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Miral
Rula Jebreal
John Cullen
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INTRODUCTION

On her way to work on the morning of April 10, 1948, a young Palestinian woman named Hind Husseini came across fifty-five children who had been unloaded from an Israeli army truck near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. They were the survivors of a massacre that took place in their village, Deir Yassin. It was the beginning of the war of 1948.

Hind brought them to her family home and quickly decided to establish an orphanage. It was given the name Dar El-Tifel, Children's Home. She sold all of her familial possessions and her school became an oasis to hundreds of orphans. Today, three thousand girls attend Dar El-Tifel.

At the age of five, Miral was left at the orphanage after her mother, Nadia, committed suicide. Jamal, Miral's father, decided that Hind was the ideal mentor, teacher, and surrogate mother for his daughter. At the age of sixteen, when the First Intifada was simmering, Miral was assigned to teach at a refugee camp in Ramallah. The horrors she witnessed there changed her life forever and brought her closer to the history of violence and personal struggle that seemed to be her family's legacy.

Miral is the tale of a nation told through the family history of four women whose destinies are unexpectedly intertwined, and against the backdrop of the story of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As the tension of the First Intifada rises, Miral, like many of those of her generation, feels the deep injustice and becomes politically active. She finds herself at a crossroads, where she must decide between violence and education as the best way to achieve peace. Hind sees enormous potential in Miral and does her best to steer her toward education. Five years later in 1993, the two sides finally stop looking at each other from behind a gun and start negotiations that lead to the signing of the peace agreement. At the same time two girls, one Israeli, one Palestinian, sit together on the beach talking about their future.

This extraordinary story provides remarkable insight into the struggles of Palestinian women navigating the turbulent political and personal waters of their country from 1948 to1993. The book describes the fragile steps that must be taken by a young woman whose courage and sense of responsibility push her to find justice for her people. This is a story about a dream of freedom, hope, and the love of a country. It's about a young girl making her own destiny.


ABOUT RULA JEBREAL

Elizabeth Gilbert

Rula Jebreal is an award-winning Italo-Palestinian journalist who specializes in foreign affairs and immigration rights issues. She was born in Haifa, studied and worked in Italy as an anchorwoman for many years, and now makes her home in New York.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. On page 8, Hind reminisces about the opening of the school and "how bare the spot had been before the school was established." What role does the school play in the story? What does it symbolize?

  2. Do you fault Nadia for fleeing from her family and new stepfather? Did she make the right decision to leave her sisters? Did she have a choice?

  3. The novel is divided into sections centered on a particular character. What effect do you think the structure has on the story?

  4. Jerusalem is "a city divided in two" (19), "rooted in soil drenched with innocent blood" (9) but with "minarets and steeples jutting into the sky" (9). Consider the contrasts in the novel—the images of terror combined with the images of hope. What do you make of the contrast between the Old City and West Jerusalem? Do the characters in the novel believe they can coexist? Do you?

  5. Compare and contrast Hind and Miral. How are the two alike? How are they different? Does Miral's rebellious nature and desire for justice seem similar to or different from Hind's? Are they fighting for the same cause?

  6. Discuss the idea of solitude in the novel; how does solitude shape the lives of the characters? Consider Hind, Nadia, Jamal, Hani, and Miral's different lives.

  7. What is Hani's influence on Miral's life?

  8. While living at Dar El-Tifel, Miral loses a pair of classmates to the violent struggle, Aziza and Sahar. She reveals on page 118 "her sense that the world outside was a horrible place." How do these two stories inform the novel? How did they affect Miral's personal decisions in their aftermath?

  9. What did you make of Samer and Lisa's relationship? What did Miral seem to take away from seeing the two of them together?

  10. Revisit the torture scene on page 226. Did the brutality surprise you? What moment was most memorable in this scene? How did this experience affect Miral?

  11. When Miral sees Hani for the last time, he shares his vision for the future and his ideas about peace with her. "This road is too bloody, it has no exit… we can't go on fighting forever" (288). Considering Miral's decision at the end of the novel, and the events that have taken place in Palestine and Israel since the Oslo Accords, what do you take away from the novel?