Alami Family, al-

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A leading Arab family in Jerusalem that claimed direct descent from Hasan, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

The Alami ancestors migrated in the seventh century c.e. from Arabia to Morocco, where they adopted the name Alam, from Mount Alam. In the twelfth century Shaykh Muhammad al-Alami assisted Salah al-Din in expelling the Crusaders from Palestine and Lebanon and was granted substantial land, including most of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The family played a prominent role in the civil and religious life of Jerusalem during the following centuries.

Faydi al-Alami (18651924) was the leading family member in the late Ottoman period. He worked in the finance department, as a tax assessor, as district officer of Bethlehem in 1902 and of Jerusalem in 1904, and as mayor of Jerusalem (19061909). He was then elected to the administrative council for the Jerusalem district and, in 1914, to the parliament in Istanbul. He returned to Palestine after World War I.

Musa al-Alami (18971984), Faydi's son, was born on 8 May 1897 in Jerusalem and was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I. Musa studied law at Cambridge University from 1919 to 1924. The British administration appointed him junior legal adviser in 1925, assistant government advocate in 1929, private secretary to the high commissioner in 19321933, and then government advocate until 1937. Musa criticized the British tax policy that increased rural indebtedness and thereby encouraged land sales to Jewish land-purchasing organizations. He urged the British to balance the interests of the Arab and Jewish communities and to establish a legislative assembly. In June 1936 the high commissioner allowed him to circulate a petition that 137 senior Arab government officials signed, calling upon the government to suspend Jewish immigration as a precondition for ending the Arabs' general strike, which had begun in April.

Alami was fired in October 1937 after the Peel Commission report recommended his replacement by a British advocate. Forced into exile in Lebanon and then Iraq, he served in the Palestinian delegation to the London conference in 1939, then was allowed home to Palestine in 1941. In 1944 Alami represented the Palestinians at the Alexandria conference that established the League of Arab States. Alami had close relations with Arab leaders, notably his father-in-law, the Syrian nationalist Ihsan Jabri. Alami persuaded the conference participants to set up a fund to improve conditions in Palestinian villages and buy land from impoverished farmers, and also to establish information offices abroad to promote Arab perspectives on Palestine. Alami headed the London information office and organized the Constructive Scheme to help villages. In late 1945 the Arab League forced Alami to place these efforts under the Husayni-dominated Arab Higher Committee (AHC). By December 1947 Alami and his brother-in-law Jamal Husayni established rival information offices abroad.

Alami was in London during the Arab-Israel War of 19481949. Israel seized his property in Jerusalem and his agricultural land in the Baysan and Jaffa districts. Afterward, he established the Arab Development Society, which ran an orphanage for refugee boys on reclaimed land near Jericho. Despite the difficulty of growing produce, raising poultry, and promoting dairy products in that saline environment well below sea level, Alami turned the orphanage into a flourishing enterprise. During the 1967 war the Israeli army overran the farm; most of its residents fled to Jordan, but the farm continued, albeit at a sharply reduced level. After Alami's death in 1984, an international board of directors maintained the project.


Furlonge, Geoffrey. Palestine Is My Country: The Story of Musa Alami. New York: Praeger; London: Murray, 1969.

Muslih, Muhammad Y. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Porath, Yehoshua. The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, Vol. 2: 19291939. London: Frank Cass, 1977.

Ann M. Lesch