Book discussion on Palestine’s history and heritage at Birzeit Museum

Birzeit University’s Museum held a book launch and discussion of the book “The Ever Elusive Past: Discussions of Palestine’s History and Heritage” on November 25, 2019. In ten chapters, the book presents lectures by Thomas L. Thompson and Ingrid Hjelm, two Danish researchers and professors emeriti of the University of Copenhagen. They were given at Hebron University, the Biblical School, the Palestinian Museum, the Department of History and Archaeology at Birzeit University, the Institute of Archaeology at Al-Quds University and the Arab American University.

Published with the support of The Danish House in Palestine, the lectures present a critical revision of the biblically oriented traditional, ethnocentric history of the region. They support the construction of a comprehensive narrative of Palestine’s history from the earliest human occupation of the region to the present.

The 132-page book deconstructs and debunks the biblical myths that have been weaponized by the Zionist ideology and used as propaganda to make historical claims about their rights over Palestine and emphasizes the importance of establishing a multicultural and inclusive history of Palestine. 

Nazmi Al Jubeh, the director of the museum, praised the book for providing a new, critical approach to Palestine’s history, focusing on the mechanisms by which Israelis have used history to serve their Zionist narrative and project.

Published by Dar Al-Nasher in Ramallah with an introduction by Hamdan Taha, the book was designed by Natalie Najjar, proofread by Issam Halyqa, and edited by Tahseen Yaqeen.

Thompson is an anthropologist who has produced more than twenty books―five of which have been translated into Arabic―and 170 lesser works related to the history of Palestine and biblical literature. He worked at the University of Copenhagen from 1993 to 2009, and served as a research fellow for the “Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients,” a collection of maps of the Middle East, from 1969 to 1976.

Hjelm served as director of the Palestine History and Heritage Project from 2014 to 2017. She has authored and co-authored a number of books on the history of Palestine, including “The Samaritans and Early Judaism” (2000), “Jerusalem’s Rise to Sovereignty” (2004), “New Information about the History of Ancient Palestine” (in Arabic; 2004), “Myths of Exile” (2015), and “A New Critical Approach to the History of Palestine” (2019).