BBC World Service: Miriam and Youssef

Miriam and Youssef’ is a 10-part radio drama from the BBC World Service about the founding of the state of Israel between the years 1917 – 1948. The story is narrated by the two central characters, Miriam Cohen, a young Jewish refugee from Poland, newly arrived in Palestine with her mother, and Youssef Bannourah, a young Arab from the village of Deir Yassin. The latter is not very good at the family trade of stonemasonry but is fortunate to acquire a mentor in Sgt Harry Lister, British Custodian of the Holy places in Jerusalem. Also featured is Yeshoah, a radical young Zionist kibbutznik who eventually marries Miriam. Some historical figures appear later as the drama develops.

The activities of this central group stretch plausibility at times as the series attempts to portray the violent and complex story of the British Mandate in Palestine. The eponymous pair lurch from peaceful idealism to terrorism and back. The Jewish mother is constantly mithering. Youssef’s father, who expresses Uncle Tom attitudes towards Britain, later becomes patsy for the manslaughter of a Jewish woman when men from the village in attack a neighboring kibbutz. Harry Lister is sent home in disgrace after the 1929 riots but apparently succeeds so well at his desk job that he returns five years later as Assistant Director to the High Commissioner, sporting the rank of major.
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