Friday, May 05, 2006

Never Far From Home

n 1967, as my family was huddled in the hallway of our home in Jerusalem to avoid getting hit by stray bullets, Montreal was welcoming the world to it's Worlds Fair. As we were in 23-hour a day curfew with almost nothing to eat or drink, Montrealers were sharing their good nature, food and drink with hundreds of thousand of tourists. As the bodies of Jordanian soldiers rotted in the streets of Jerusalem after the 6-day war, here in Montreal they were basking in the sunny glare of the world.

The theme for the 1967 Worlds Fair? "Man and His World"...if they only knew...

One of the many talk pieces of the Worlds fair that year was the building pictured above, aptly called Habitat '67. Unlike many of the other buildings erected that year for the fair, this building continues to stand today. It is one of the more interesting parts of the Montreal landscape for me as a Palestinian, for it's uncanny resemblance to a Palestinian village carefully perched on an ancient hillside in the Holy Land.

After years of wondering, I decided to do some research and discovered that it was designed by renouned architect Moshe Safdie based on his Masters thesis at McGill University here in Montreal. Now here's the irony, Moshe Safdie was born in the town of Haifa, he moved with his family to Montreal when he was a teenager, a move he disliked as a dedicated Zionist! 18 years after Zionists in Palestine had destroyed nearly 500 Palestinian villages trying to create the illusion of a "land without a people", a self proclamed Zionist was re-building this one here! I was amazed and puzzled at this find. Was he subconciously lamenting what had been done? Wishing to make amends somehow?

An additional irony, as if mirroring what happened in Palestine, Habitat '67 was designed as 'affordable housing', housing for everybody, but has become a building for only Montreal's elite.

I feel somehow this building is here as a monument to remind me of who I am, where I come from and the work that needs to be done to rebuild Palestine to it's former inclusive nature...a FREE and United Palestine!


Sophia said...


This is an interesting post. I didn't know this aspect of the story of habitat 67. The only thing I knew is that it is for rich people and it is often featured in films made in Montreal. Does the architect still live ? It will be interesting to have his version of the story.

Palestinian Princess said...

HOLY MOTHER Abu-Issa!! You are so AMAZING and your posts are always a great read. I am so happy that you started blogging. Reading this post was like watching one of those twilight zone episodes. I love it! I WANNA KNOW MORE!

Abu-Issa said...

Lucy thank you for that, you know it means a lot to me as I too admire what you're doing!


Abu-Issa said...


This is of course my interpretation of Moshe Safdie's Habitat '67...what his intentions were I really don't know.

Moshe Safdie has designed many other buildings including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ottawa City Hall, Vancouvers Lbrary Square and many buildings in Jerusalem including a buliding at Ben Gurion International Airport so he's a busy guy!

As far as I know he is still alive, last year he became a Companion of the Order of Canada. It would be interesting to get his story on the building...


shlemazl said...

And here is why you can forget about "United Palestine":

tomer said...

Shlemazl, it's sad that you post such irrelevant content and try to fuel fires.

tomer said...


Your view on Habitat 67 resembling a Palestinian village is interesting. I was wondering what makes it look particularly Palestinian to you, and not Bolivian or Greek?

We all see the world through different eyes.

Your post has caused me to do some research about Moshe Safdie and I'm happy to have been exposed to something new. Thank you.

shlemazl said...


It seems relevant to me. The fires are well fuelled - have a look at the wroldnetdaily link. I was just trying to show why united palestine is such a utopia.

tomer said...


You showed that extremists exist... That's nothing new. I feel your point was more blaming the Palestinians than anything else.

In my opinion it's just counterproductive. But I guess you have a different goal.