Diplomat wife dies after forced to renew Jerusalem permit 18Dec11

Ma’an News Agency  –  17 December 2011

LONDON (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities forced the wife of the Palestinian ambassador to the UK to return to Jerusalem to renew her residency status during chemotherapy treatment, British media reported on Friday.

Samira Hassassian died in August aged 57 after she contracted a virus on the return flight to the UK in the midst of cancer treatment, her husband Manuel told The Guardian newspaper.

A spokesperson at the Israeli embassy in London denied Samira had been refused an extension of her residency, telling the paper “If there is a health issue there is no question that she would have had to travel.”

Palestinians have to renew their residency status in East Jerusalem with the Israeli authorities every two years. Hassassian said his wife, who was a US-trained chemist and lecturer in business studies, was determined not to lose her right to live in East Jerusalem.


OBITUARY  –  The Guardian

by Michel Massih

My friend Samira Hassassian, who has died of cancer aged 57, worked tirelessly for the rights of the Palestinian people and supported several charities connected with the art world, in particular the El-Shashat charity devoted to promoting Palestinian films. She shared these passions with her husband, Manuel Hassassian, who became the Palestinian ambassador to the UK in 2005.

Samira was not a simple diplomatic “adjunct”. She sought to promote trade by encouraging Palestinian craftsmen to come to Britain to exhibit their products. She was a patron of Medical Aid for Palestinians and she worked hard to bring medical assistance to thousands.

Samira was born in Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem. Her family were part of the Christian Palestinian community there. Her father, Jabra Araj, was an ear, nose and throat specialist. Her mother, Lydia, founded a number of charities. Samira read chemistry at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, then continued her education at the American University of Beirut. From there she went to Toledo University, Ohio, to continue her studies in chemistry. She combined her BSc in chemistry with an MBA in business studies. On completion of her studies she worked at Procter & Gamble. She later lectured on business studies at Bethlehem University.

At Birzeit University, Samira met Manuel. They married in 1977. Their house in Chiswick, west London, became an essential port of call for members of the British-Palestinian community. Samira was a great listener and supported the youth of the community in practical ways. She was a passionate chef. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than to cook for family and friends. In her spare time she wrote poetry in Arabic. The essence of one of her poems was a longing to be reunited with the soil of Palestine. She longed to return and sit in the shade of the olive trees of her beloved Beit Jala, where she asked to be buried.

Samira is survived by Manuel and three children, Nadine, Tamar and Sarkis.

(www.australiansforpalestine.net / 20.12.2011)


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