John Talil’s family has lived in Palestine since the mid-17th century. His father was a dentist, a Jerusalem resident, who had clinics in Nablus and Beit Jala. John Talil was born in 1928 and followed his father’s path, studying dentistry in Beirut. In 1967 he was well-established as a dentist, with his own clinic in Jerusalem. He lived in the Old City in the house that his family had lived in for many years.
On the day the war broke out he was on his way to his clinic to treat a patient who was about to travel to Beirut. Afterwards he planned to go shopping for some equipment he needed. When he came home, his brother told him that war had broken out and he was very surprised to hear that. He went shopping anyway, but found that all the stores he needed were closed so he went to pick up his mail. By then the fighting has started in the city, and he heard shooting from direction of the Tower of David. It was only then that Talil realized that the war had truly started and he hurried back home through the alleys and streets.
The Talil family hid in their house throughout all the days of the war. They taped the windows to prevent them from shattering. A few days later, Talil saw soldiers in the streets, and thought they were Iraqis because of their uniforms. Only when he heard them speak did he understood that they were Israelis. He recognized the Hebrew because both his father and he himself had Jewish patients and friends before the 1948 War.
This was the second time that John Talil’s life had been seriously shaken: first, when the British left the city and it changed overwhelmingly and now, when the city was on the brink of another significant change.