"Jerusalem, We Are Here": Reflections on the Collaborative Construction of a Living Archive and Its Offshoots
1948 war
British Mandate
interactive documentary
oral history
online platforms
living archive

The interactive documentary Jerusalem, We Are Here (JWRH) (2016) digitally reinscribes Palestinians into the Jerusalem neighborhoods from which they were expelled in 1948. The project was created by filmmaker and film theorist Dorit Naaman in close collaboration with Palestinian participants and other contributors. Two of Naaman’s closest collaborators are Marina Parisinou who started as a participant, and eventually also became an associate producer of the project; and Mona Hajjar Halaby, an amateur social historian of Palestine, who does the English narration and was the inspiration behind the map portion, having kept track of Jerusalemites’ houses for years.

Following the release of JWRH, the three women continued to work closely together to expand and disseminate the project. Furthermore, they leveraged the synergy they had developed, as well as the power of the internet, to inspire and support each other in the creation of a number of offshoot projects about Palestine, focused mostly on Jerusalem. In this conversation, they take stock of their collaboration, the paths that led them to their current projects, what they have learned in the process and their plans for the future. The project is freely available online at jerusalemwearehere. com

Author biography: 

Dorit Naaman is a documentarist and film theorist from Jerusalem, and a professor of Film, Media, and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. Her in-production collaborative project The Belle Park Project is situated in Kingston, Ontario, and harnesses creative practice to make visible, legible, and audible both colonial and environmental violence, and also resistance, resilience, and re-naturalization, in a complex urban park/former landfill. Dorit is also engaged in a collaborative project on planning and mapping participatory media. She has previously researched film and media from the Middle East, specifically focusing on nationalism, gender, and militarism.

Mona Hajjar Halaby is a Palestinian American educator and writer residing in California. She is interested in the social history of Palestine, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, and has published several articles on that period in the Jerusalem Quarterly. Her archive of old photographs of Jerusalem and its people is on Facebook at “British Mandate Jerusalemites’ Photo Library.” She is a consultant, researcher, and tour guide in the Jerusalem, We Are Here interactive documentary. Her memoir In My Mother’s Footsteps: A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home was published in August 2021 by Thread.

Marina Parisinou was born in Cyprus to a Greek Jerusalemite mother and a Cypriot father, and was weaned on stories of life in Palestine. Following a career in IT, she now splits her time between San Francisco and Nicosia working on family history projects. She publishes her research into her maternal family’s history on her blog, “MyPalestinianStory.com.” She is one of the participants in the Jerusalem, We Are Here interactive documentary and an associate producer of the project. Marina is currently researching a book on the January 1948 bombing of the Semiramis Hotel in Qatamon, Jerusalem.