On Friday, July 15, University of Hartford Professor Richard Freund met with the Mayor of Nazareth, Ramiz Jaraisy, in the Nazareth town hall in Israel, where Freund presented 100 copies of the book, Ottoman Nazareth in Western Eyes, which is the first Arabic language book to chronicle the accounts of the pilgrimage visitors to Nazareth in the 19th century, including the period when Mark Twain wrote Innocents Abroad about his trip to the Holy Land. The purpose of this gift of the newly published books is so that schoolchildren in Nazareth will be able to read, in Arabic, about their native city through the eyes of the hundreds of visitors who came there during that time.
The book also features a number of vintage photographs of Nazareth from the collection of Hazza Abu Rabia, a native of Nazareth who is a faculty member at the University’s Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, of which Freund is the director. Abu Rabia, who is the editor of Ottoman Nazareth in Western Eyes, has been working for more than two years to translate the accounts of roughly 100 travelers and Christians Pilgrims into Arabic and to edit and publish them.
The book offers much more than a physical description of the city and the location of its holy shrines. There are so many accounts that deal with the community of Nazareth, both its Christian and Muslim populations, says Abu Rabia. A number of the travelers, for example, mention in their accounts the traditions and the social life of the population of the city, including marriage ceremonies, burial rituals, holiday celebrations, as well as how the residents made their living.
The book will have its U.S. launch on Oct. 30, at an event that the Greenberg Center will be hosting at the University of Hartford.
Freund notes that, “In a time when few other universities in America can say that they are writing modern and ancient history of the region. I am just so proud of this achievement.”
Accompanying Freund to the donation ceremony and acting as a translator was Maha Darawsha, who is also a faculty member at the Greenberg Center and the wife of Abu Rabia. Freund and Darawsha, who are both archaeologists, have been in Israel this summer working on three archaeological projects — Mary's Well in Nazareth, the lost city of Bethsaida (which was home to the apostle Peter and the site of several of Jesus’ miracles), and a new excavation in seaside village of Akko.