The photo album traces the story of the Sabella family over several decades and generations, beginning with the Mandate period. The upper middle-class Sabella family (parents Zachariah and Marguerite, and, at the time, their five children) lived in Qatamon in the Western Corridor of the city (i.e., the New City, which is today called West Jerusalem).
In 1947, as violence was escalating in the city, with five children aged under six, the family left their home seeking what they thought was a few weeks of temporary safety. After a year’s exilic stay in Lebanon, they found their way back to Jerusalem. There was no returning to Qatamon, which fell in the part of Jerusalem that had come under Israel control, or to their home, which had been expropriated by the state Custodian of Absentee Property and transferred to new Jewish immigrants, and so they moved into a single room in Bethlehem for a year. As soon as Zachariah got a job in the Jordanian municipality of Jerusalem, the family moved to the crowded Old City.
Despite losing their home and property during the war, and although their postwar lifestyle was a step down to a more lower middle-class existence, the well-connected family was nonetheless able to educate their children in private schools. Consequently, Bernard was eventually able to pursue an education in the United States and return to Jerusalem with his new family, although he relocated outside the Old City. His siblings still hold on to their childhood home in the Old City, the one in which they originally found refuge and were able to keep after the 1967 War.
When the Sabellas drive from East Jerusalem to Qatamon in now-Jewish West Jerusalem to see their family home, they can still see the cedar tree planted by their uncle and traces of their former life.