Sami Al Jundi walks through the cobblestone streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, greeting passersby.
“Sami! How are you?” an elderly man says in Arabic, shaking his hand vigorously.
“Habibna! Salaam!” Sami calls out warmly to another man who is across the road buying falafel. “That one is in my book group. We are meeting tomorrow night at the Palestinian National Theatre.”
Sami’s cell phone rings as we move inside the coffee shop to work on the chapter about his blind mother’s childhood, expelled from her village as a little girl after the war of 1948.
“Yoel! Shalom!” Sami greets the caller in Hebrew and then covers the mouthpiece of the phone and whispers to me apologetically, “Sorry, Jen, this is my old friend Yoel who was in my Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group…he is inviting us to lunch at his home this Shabbat…”
I have never known anyone like Sami Al Jundi.
For over a decade, my colleagues and I had been prompting Sami to write a book about his remarkable life. Four years ago, I called Sami from Seattle. “You know that book you all told me I should write?” Sami said. “I’m ready now.”
By the end of the conversation, Sami and I agreed: I would come to Jerusalem and write Sami’s life story with him. I flew to Jerusalem in January 2007 and we began work.
And now, exactly four years later, I am thrilled to announce the publication of our book!!
As a teenager, Sami Al Jundi had one ambition: overthrowing Israeli occupation. With two friends he formed a militant cell and began building a bomb to use against the Israeli police. But their plans were derailed when the bomb exploded prematurely, killing one of his friends. Sami was sentenced to ten years in prison.
The Hour of Sunlight (Nation Books) describes Sami’s extraordinary metamorphosis from a militant to a passionate advocate of nonviolence and peaceful reconciliation. Born to a family of Palestinian refugees in the Old City of Jerusalem, Sami was only five years old when Israeli soldiers took over his home after the 1967 war. His family began life again as refugees in another part of the Old City. In moving detail Sami describes how these and other realities (and indignities) of his early years caused his radicalization.
Following his arrest, Sami was bound and tortured for weeks by the Israeli General Security Service before beginning his ten-year prison sentence. Ironically, it was in an Israeli jail that his personal transformation began: Sami was welcomed into a highly organized, democratic community of political prisoners who required that members of their cell read, engage in political discourse on topics ranging from global revolutions to Russian literature.
In the prison library, Sami found a book on Mahatma Gandhi. He was struck by one story in particular—a Hindu man who had murdered a Muslim baby came to Gandhi seeking repentance. Gandhi told him that there was one way that he could find peace again; he must raise a Muslim orphan for twenty years. It took two decades to build a life, Sami reflected, but only seconds to destroy one.
Sami left prison still determined to fight for his people’s rights—but with a very different notion of how to undertake that struggle. He discovered the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence, and later became supervisor of an Israeli-Palestinian coexistence center in Jerusalem. He kept his faith in reconciliation alive through the most difficult times, remaining determined to inspire a new generation to follow the path of peace and nonviolence.
The Hour of Sunlight offers a perspective that is sorely missing from the mainstream media’s portrayal of Palestinians. Marked by honesty, humor, pain, and, ultimately, compassion for all Palestinians and Israelis, The Hour of Sunlight charts an inspiring journey of perseverance and personal transformation. In so doing it illuminates the Palestinian experience through the story of one man’s impassioned struggle for peace with justice.
The Hour of Sunlight is available in bookstores on February 1…but it is very important that advanced copies be sold! (This influences best seller lists, etc)
I urge you to order your copy (or copies!) of The Hour of SunlightTODAY!
For those in the US:
I encourage you to purchase The Hour of Sunlight from an independent book store, rather than from chains or corporations such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
You may already have a favorite local indie bookstore! If not, I recommend purchasing The Hour of Sunlight through Riverwalk Books in Chelan, WA. It’s a wonderful bookstore to support! And the owner, Libby, is a good friend and has been incredibly supportive of me and my work. Libby is advanced ordering many copies of the book and is willing to ship it anywhere!
The Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street in East Jerusalem is ordering a stack of books and can ship/deliver them anywhere in Israel and the West Bank!
To pre-order your copy of The Hour of Sunlight with the Educational Bookshop, please contact them via email and let them know how many copies you would like to purchase! They will get back to you and work out the details.
Sami and I are tremendously excited to be launching The Hour of Sunlight into the world.
I hope that your experience reading it is a fraction as meaningful and thought-provoking as it was for me to delve deeply into Sami’s life, his experiences, and his convictions during the four-year writing process.
In this remarkable story of life under Israeli occupation, coauthors al Jundi, cofounder of the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem, and Marlowe (Darfur Diaries) intertwine the personal and the political as they trace al Jundi’s evolution from Palestinian militant to peacemaker…the authors successfully convey al Jundi’s joys and sorrows, the triumph of his endurance, the complexity of the conflict, and the necessity of dialogue.”
“Stark and immediate, with no glib messages, Al Jundi’s memoir, written with journalist Marlowe, brings today’s headlines very close; he is hopeful about friends, candid about enemies, betrayal, and corruption on all sides. Rooted in the experience of one fighter-peacemaker, this is sure to spark intense debate.”
–From “Book List” Advanced Review:
“This moving memoir vividly portrays aspects of Palestinian life rarely encountered by the English reader…Sami Al Jundi’s story, with its triumphs and tragedy, should be required reading for those who ask, ‘Where are the Palestinian peace activists?’”
—Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University and Director of The Peacebuilding and Development Institute
“This book is the most authentic account of Palestinian refugees’ painful ordeal that I have ever read. It is essential reading for anyone interested in a deep understanding of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, as well as the fabric of Palestinian and Israeli societies.” —Akiva Eldar, chief political columnist, Ha’aretz, and author of Lords of the Land
“Both nuanced and realistic, its soaring prose is to be savored by everyone who wonders whether enduring peace can be built. This is a true story, missed by the media.”
—Mary Elizabeth King, author of A Quiet Revolution
“In fiercely compelling prose, Marlowe gives voice to Sami Al Jundi’s harrowing and redemptive story, cutting through dense thickets of propaganda and historical silence to bring us into a clearing that might very well be The Hour of Sunlight…The writing here is masterly, the story riveting, the achievement profound.”
—Carolyn Forché, author of The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, and Blue Hour. Professor, Georgetown University
“The Hour of Sunlight is a refreshingly frank and utterly gripping chronicle of Al Jundi’s personal journey that also grapples with the broader social and political developments that make his story so vital.”
— Joanne Mariner, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program
“This is a fascinating, beautiful, unforgettable memoir…”
–Roane Carey, Editor, The New Intifada and The Other Israel
“The Hour of Sunlight fills an important void in our understanding of entrenched international conflicts…The book demonstrates the thinking and leadership qualities that are necessary to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
–Peter Weinberger, United States Institute of Peace
“This biography is a fascinating story of an ordinary East Jerusalem man. This book personifies the realities of living under Israeli occupation. The continuity of Palestinian suffering comes to live, as this story’s generational continuity extends from the Nakba, to occupation, to post-Oslo peace times, to an eventual dead end of despair. For Sami Al-Jundi, the dilemmas of becoming politically-active are more about necessities than choices.”
— Dr. Karam Dana, Dubai Initiative Research Fellow, The John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University