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History of the house on N. 23 Bethlehem Rd. in Upper Baq’a Jerusalem

As told to Mona Halaby by Linda Farradj (maternal aunt of Mona’s husband)


I knew only my paternal grandmother, Grammatiki Tadros, who was half Palestinian and half Greek.  Her husband, my paternal grandfather, probably named Ibrahim, must have already passed away before I was born. Their sons who went to South America made a fortune and came back to build a large house on Bethlehem Rd. (Number 23).  

Her kids included seven boys (not in order) - Jalil, Issa, Shukri, Bandali, Andoni, Foteh, Sama’an, and one girl, Almaza.  Grammatiki was a modern woman for her days.  There’s a picture of her in Paris wearing fancy clothes and a big hat with feathers.  My uncles, Jalil, Bandali and Andoni, who came back rich from South America (Bolivia) were one of the first to have a horse and carriage when they lived in the big house on Bethlehem Rd in Upper Baq’a. The first house I remember living in was the biggest house built in Upper Baq’a by my two uncles, Jalil and Bandali. I was probably born in that house (1919). We shared it with my paternal uncles. My family lived in the whole downstairs and my uncles the whole upstairs.  

The house had a circular marble staircase that went upstairs, and two trapezoid balconies on each side of the upstairs. Uncle Bandali was married to a woman named Johara.  He was often reclining on a chaise lounge on his balcony, maybe due to some sort of illness, covered with a blanket which was made of a red fabric on one side, and fur pieces sewn together on the other side. The house was on the main road that went from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

When I was very little I went to a small school named “Miss Brown’s School” (named after a British lady).  It was located right across the street from our house. I remember one day climbing a black mulberry tree in my school’s garden to see the procession of my grandmother Grammatiki’s funeral.  I was not allowed to attend.

This story was told to me: When we lived in the Bethlehem Rd house, my paternal uncle, Andoni, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.  He was a young man. My mother found him bleeding in the upstairs floor of the house with a hole in his head.  She took his head in her lap and tried to put pressure on his wound to stop the bleeding before the doctor came, but it was too late.  It is rumored that he committed suicide because of a complicated and unrequited love story.I loved living in that house as a child, and I will always remember all the wonderful moments spent playing on the staircase and in the garden below.