taught to me at Jewish school, nor is it taught to Israeli teenagers before they are put into fighter jets and their thumbs hover over the trigger. It is an uncomfortable history. The praised leaders of Israel are quoted here expressing imperialistic sentiment, expressing indiscriminate hate and disregard for the natives of Palestine.

The Lebanese government, especially the Christian-Right ruling party, is also attacked for harassing and limiting the Palestinian refugees. The camp suffered almost total destruction in 2007, a sad situation for the Palestinians who for 2nd or even 3rd time have been forced to leave their home. Out of the ashes comes new hope though. Stated in the last chapter of the book is the slogan for the committees responsible for rebuilding the camp, "We will rebuild Nahr el Bared and we shall return to Palestine". Let us hope for the sake of humanity that they succeed.
5.0 out of 5 stars By Sandy, May 20,11, http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/166103564
I was certainly, like most Americans, brainwashed with Christian guilt, bombarded all my life with the pioneering image of Israel. I never gave much thought to the life of those who were replaced by European Jewish "pioneers." This book put me back in touch with my humanity to discover the inhumanity of Zionism and its false history. It's a must read book. This is the Palestinian version of Anne Frank Diaries!

  4 of 5 stars By Jennifer Abdo, Feb 28, 2011, www.goodreads.com 

There is an excellent history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in here
Kindle Edition- not great on formatting.

  5 of 5 stars, By Alen, January 2011, www.goodreads.com
It is one of the best books I have read on the Palestine/Israel issue. The writer did a great job weaving the personal experience into the historical context of the Palestinian refugee problems.

I loved most the way the writer kept me interested in finding more as I finished each chapter. It was a great reading!
 Gripping 5 of 5 stars, By Anita, January 2011, Amazon, USA
Riveting, enthralling, spellbinding, and funny a true description of life in Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp as seen through oral histories and eyes of a survivor.

The best book on the Mideast ... 5 of 5 stars, By Jeffry, January 2011, www.goodreads.com

The best book on the Mideast conflict I have read so far. Kanj’s strength lies in his sparse prose, his hard research, his intimate heart-rending stories, but most of all, his strength lies in his very blunt honesty. I highly recommend this book not just to Jews or Muslims or Arabs, but to all American citizens, because like it or not, we are heavily involved, and it’s to our great advantage to understand the conflict.

 the untold 5 of 5 stars, By A. T. Molina, January2011, Amazon, California
To me, reading memoirs is like reading thick textbooks, and I never read them if I don't have to for school. I picked up Kanji's book with this mindset, expecting to drop it after a few pages. But, the next thing I knew, two hours had passed and I was over halfway through the book. The prose was simple, but powerful. The book was littered with facts yet still intimate. The story itself was violent and somehow also beautiful. I recommend this book, not just to people interested in Middle Eastern politics or culture, but to anyone looking for a powerful story they've never read before.

There aren't that many out there.
  A Beautifully Written Book, November 2010, By A Jabr, Beirut, Lebanon
... highly informative, and right from the heart. The chapter about the Camp's economy is exceptional.
Excellent insight into growing up in a refugee camp 5 of 5 stars, October 2010, By L.H.W Amazon UK
Jamal Kanj writes in a very matter of fact style that gives an excellent insight into his younger days growing up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. He gives a good background to the politics surrounding the building of the camps in 1948 and the eventual destruction of the camp in 2007. Running like a continuous thread through the historical and political background are Jamal's personal experiences which provide an insight into what being a refugee really means, particularly for those of us lucky enough to have been brought up in a more stable environment. There is an interesting section on the failure of the Arab forces to prevail in the 1967 and 1973 conflicts with Israel. This section surmises that the forces were never really trained to fight a war against external enemies, rather to protect their leaders against internal dissent. Highly recommended reading.
Great book 5 of 5 stars, October 2010 by Convert Reader, Barnes and Noble
It is one of the most captivating books I have read as of late. The writer makes a good point for the Palestinian refugees and their suffering for the last 62 years. It is the type of information you will not find in our library or books in America. I recommend the boook with no reservation. If you want to learn about the Palestine question. This is the boook to read.
Superb 5 of 5 stars, September 2010, By John Jacobson, Amazon US

I highly recommend this book. Most Americans know nothing about what happened to the Palestinians in 1948, thanks to a highly successful censorship and disinformation process here in the United States. This book shows one small piece of a massive human tragedy that has...been completely ignored by Hollywood.

Amazing story of a Palestinian Refugee 5 of 5 stars, August 2010, By Ari Goldstein, Amazon US

This book showed me what the U.S Media didn't tell me. It is the book "Night" by Eli Wiesel of the middle east, it revealed the horrible atrocities his people have to go through on a daily basis.

 Takes you there, for better or worse ...5 of 5 stars,August 2010, By Kat, Amazon US

Great insight into life in a refugee camp, paints an incredibly detailed picture. As an American, this book showed me a slice of life I never knew existed. Really shows the incredible spirit of  the Palestinian people. While the subject matter overall is serious and sad, the book, while serious, is fascinating and entertaining.

A moving and thoughtful read that would do well in any international memoir collection 5 of 5 stars, August 2010, By Midwest Book Review

The Israel and Palestine conflict has shattered countless lives. "Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America" is a memoir form Jamal Krayem Kanj, as he reflects on his own journey through the conflict, and how from a refugee camp struggling to survive he found his way to America and made his own way in life. A unique story with a powerful message, "Children of Catastrophe" is a moving and thoughtful read that would do well in any international memoir collection.