April 6, 2011 (Towson, MD): In 2005, Kimberly Katz, of Towson University's Department of History, met Dr. Samir ’Amr by chance while finishing her first book. Years later, Dr. ‘Amr entrusted Katz with researching, translating, and publishing his father’s diary, which contained the young Palestinian man’s reflections and thoughts during World World II. With funding from the Palestinian American Research Center, Katz traveled to Hebron on the West Bank and in the Jordanian capital of Amman, where she interviewed 'Amr’s family members, including his widow and his youngest sister. On returning to the United States, Katz examined the British Mandate for Palestine during the period Sami ’Amr kept his diary. Katz explains:
The kind of social history that Sami’s diary represents is rare for the study of Palestine in the 20th century, but it provides an exciting opportunity to understand what life was like for one Arab, and indeed many young Arabs, in Palestine as their world changed due to British imperial rule in their country, which facilitated Zionist immigration to Arab Palestine and led to the establishment of the state of Israel and the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs from their homes and land in 1948.
During the time period he kept the diary, Sami ‘Amr was 17-21 years old – the same age as many college students. Katz recognized an opportunity to share with her students a different historical perspective which “reflect[s] the stage of life that college students pass through: completing an education, finding a meaningful job and a life partner.” The diary served as a jumping off point for studying the period of the British Mandate in Palestine , and students produced their own research papers and bibliographies of sources. In addition, studying early translations of the diary showed students what academic research their professors engaged in beyond the classroom.
By integrating her personal research with her teaching, Katz provided an environment to inspire student interest in the British Mandate. Several of Katz’s students did particularly good work on the diary and presented their original research and interpretations at the Student Research and Scholarship Expo. In addition, three of the students' work has been collected as part of the Palestine Poster Project Archives (pictured at right). Katz’s work on the diary was recently published as A Young Palestinian’s Diary, 1941-1945: The Life of Sami ‘Amr.
For her next project, Katz is examining “urban heritage in the Tunisian city of Qayrawan, the first city built by Muslims in North Africa during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. “
Office of Sponsored Programs & Research