The Oranges Remember

Nuha Batshon: When Memory Becomes an Act of Reconstruction

In 1948, Nuha Batshon, like other Palestinians, was ethnically cleansed from her home in the Ajami neighbourhood in Yaffa. She and her family ended up in Amman.

Batshon was 12 years old at the time. The whole experience was so traumatic that it caused her to undergo memory loss: she was no longer able to recall any details about Yaffa and her life there before the Nakba. Instead, she relied on the recollections of friends to piece together the details of her life.

When Batshon was 14 years old and on a trip to Sorrento in Italy, the landscapes that resembled Palestine evoked her memories. As if through a dam that had collapsed, the smell of orange blossom and lemon in an Italian grove brought her memory back to life, recalling her childhood and life in Yaffa before the Nakba that her mind had blocked.

After her memories were returned, Batshon feared losing them all over again. So, she began writing down her childhood memories, family anecdotes, and all the minute details of her life in Yaffa. This is how her passion for collecting traditional Palestinian embroidered thobes (dresses) and paintings began, to safeguard these memories forever.

Batshon took on years of collecting fueled by her determination to preserve collective Palestinian memory. She donated part of her ethnographic and artistic collection to the Palestinian Museum’s permanent collection, to which she entrusted its appropriate care and that it be made accessible to the general public.

Nuha Batshon is a journalist who was born in the city of Yaffa in the 1930s. Batshon witnessed the Nakba in 1948, which caused her and her family to be ethnically cleansed to Amman. She worked in the educational field in Jordan and Bahrain before joining the British Broadcasting Corporation in the late 1950s and later working in Jordanian radio and television as the first woman journalist. She eventually began working in antiques and fine arts and opened a gallery called “The Gallery” to display these pieces. Batshon is the author of A Nun Without a Monastery (2010), an autobiography.

To listen to the podcast "The Oranges Remember", please click here.