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. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. (With major assistance from Fareed Taamallah, my colleague in Ramallah)
As Israel prepares to extend its rightful sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), we bear a historic – and moral – responsibility to accurately call this event what it is: reunification. Israel is reuniting families, communities, and the Jewish people. It is reuniting with its history, which stretches back thousands of years. It is reunifying the traditions and culture that have survived and even thrived through adversity, animosity, and the horrors of countless wars….
—It’s not ‘annexation’; it’s reunification, By Gerard Filitti, in The Times of Israel (June 28, 2020)
Khadija Alazza (Um Ghazi) was born in 1932 in a small village between the flat land of the coastal plain and the mountains to the east, which she described as a paradise. “We lived the best of life; we planted wheat, barley, corn, sesame, tomato and okra, in addition to olives, apples, figs, cactus and almonds, and we were self-sufficient.”
The village of Tal Essafi is located on a hill between Hebron and Ramleh, bordered by the villages of Ajoor, Dirdaban, Moghlis and Berkusia. Moreover, Jews built a kibbutz named Kfar Menachem on Palestinian land between Tal Essafi and Masmiyi. At the edge of the village, there was a water storage shed where water pumped from the well was stored in the water tanks. Khadija’s father owned much land, and plowmen and harvesters worked with him. She was not required to work in farming, and so was spoiled.
The Jewish gangs, especially the Haganah [one of the precursors of the Israeli army], began to attack the Palestinian villages after they had conquered cities. Agrarian people heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin and were frightened. Jewish gangs displaced Arabs from one village to another. “It was midsummer and the people had already harvested; they had laid down the piles of wheat to be threshed. Some Palestinians resisted the gangs but had only a few old guns. They were not able to respond to the large attacks by Jewish gangs. Khadija says: “The gangs surrounded the village from the west side and left the eastern side open, and killed a number of people of the village. Our fighters withdrew, and we fled to the nearby village of Ajoor, walking on foot and without carrying anything with us. After a day and a night of walking we arrived in Ajoor.”
Khadija spent three days with her family in Ajoor. “The people of Ajoor kindly received us; they fed and accommodated us in their homes.” Then the Zionist gangs attacked Ajoor, and the people again fled to the east, this time to the village of Beit Jibrin, which is located in a high area. People walked two days without water. They stayed in Beit Jibrin 3-4 months, and then Jewish gangs started attacking Beit Jibrin. There was strong resistance which lasted for three days. “They bombarded the town with artillery and warplanes, and people fled into the caves in mountains. The gangs entered the town from the west, and we again fled east. We walked for 3 days, and we passed through the village of Ithtna and slept there for a night. We continued 2 days more walking until we arrived in Hebron.”
“We sat under the vineyards for twenty days, and there were lots of displaced people. A friend of my father from Hebron named Haj Osman al-Hamour, was looking for us, took us to his house, and we lived all summer and winter in his house. There was much snow that year.
“Due to cold weather, the Jordanian army came and took the people to the mosques. Some people went to the caves, and when the snow came down, they died there.
“We spent a year and a half in Hebron, during which my brothers were ‘infiltrating’ into the ‘occupied land,’ that is, into our own village, to bring food, wheat, and money from our house in Tal Essafi. My father did not like what my brothers did, and decided to go down to Jericho to prevent his children from infiltrating. We had settled in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho and my brothers worked in the citrus fields because they were good farmers.
“I married Mahmud Sharqawi, a refugee from Kafr Ana, and we moved to the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. After the 1967 war, my parents and siblings were displaced to Jordan, while I stayed in the West Bank. In 1975, my husband died, and I remained with my children and daughters in the Amari camp.
After the setback of the 1967 war, Khadija went to Tal El Safi several times with her children—the last of which was in 1998—and found the village completely destroyed. On the ruins were some fig trees and cactus. Part of the mosque was still standing. Um Ghazi lives now with her children in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah and visits her siblings in Jordan from time to time because they are forbidden by Israel to return or visit Palestine. Um Ghazi bemoans the homeland and her life there. She remembers the pile of wheat which remained un-threshed. She wishes the time will come when she can die and be buried in her hometown.
Khadija Alazza bemoans the pile of wheat, which remained un-threshed, (from which I draw this blog), by Fareed Taamallah (2019)
Lost land: Nakba survivors recall rural struggle in Mandate-era Palestine, also by Fareed Taamallah (2020)
TO BE CONTINUED