Our Jerusalem is a novel written with the objective of raising awareness of the Palestinian cause to the average reader. The hero of the book is a young Palestinian, Sayyid, who, at the age of fifteen runs away from his home in a West Bank refugee camp. He sneaks into Jerusalem, and, though constantly in fear that he will be picked up by the local police, finds inspiration and wonder in the ancient city. Days later, starving and filthy, he is rescued by an English-speaking family who take him in as a sort of foster child. Sayyid, who is very bright, flourishes in the rich environment of the city and eventually receives a scholarship to study in the United States.
His years in Jerusalem change his life forever. In Jerusalem, he discovers his talents, his identity, his strengths and weaknesses and thus charts his course for the future. Before he leaves for college, he meets and falls in love with Rachel, a former Israeli soldier who agrees to become his wife when he returns from the States.
Along the way, Sayyid's path crosses that of Xavier, a washed-up nightclub singer of Syrian and African heritage, whose main purpose in life seems to be causing as much destruction as possible in the lives of those around him. The book contrasts the manner in which the two men deal with the presence of the new, aggressive young state within the framework of their own ancient civilizations: Sayyid's attempt to find justice and economic vitality for his people, and Xavier’s quest for personal financial gain and power by manipulating the situation for his own purposes. Each of them focuses on Jerusalem as the place he needs to conquer, so to speak, to achieve those goals, with very different final results.
In this scene, Sayyid, as a college student in the United States, has been invited to give a speech about his homeland to a group of Jewish students who have formed a club in order to combat campus acts of anti-Semitism. At this point in his life, he is under a great deal of stress, gaining weight and struggling with feelings for his red-headed, Irish-American friend, Erin.
The speech does not go as planned. He is shocked at the apathy of the Jewish students toward the land he holds so dear. He questions them, trying to probe their understanding of the situation in Palestine, trying to get them to focus on that which he considers to be the real issues; those that concern the breaches of international law by Israel, resulting in his peoples' loss of their land and cultural identity.
Please read and think carefully about Sayyid's impassioned speech, for his dedication is mirrored by thousands of others who have suffered the same losses, and who seek after justice and freedom.