13.4 C
Friday, June 9, 2023
HomeWorldWitness: 75 years since the Nakba.. Palestinians remember those events and cling...

Witness: 75 years since the Nakba.. Palestinians remember those events and cling to return


The Palestinians commemorate the Nakba on May 15 of each year, while the Israelis celebrate the day before that, the anniversary of the founding of their state.

Seventy-five years after the Palestinian Nakba, the images of the homes they abandoned are still fresh before the eyes of the Palestinians, such as Amina al-Dubai, who describes the city of Lydda, where she was born in 1934, as a “beautiful bride.”

Al-Dubai is one of the 5.9 million Palestinian refugees who are distributed today between the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, according to United Nations figures, and among the few who are still alive from the 760,000 Palestinians who fled their homes during the 1948 war that erupted following the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel. .

According to the Israeli organization Zochrot (Zochrot), which says it is working to uncover historical information related to the Nakba, there are 600 Palestinian towns and villages that were destroyed or abandoned during that war.

The Palestinians commemorate the Nakba on May 15 of each year, while the Israelis celebrate the day before that, the anniversary of the founding of their state.

Seventy-five years after the Nakba, AFP interviewed refugees between the ages of 85 and 98 who lived through the events of the Nakba.

There was no one filming

Al-Dubai recalls how “we used to live comfortably” in Lydda, which today has become a large mixed city in central Israel.

It describes a large water fountain in the middle of the city market, surrounded by shops.

The events that took place in Lod on July 12 and 13, 1948, when the Israeli army invaded the city, are still the focus of intense controversy to this day, as the Palestinians talk about a planned forced expulsion, and massacres that targeted hundreds of civilians and fighters, while the Israelis say that the displacement was voluntary.

But what is certain is that the city emptied nearly all of its thirty thousand inhabitants in one day.

Al-Dubai recalls the day when “the Jews attacked the country,” when she was in her teens. She says, “When the soldiers arrived in Lod, they were wearing keffiyehs, so the residents thought they were from the Jordanian army, before they discovered that they were Jews in disguise.”

“The people took cover in the mosque, and then the soldiers started shooting at them,” said the woman, who suffers from hearing loss today.

The next day, the soldiers destroyed the furniture in the houses and told everyone to leave, according to al-Dabai. She added, “They threatened us with death. The people left while we were with them.”

She recounts that her mother “collected as much clothes as she could,” noting that “there were those who could not take clothes with them, as the shooting did not stop.”

Al-Dubai and her family walked for several days to the Christian town of Birzeit, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, before moving to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where she lives to this day.

Refugees make up more than two-thirds of the 2.3 million population of the Gaza Strip. They refuse to concede the “right of return,” which has been a Palestinian constant since 1948.

Israel rejects the return of the Palestinians. This issue constituted a major point of contention in the negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

In March 2018, for many months, the border area between the Gaza Strip and Israel witnessed intense weekly demonstrations known as the “Great March of Return”, in which tens of thousands of Palestinians participated, demanding the right to return to their towns from which they were expelled in 1948.

Al-Dabai refuses any financial compensation as an alternative to return, and is certain that return will happen “one day.”

After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Al-Dub’i was able to visit Lydda. She recounts: “My grandfather’s house was destroyed, and the houses of our neighbors were inhabited by Jews.”

“No one filmed the massacres as they are today,” she lamented.

After the 1948 war, in which the armies of five Arab countries participated against Israel, the West Bank came under Jordanian control, while the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian supervision.


Israel says that the Palestinians left their villages voluntarily during the battles, and rejects accusations of carrying out massacres. It talks about the establishment of its state on “a land without a people for a people without a land.”

Umm Jaber Wishah was born in 1932 in the village of Beit Afa, near al-Majdal. She was married and had a child when the war broke out.

She says that the Israelis occupied “village after village until they reached our village,” which “was subjected to violent armed attack.”

She continues shedding tears, “At that time, I was preparing bread in the taboon oven. The bullets were like rain without mercy.”

The next day, “they forced us to leave to the (nearby) village of Kretia, and the soldiers captured all the men and boys, and the women and children were left crying over them.”

She notes that she “saw the corpse of a Jew in the corn field”.

She recalls that “a Jewish soldier asked me about my son, saying: Is this a boy or a girl? I told him a girl. I was afraid that they would kill my son Ibrahim.”

Umm Jabr Wishah is one of the nearly 200,000 refugees who have been welcomed into schools, mosques and homes in the Gaza Strip.

Today she says with a sigh: “They told us a week and we will return. They betrayed us and lied to us.”

Weshah stresses that the relationship with the Jews before that was good. “We would not harm them and they would not harm us,” she says.

To this day, Um Jaber Wishah keeps the key to her house in her house in the middle of Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, hoping to return.

Rusty keys

For her part, Ibtihaj Dawlah, who was born in Jaffa in 1935, says: “I will go crawling on hands and feet if they say go back.”

She added that she knows Jaffa “hand by inch”, “a tent in Jaffa, and there is no palace here.”

The Doula family was the first family to live in Al-Shati camp, which was built by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), along with seven other camps in the Gaza Strip in 1951, and has remained there to this day.

Dawla sits on a bed in the lobby of her house in one of the narrow alleys of the camp and shakes four rusty keys, which are what she keeps from her home after displacement.

Her house in the Al-Ajami neighborhood in the center of Jaffa still retains its pink color, and an Israeli woman lives in it, according to what Dawla, who visited it thirty years ago and drank tea in, says.

The Israeli lady asked her, “Why are you crying? I replied, ‘This is my house.'”

She says that the Jews in Jaffa spoke Arabic. And she continues with a smile, “My husband’s brother’s wife is Jewish, and she has three daughters and a son. We left them in Jaffa and abandoned us. We used to visit them, but there are no visits (today), now it is fear.”

Since 2007, Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip, which made leaving the Strip, which is besieged by Israel, almost impossible.

On the day her family was expelled, Ibtihaj was returning home from her school, and she was shocked by the fleeing of the neighborhood’s residents due to the sound of bullets and cannons. She suddenly found herself with her family in a small boat heading towards Gaza.

The woman recalls: “I saw a Jew tied to a truck, and people were throwing stones at him, he was dead.”

Jaffa nights

Abd al-Hadi Zarouk is proud that he was born in the al-Manshiya neighborhood in Jaffa in 1932. Like his father, he worked in an iron turning workshop owned by a Jew named Wagner.

Zarrouk’s family was well-off. His father, who later managed to own a lathe workshop, also owned a 30-dunum grove (citrus field) in the nearby village of Yabna.

He says, “My father saved a lot of money in the Ottoman Bank and built residential buildings for rent, some of which were rented by Jews.”

He refers to the “beautiful” life in a city that had a large number of cinemas and theatres, and he used to play soccer with Jews.

He recalls the existence of “a discotheque near the clock tower, every night there was a party.”

Zarrouk, who now lives in an apartment in the upscale Al-Rimal neighborhood in western Gaza, insists on “going back. I don’t want compensation.”

All country in port

Khalil Sarsour is six years younger than Zarouk, and he was also born in Mansheya.

And he says: “The Jews took over the facility and wiped it out. Those who remained alive went out to the accommodation center in the government palaces.”

However, he asserts that the Israelis “destroyed the Saraya and nothing was left.”

He said: “I was a child, and the Jews began to beat us with mortar,” adding: “The people of Jaffa fled to the church, which could not accommodate the people, so they resorted to the stores of goods. The whole country was in the port.”

For her part, Zakia Muhammad Abu Sweilem recalls that “the Haganah Jews attacked” her village of Aqer near Ramleh, and “people carried their belongings and fled, either on foot or on donkeys, for fear of a massacre, as in Deir Yassin.”

Abu Sweilem fled Aqer, in which she was born in 1935, to the nearby village of Al-Maghar, and from there to the village of Yabna, 24 kilometers from Jaffa.

She says that her uncle was wounded in the stomach by shrapnel from bombs fired by an Israeli plane and died and was buried on the road while they were fleeing.

A map and a wheat mill

Hassan al-Kilani was born in February 1934 in the village of Brier in the Gaza district. Today, he hangs in his house in the al-Sabra neighborhood in central Gaza a map of this village that also includes the names of its families before the Nakba. He keeps a manual wheat mill and five copper coffee pots that his father took with him when he fled.

According to accounts, the village was besieged from three sides, and the northern side remained open for the people to exit towards neighboring cities and then to Gaza.

Al-Kilani says, “They killed children and adults, even livestock, camels and cows, and burned the country. They expelled the people by force of arms.”

The 80-year-old saw Israeli planes resembling agricultural pesticide spraying planes “dropping barrels of gunpowder, so people feared for their lives and fled” towards Gaza.

Kilani says he is a realist, “No matter how strong we (the Arab countries and the Palestinians) are, we will not reach the strength of Israel.” Despite this, he believes that “our hope is in the resistance.”

Village headman

Muhammad al-Hilu was the only one in his village, Beit Jirga, near Gaza, who could read and write, so he was chosen as its chosen one.

Al-Hilu, who keeps a key, birth certificates, a passport and papers for land ownership, says, “The British supported the Jews with weapons. As for us, they imprisoned us and imposed fines on us if we carried a weapon.”

He considers that “Israel does not want reconciliation,” so “there is no return except through resistance,” for him.

He adds, “The Arab countries came to save us and drowned us.”

And he continues that his house in Al-Rimal neighborhood in Gaza “is not equal to the taboon oven in Beit Jarja.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

Latest stories