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Views of Palestine: perspectives and experiences from the British Mandate

Anne Lineen, Curator of the “Britain in Palestine” Exhibition

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Palestine was depicted to Western audiences as archaic, primitive and unchanging; the people of the country existing only as extras and props in the popular Bonfils postcards or Underwood and Underwood stereoviews. These beautiful and beguiling images created an imagined landscape that served only as the setting for Bible stories.However, events in Palestine, both before and during the period of British rule,can only be explained by representing the aspirations, expectations and anxieties of the people who lived in Palestine, and those who came to live and serve there. For the exhibition on the Palestine Mandate therefore, Anne Lineen wanted to find and display images that hinted of a more complex and human reality in Palestine. In this lecture she will talk about her search for alternative images of Palestine, photographs depicting real-life stories, thatcreated a picture of Palestine as a ‘lived-in’ place, scene of complex lives, hard work and difficult choices. Well-worn and much loved family snapshots in private collections, beautiful studio portraits that survive in public archives, and pages from albums proudly compiled by Palestine Policemen or British soldiers – all these created a rich tapestry of images that conveyed the complexity, the drama and the trauma of life in Palestine under the British Mandate. 

The photo with the large mirror: taken in our house in Haifa in the late 1930s. It shows my young elegant father (Elias Massoud Raffoul) in front of the mirror, with the mirror images of his close friend YousefShukair (sitting) and another unidentified friend (standing). They were all ham-radio enthusiasts and my father built that station by himself. He left it behind (with that mirrored dresser) when we were expelled. But when we settled in Tripoli Lebanon, he built another one! He became a member of the Lebanon Ham-Radio Association (or similar name) and was the first one to have linked, in the 1950s, with the largest number of the world ham-radio members and got a certificate for that!!’Antoine Raffoul, Palestinian architect now living in London, email to curator.By kind permission of Antoine Raffoul.

Leah and Martin Martins, on the balcony of their flat at Rechovoth, shortly after their marriage, March 1936. Leah is showing off her wedding ring to prove to her mother that she is married. Martin Martins (formerly Martin Schmalz) was a chemo-technician dismissed from his post at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Germany in 1933because he was Jewish. He came to the Department of Chemistry at Manchester University in Britain, then in 1935 was offered a contract at the Daniel Sieff Institute in Palestine by Chaim Weizmann. In 1936 Leah Sandler, his fiancé from Manchester, came to Palestine and they married. In 1939 they returned to England on holiday and were caught there by the outbreak of war. Thereafter Martin worked mainly in Britain. Copyright Manchester Jewish Museum, 1412/102.

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