MY POSTING DATE, MAY 15, 2020, is NAKBA DAY
From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.
Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in April and May 2020. (The immediate threat of Coronavirus infection has eased in Israel and Palestine, so Andrew has been able to reopen his guesthouse, his only source of income. But as of this writing, he has no guests.) This is part four. (Revised with new photos on June 2, 2020)
Flowers are appearing on the earth, The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.
—The Song of Songs 2:12,13
Family and Identity
ANDREW: The grandfather of my wife actually is British. He was here during the Mandate period between the two wars. And he was some kind of officer. I don’t know. We have no idea about him.
SKIP: Your wife’s grandfather?
Yes. So he just disappeared. We don’t know if he was killed or he just left his daughter, my wife’s mother, in some monastery and he went back. We don’t know. We only know his first name and his family name and maybe his rank. He was a British soldier, major or something like that. And his full name is Alfred Williams. So you know, we have roots also in Britain.
Could you outline more of your wife’s story regarding immigration and travel?
My wife’s story. Her father is from a small village in the Galilee named Jish or Gush Halav in Hebrew. Very near the Lebanese border. They are from a Maronite church. Her father passed away a few years ago. He was a worker, a builder. Her mom was the only person from her family that she knew about. Her father was British and her mom was a German Jew. They had a gene test and they found out that 25 percent of her family is Ashkenazi Jewish.
Actually, not my children. My children did not have their genes tested. It was their second or third cousins. They have the same genes. And [Andrew’s wife’s mother] was left in a monastery to be taken care of when she was 4 or 5 years old. And her father didn’t show up and her mother never showed up. So she was an orphan, actually, for most of her life. She refused to dig into her history. We could not convince her to try to find out about her family. She thinks that it will open a lot of wounds and she refused.
She stayed in the monastery until she married. Lived in a monastery until she met somebody. They had seven kids. Large family. I think that she had a lot of kids because she didn’t want to be alone. [Other than her immediate family] she has no family, no sisters and brothers, no aunts and uncles, nothing. She has nothing. The nuns that raised her are her family.
And she feels like she is an Arab. I think that the nuns were aware of her being left alone and maybe they thought that being raised as an Arab will give her more chances to be involved in the community. Still, she is a Christian and most Christians are Arab in this land. On the other hand, Arab is not a genetic issue, it is language, costumes, food, and habits. I believe she learned all of that and she sums up the story of a lot of nations that adopted Arab culture and became Arab. She speaks French because she was raised in a French monastery, St Joseph in Haifa. Later the monastery moved to the nearby town of Isfiya.
She feels more Christian than Arab; I can understand that.
You identify as Christian. What does that mean?
First of all, I’m a human being. OK. But a lot of tags are put on us.
Part of our identification is where I am from and my family name. My religion or faith. So the basic and fundamental thing is being a human being. We could not be anything else if we are not a human being. Sometimes we make a lot of problems for our humanity. That’s another issue. But I’m a human being. I am an Arab, a Palestinian by sector. By faith I belong to the class of Christianity, slash Catholicism, from Haifa, an Israeli citizen.
So you go to church?
I’m not practicing so much.
OK. Do you believe in the supernatural?
Yeah. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean that I believe with the blind or covered eyes. No, I am a big questioner. I ask a lot. Listen, we are not going to discuss about religion because it is something very private. So discussion about religion that means you get to the private zone.
Like sex. (laughs)
I won’t ask you how much you earn every year or how’s your sex life. (more laughter)
Why should you need to know that?
That’s not relevant.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, exactly.
I know you’re limited in time, but I wonder if you have about ten more minutes to help me find two villages that are near here. And if you are willing, I have to get my computer from the car so I get the names right.
Yeah. Okay. So let’s meet in my place [guesthouse office].
Okay. That would be easier for you.
Let me pay for the breakfast.
(And off we went to search for—using maps and his extensive knowledge of the region—destroyed Arab village sites that I needed to find for my Nakba work.)
BASIC LAW: ISRAEL – THE NATION STATE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
(Unofficial translation by Dr. Susan Hattis Rolef)
1. (a) The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
(b) The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
(c) The exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People….
NEXT: More Nakba survivors
- Andrew Haddad’s Facebook page
- Andrew Haddad as a Free Mason
- The village of Jish
- From Andrew Haddad, about his son, Assad Joe Haddad, an emergency medical technician in Israel during the Covid-19 Crisis (April 1, 2020)
The Arabs in Israel—Bayan (2017)
Bayan is a quarterly review of Arab society in Israel, published by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University