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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)

PHOTOS

We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.

—Theodor Herzl, Diaries

June 23, 2019, Monday, Ramallah, Occupied West Bank

Trying to recall significant details about the 3 people Fareed and I met last Thursday [June 19, 2019] proved futile. Even with the aid of the photos and the few notes—names, places, and dates, mostly—I couldn’t recall much of significance. Partly this is because interviewing 3 in a row without breaks to record merges those individuals. They all mix together. Who had lived in a village near Jews but had no interaction? Who lived near Jews and had lots of interaction? Who had the father who returned to retrieve property? Etc. So far Fareed wrote that he doesn’t have time to write speaker notes from his notes. He’ll save the notes if I have questions later.

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Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) in the Amari refugee camp

I considered asking him to photograph the notes and send me the photos, for possible later translation, but he might have scribbled so that anyone trying to decipher the notes may not be able. Luckily, I have the audio recording with his periodic translations, so, when needed, I can refer to that. All I need at this early point in developing the series is a few brief quotes, not a summary, but a few dramatic and distinctive details. Bits of stories.

Had I asked the questions rather than he I might have better recall. While he interviewed one person I spoke casually with her daughter, that beauty who I failed to photograph well (blurry). I heard her story clearly and was able to record her stories in my speaker notes. About her wish to move out of the Amari refugee camp and how dangerous playing is for the kids. By the way, I asked about the Amari Play Center, once connected with Friends (Quakers), either the Ramallah Friends School or Ramallah Friends Meeting or both. An old woman ran it, Rosi Greenberg organized a mural-making project. I recall it well. What became of it and the center? I could ask at the school or search my website.

Otherwise I believe I made a decent set of photos.

Fareed asked for photos of himself with the people, which I provided yesterday, in color and black and white, unsure which he’d prefer, and also curious about how they’d look in black and white. I began new collections with these sample photos. (And sent the zip file to Minga a few minutes ago with an invite to swim and bike when I return home, spurred by the recent news that the Charles River annual swim was at first postponed and then finally cancelled because of heavy rains—which can pollute the river, an indicator both of the climate so far this summer in New England and the vulnerability of the river to pollution.)

Fareed with Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) in the Amari refugee camp

June 30, 2019, Sunday, Old City of Jerusalem, Palestine-Israel

Yesterday [June 29, 2019] with Fareed was my final day photographing Nakba survivors; tomorrow with a rented car I begin phase two, find their original sites, Arab villages destroyed by Israel in 1948, and make landscape photos that connect with the portraits. We were in Tulkarm, near the sea, thus flatter, warmer, and much more humid. During the second of 3 interviews, I became drowsy and nearly fell asleep. This loquacious guy, the man we interviewed—Fareed told me later—extended stories past their breaking points. He also insisted on elaborating contexts rather than specifying experiences or stories.

As I mentioned to Fareed later in reviewing our work, when he delays translations I tend to lose interest. The session becomes boring to me. I’ve run out of photographic ideas and struggle to maintain my concentration. I only snapped back when I thought of 3 questions to add to the interview: one was about mode of transport, how people moved themselves and belongings; another I’ve forgotten; and the third, one I’ve never asked before, motivated by a statement someone made to me at lunch during the war and law conference held in Israel Jerusalem, was, would you like to move out of the camp, and if so, why don’t you?

The obvious answer is expense. Land is very expensive, even in Tulkarm which seems not a highly desirable area (unlike Jerusalem and Ramallah, more like Jenin). In my answer, I mentioned outside pressures and governmental restrictions, which might corroborate what the Israeli asking me the question assumed: that the Palestinian Authority forces people to live in the camps to make a political point.  Fareed and I discussed this at length later. The man we interviewed of course would deny governmental pressure. Fareed told me he rephrased the question to our sitter so it would not appear political. He explained that had he asked it straight, does anyone force you to live in the camp, the man would automatically say no because even if someone did force him, he would be at risk politically if he admitted it.

(Later, asking Fareed to clarify this question of political influence, he wrote: “I don’t think that the Palestinian Authority forces people to stay at the camp, most likely the poor people stay at the camp because they can’t afford buying an apartment in the city, while the middle class and rich people move without any problem.”)

The other question might have been about his political activity, in the form of, did you resist the occupation? He said he had, experienced many years in prisons, as had his sons. When I asked specifically what did you do to resist, he said, I worked for Fatah. Fareed explained later that activists cannot be more specific without risking Israel learning about them. So I gather that even tho he’d been punished and was now a very old man, in his 80s, full admission would put him at risk by the Israelis.

Fareed’s father with his grandson, Mohammad
Fareed’s home in the village of Qira, Occupied West Bank—the huge settlement of Ariel in the background

I’ll save further details about the people for my speaker notes. Fareed promised to send me names of people and places by the end of today, and I promised to send him photos of him with the people. We visited 2 refugee camps in Tulkarm, looking much like the other camps—building up, narrow streets, many people, a smattering of shops. The main difference might be the weather.

Fareed told me he’d written on Facebook about another person we’d interviewed and photographed. I should compile his posts, even tho he writes in Arabic. The automatic translation feature might bring back details I’d overlooked. He is surely invested in this project. I think of the first man I interviewed for my coordinator “position,” Mohammed who I’d met outside the Ramallah Friends Meeting and briefly considered working with. Among other benefits Fareed brings to the project—besides expertise, knowledge, investment—he is affable, trustworthy, gregarious, genuine. And he exudes this with people we meet, our local guides and the people we interview and photograph. Whereas all of my previous assistants, such as Mousa, Murad, Ayed, Meras, knew the people we met and thus had already established trust, in most cases with Fareed we had to develop trust instantaneously.

LINKS

Facebook page of Fareed Taamallah

Water in Salfit, sewage from Israeli settlements—my blog in part about Fareed as he guided a small group of us investigators/activists in 2007

Palestinian refugees and the right of return (American Friends Service Committee)
Approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and became refugees as a result of the 1948 war which led to the founding of Israel. None of these displaced persons were ever allowed to return to the homes or communities from which they were displaced and the Palestinian refugee population has continued to grow in the time that has passed since 1948….

Palestinian Refugees (contrary view by the Anti-Defamation League)
The Palestinian refugee issue originated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when five Arab armies invaded the State of Israel just hours after it was established. During the ensuing war, as many as 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in the newly created state as a result of many factors….

Israel’s ‘Independence’ Day, by Ramy Tadros (1995)

To be continued

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A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.
 
—Dorothea Lange

My photographic life began when I was 7 years old on the Southside of Chicago, 1946, just one year after World War Two ended and the US unleashed the first use of nuclear weapons, a period I do not recall but which produced life-long motivations. In that same year, my father Fran gave me my first camera. Seventy two years later, I photograph along several lines: politically-based addressing such knotty topics as the climate crisis, racism (an issue greatly deepened thru my participation in the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage Pilgrimage in 1998-1999), and injustice in Palestine-Israel (begun in 2003 and continuing with a series about people and their descendants Israel expelled from their ancient villages and towns to form the new state, “The Ongoing Nakba”); our precious environment all over New England and much of the US including Quabbin Reservoir, Alaska, and California; indigenous people begun while living on the Lakota Rosebud reservation for one month in 1984; among others. I work with Extinction Rebellion on the Media-Messaging Team and with the Israel-Palestine Working Group of New England Yearly Meeting.

Kodak Brownie camera
Kodak Autographic fold-out camera

Quakers have been enormously supportive in many ways—prayers, criticism, direction, use of my photos, and financially. Much of my photography derives from Quaker theology and practice, most notably John Woolman who visited his then-neighboring Indians (believed to be hostile) in Pennsylvania in 1761, and who strongly addressed racism, even among Friends. He walked his talk, a key principle for me. Dorothea Lange photographing the Great Depression with a Great Heart is a major inspiration. Many in our monthly and yearly meetings working with many tools on various topics, often using art effectively, have mightily influenced me.

Beauty will save the world.

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Idiot”

Dorothea Lange, Texas, circa 1934
Six Tenant Farmers Without Farms, Hardeman County, Texas, 1937

Website

Video

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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)

From Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz

The need to tell our story to “the rest”, to make “the rest” participate in it, had taken on for us, before our liberation and after, the character of an immediate and violent impulse, to the point of competing with our other elementary needs. The book has been written to satisfy this need: first and foremost, therefore, as an interior liberation (SA, 5-6).

(His recurring dream while in Auschwitz:)

This is my sister and some unidentifiable friends and many other people. They are all listening to me and it is this very story that I am telling… I also speak diffusely of our hunger and of the lice-control, and of the Kapo who hit me on the nose then sent me to wash myself as I was bleeding. It is an intense pleasure, physical, inexpressible, to be at home, among friendly people, and to have so many things to recount: but I cannot help noticing that my listeners do not follow me. In fact, they are completely indifferent: they speak confusedly of other things among themselves, as if I was not there… My dream stands in front of me, still warm, and although awake I am still full of its anguish: and then I remember that it is not a haphazard dream, but that I have dreamed it not once but many times since I arrived here… and I remember that I have recounted it to Alberto and that he confided to me, to my amazement, that it is also his dream and the dream of many others, perhaps of everyone. (SA, 53-54)

“The Anti-linguistic Nature of the Lager in the Language of Primo Levi’s
Se questo è un uomo”, by Fabio Girelli-Carasi

PHOTOS

June 21, 2019, Friday, Palestine-Israel

Yesterday [June 20, 2019] Fareed did much more than translate: he took over the task of interviewing, leaving me the duties of photographer and audio engineer (my audio skills have improved markedly since the year before.). Our modus operandi was to run thru the questions together before we met the person, agree that Fareed would ask most of a set of questions that I’ve been using and that are obvious, beginning with name, village, how old during Nakba, the Nakba itself, where to, when, and how, any return visits, family transmission of stories, and sometimes current health and whether it is affected by the Nakba experience and the question of burial in the village.

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Shaker Issa Odeh (Abu Maher) with his son, in his son’s home in Ramallah—Fareed Taamallah on the left,  FaceBooketeer who lives in Ramallah

I’d throw in follow up questions, Fareed as well. He’d interrupt the speaker to translate for me, sometimes letting the speaker continue if he felt the speaker wished not to be interrupted. He took notes. I watched for emotional displays by our sitters. Earlier, I’d studied and, when possible, altered the lighting and placement of people, aware of the background. We’ve not discussed what to do with Fareed’s notes but I’ll suggest he provide me simple notes, key points, not a fully written account. He reminded me that he once worked as a journalist; he certainly has the skills and impulses. I believe he is also definitively committed to this project, feels it deeply, which is crucial. He needs to sell the project to the person and family, i.e., persuade them about my goodwill and authenticity, that I won’t exploit them. Persuasion can be a chore, as happened during the last of the 3 interviews yesterday. A son was skeptical, asked to see examples. I’d forgotten to bring my prints from portrait sessions the year before. So I struggled with my website, finally got one image to display. This seemed to convince him.

Later, Fareed confided that he thought all the interviews the day before went very well, but he didn’t like this last son [who does not appear in any of my photos]. He felt the son had prejudged the project and me when he learned I was from the States. Unlike working with Ayed, Murad, and Mousa, some of my other Palestinian colleagues (Mousa is now touring New Zealand or Australia and another country presumably with his videos and photos), yesterday (possibly on other days) Fareed didn’t know the people. He relies on friends of friends. Yesterday at Amari refugee camp (because the contact had turned off his phone and we couldn’t reach him, infuriating Fareed), we began at a sports club. (The manager of the Educational Bookshop in Jerusalem had suggested asking at sports clubs in refugee camps for participants.) Little by little, Fareed made connections and we found the old woman and her adult children, resulting in a very lively interview.

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Khadija Mohammad Al-Azza (Um Ghazi) with Fareed Taamallah, who has published or will her interview on his Facebook page

Soon I intend to cruise thru the multitude of photos I made yesterday, write speaker notes, and ask Fareed for his notes. We meet again on Sunday afternoon for Kalandia refugee camp.

Yesterday at 2:30 pm I met Fareed at the Ramallah Friends School upper camp, expecting to work together until about 9 pm in the evening, including a visit to his home in Ramallah for dinner. Getting to know Fareed better is one of the chief blessings of this trip. Also meeting his family again, including his son studying civil engineering at Birzeit University. His daughter, Lina, is tall and beautiful and shy; she has recently graduated from high school. Her story illustrates the occupation perfectly:  less than one-year-old, kidney problems from the cistern water which had become polluted and they had no other water, potential kidney failure, mother at night in the rain races to reach the hospital in Ramallah, circumvents the checkpoints, carries Lina for an exam.

Lina needs a transplant, mother offers but not compatible, father offers but his kidney too big for the child. He spreads the word, Anna, an activist Brit living in South Africa offers, problems getting Lina to an Israeli hospital (no facilities in Palestine), problems getting Anna into Israel (because of her activist history), finally succeed, the transplant, Lina lives with Anna’s kidney, and so far as not met Anna (because Anna is banned from entry to Palestine).

I believe I met Fareed thru this story, told me by Hannah Mermelstein, a friend of his—as an activist, journalist, activist farmer, and good person, he has many friends worldwide. As he reiterated parts of Lina’s story, we considered the possible effects if the story had ended tragically. Still, I argued, it would be a useful story to tell: the consequences of the occupation. We also debated the value of storytelling, agreeing that some people with their Nakba stories find the storytelling too painful and might resist doing it. While others, I believe most, find the telling healing and cathartic, as I hope is true for people we interview and photograph. I quoted Primo Levy in Survival at Auschwitz, in short: a recurring nightmare of many prisoners was to find themselves released, yet no one wanted to hear their stories. With the refugees, I do not get this sense of either not wishing to talk or others not wishing to hear. Many times other family members and people outside the family sit in on our interview.

I mentioned to Fareed that 2 nights previously Ayed, another colleague, had toured us thru Aida refugee camp where Ayed lives, because Steve (who I worked with on the Alternatives to Violence Project) hoped to visit a camp. Steve confided to me that his image of present-day Palestinian refugee camp was tents. As might be true for many, who are perhaps influenced by contemporary imagery from Africa and parts of the Mideast or have just not updated their information about Palestine.

Riding back in Fareed’s car, I shared a possibly sinister thought about the right of return: since a fairly high proportion of survivors expressed to us a wish to be buried in their original villages, how about a limited right of return?—their corpses. Fareed winced at this, and pointed out (as someone had earlier that Israelis might vandalize the burials) that this might represent defeat of the right of return. How so? I asked. By suggesting that the only way Palestinians can return is as a corpse.

FareedSkipDrive7676

Fareed and me

During the entire interview sessions, I suffered from a sore eye and a bloated, gassy feeling. Was I about to shit mush? Would my eye become worse? These thoughts distracted me. Extraneous thoughts often distract me. I rarely experience single stream, serial thinking. Nearly impossible to concentrate on the photography while also listening to sitters and Fareed and attending to the audio recorder. Would be much better to expand our field team from 2 to about 5, all proficient in their roles.

Thirty-five years ago, in the pages of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Edward Said made a surprising admission about the limits of fact-based evidence to change world opinion in the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians. Despite withering criticisms of Israeli atrocities during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon documented in the 1982 MacBride report of international jurists, and the detailed descriptions of the unremitting abuses committed by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) in works such as Noam Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, Said reasoned that such “objective” presentations of Israeli criminality invariably failed to convince the public of Israel’s moral turpitude. Probing how Israel had largely escaped international condemnation alongside its success in depicting itself as the beleaguered victim of implacable Palestinian aggression, Said concluded that Palestinians had to frame the conflict in a discourse different than that of fact-based positivism. For Said, such a project had to reside in an epistemological break that would redirect representations of the conflict away from a detached empiricism and toward the virtues of national culture and national historical narration. Two years later, Said himself hinted at what this impulse might entail. In After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives, Said pondered how, “for all the writing about them, the Palestinians remain virtually unknown” and used this observation as a prelude for his narration of arresting images of Palestinians captured by photographer Jean Mohr. In this way, Said concedes to the camera a role in rendering the Palestinians visible while crafting a narrative of the Palestinian encounter with Zionism in a new language.

—Lockdown: Gaza through a Camera Lens and Historical Mirror, by Gary Fields (May 2020)

LINKS

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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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)

We have returned, Young and Powerful
We have returned, We the Mighty
To conquer our Homeland, In a storm of War,
To redeem our land, with a lofty hand,
With blood and fire, Judea fell
With blood and fire, Judea shall rise

—A song sung by a radical political party in Israel, The Zealots, in the 1930s, and published by Uri Avnery, in his magazine, Ha Olam Hazeh, February 5, 1975

PHOTOS

Nakba-Palestine-Israel_DSC3536.jpg

Shaker Issa Odeh was born in 1933 in Al-Malha, a village to the west of Jerusalem. It is bordered by Beit Safafa, al-Katamon, Ein Karem, alJoura, Lifta, Diryasin, and Beit Jala. Most of the villagers were farmers who planted vegetables and fruits. Some of them were laborers working in quarries and stone carving manufacture. The village contained five main clans and was headed by sheik Abdul Fattah Darwish. Al-Malha (means salty) was named after the water spring in the village that contains salty water. The people of the village were all Arabs and no Jews lived there before 1948. Near Almalha, Jews established the settlement of Sharafat, and headed by a man named Sofer. People heard about the massacre of Deir Yassin and were afraid of murder and rape. Some villagers wanted to defend their home and participated in battles that took place in the vicinity, such as in Qastal and Qatmoun.

It was the fasting month of Ramadan (July) when the Jews attacked Al-Malha. People of the village decided to fight, and there were some rebels “Mujahideen” in the village with a few old Egyptian rifles. Each one had only 5 bullets, most of them unusable. Bullets were extremely expensive, half a Palestinian pound for 5 bullets. With their modest rifles, villagers tried to defend the village but could not withstand the Jewish militia. On that day in the month of Ramadan, when the attack was heavy on the village from the western side, men of the village asked women and children to leave temporarily to nearby Beit Jala for protection. At night, the Jewish gangs violently attacked the village and expelled the rest of the inhabitants who had remained. At least three people from the village were martyred. That night, the village was occupied, and men were forced to follow their families who had gone to nearby Beit Jala the previous morning.

Shaker said: “on that day, my father asked my sisters and my mother to move temporarily to Beit Jala. I followed them later in the afternoon walking alone to Beit Jala. We rented a room temporarily. During that night, my father came to Beit Jala, after Zionists occupied had Al-Malha. Then we moved from Beit Jala to Bethlehem where the Egyptian army accommodated refugees in a building named Binny which had been previously a prison for women. 25 refugee families from Ein Kerem, Lifta, Diryasin and Almalha lived in the building. We lived there for 1 year, after which we moved to Ras al-Amud in Jerusalem and then moved to al-Bireh and Ramallah.

Nakba-Palestine-Israel_DSC3558

After 1967, Abu Maher visited Al-Malha village for the first time and found it not destroyed. The houses were there, and Jews from Iraq and Tunisia lived in them. He found that the village mosque had been turned into a bar. Although Shaker holds a Jerusalem ID card and lives in Jerusalem, he is not allowed to return to live in his hometown, simply because he is a Palestinian. Ironically, when he became elderly, he returned once to Almalha, stayed for several days, and watched the sunset and sunrise in his old village. Those were among his best days when he had been admitted to an Israeli hospital built on his village’s lands.

Nakba-Palestine-Israel_DSC3518.jpg

With his son, in his son’s home in Ramallah—Fareed Taamallah on the left, my colleague, journalist, activist farmer, and FaceBooketeer who lives in Ramallah

Nakba-Palestine-Israel_DSC3563

Fareed’s son in the darkest shirt, with his son’s friend

LINKS

TO BE CONTINUED

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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)

Nakba-Amari-refugee-Palestine-Israel_DSC3400.jpg

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)

PHOTOS:

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.

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Tal Essafi, 2013. photo by Liadmalone

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Tal Assif, 2010, from the mound looking east, photo from the internet

Tell es-Safi-2.png

 

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.”

Nakba-Amari-refugee-Palestine-Israel_DSC3409

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.”

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Ajoor/Ajjur, 2019, photo by Skip Schiel

“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.

Jericho_6298 2004 SM

Refugee camp, Jericho, 2005, photo by Skip Schiel

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Jericho, 2015

“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.

Nakba-Amari-refugee-Palestine-Israel_DSC3422.jpg

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.

Cafit030.jpgArcheological site of Gath, in Arabic Tal Essafi, photo from Wikipedia

Nakba-Amari-refugee-Palestine-Israel_DSC3418

With Fareed Taamallah, my colleague, from Ramallah

LINKS

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)

Tell es-Safi

Ibriq (Community)

Palestine Film Institute

TO BE CONTINUED

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On the occasion of the UN-declared International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2019

With continuing gratitude to those who’ve already generously funded my Nakba photographic project, now I seek further funding for “The Ongoing Nakba, photographs of internally expelled Palestinians in the West Bank.” Early in 2020, I plan to return for another two-month trip to locate a few key survivors and sites, like people who lived in Deir Yassin, the site of a massacre; and Lifta, one of the few original villages still reasonably intact. I will need to hire colleagues to help me locate survivors and their destroyed villages.

TO HELP FUND THE NEXT PHASE OF MY PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT, PLEASE GO TO MY GoFundMe campaign. THANK YOU.

The human enterprise, yes….I’m trying to reiterate the possibilities that are held out to us by various horizons. I’ve seen horrible human behavior in so many places. I see the pleasure some people take in injustice, and I see their appetite for the violent enforcement of prejudicial beliefs. The question this forces on us is “Are we ever going to outgrow this hatred of the Other?”

—Barry Lopez

PHOTOS

In the fall of 2018, I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first-generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. In the spring and summer of 2019, I photographed another 24 Nakba survivors. I’ve also photographed many of their original regions, their destroyed villages, sites of expulsion where many had provably lived for multiple generations, now in Israel.

With help from many others, I meet the survivors, now often living in refugee camps in Palestine, interview and photograph them, photograph their current living conditions, and return to their ancestral homes (now in Israel) to photograph. I include photos of where and how they live currently in internal diaspora to contrast with their earlier, often pastoral lives, in destroyed villages—in contrast also to how Israelis are privileged to live. Eventually, I’ll add archival photos of their regions before the expulsion.

The project has 4 parts: black and white portraits, color photos of their current environment, color photos of their former villages and towns, and black and white historic photos.

My immediate goal is what I call a multi-platform book, meaning a traditional photographic book but with links to the videos and audios I’ve made, plus resources like maps, timelines, analyses, etc. An example of this in exhibit form is “The Promised Land,” info here: promisedlandmuseum.org.

Record-of-Teeksa-and-blog-posts-Refugee-Project-second-phase

My overarching goal is to draw attention and activism to this particular issue in the larger struggle for a just peace and full human rights for Palestinians.

Since 2003 I’ve visited the Palestine-Israel, photographing a variety of themes, water, youth, occupation, Gaza, and women, among them. My current project is locating, interviewing, and photographing Palestinians living in yet another of their many diasporas, this one internal, meaning in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. In the fall of 2018, I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first-generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. In the spring and summer of 2019, I photographed another 24 Nakba survivors. Early in 2020, I plan to return for another two-month trip to locate a few key survivors and sites, like people who lived in Deir Yassin, the site of a massacre, and Lifta, one of the few original villages still reasonably intact.

In 1948, Israel expelled some 750,000 indigenous Arabs to clear the land for Jewish settlement, leading to the foundation of the state of Israel. Thus the Nakba (in Arabic), or Catastrophe. Some 5 million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and Gaza—the “internally expelled.” And, with few exceptions, they are not permitted to return to any of their original 400 villages and towns, even for short visits.

Before the Nakba

During and after the Nakba

In Israel, a state established as a national homeland for Jews, in the direct aftermath of one of the most atrocious crimes against humanity,  it is truly mind-boggling that the protection and application of these rights is a struggle. 

Rabbis for Human Rights

For background on the Nakba and refugees, please read the book, “My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century,” by Adina Hoffman, and the article, “Lydda, 1948,” By Ari Shavit.

PALESTINIANS IN THE UNITED STATES DECLARE THAT
FREEDOM IS THE FUTURE-A CALL TO ENDORSE

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From my journal, 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 based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

PHOTOS

The 1948 Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle, also known as the Lydda Death March, was the expulsion of 50,000–70,000 Palestinian Arabs when Israeli troops captured the towns in July that year. The military action occurred within the context of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The two Arab towns, lying outside the area designated for a Jewish state in the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and inside the area set aside for an Arab state in Palestine, subsequently were transformed into predominantly Jewish areas in the new State of Israel, known as Lod and Ramla.

Wikipedia

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Rajab Mustafa Ghanem

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In Israel’s first months, largely Arab cities emptied as inhabitants were forced to flee. Photograph by David S. Boyer / Corbis

 

For this writing I draw gratefully from Fareed Taamallah’s interview in Arabic, translated by him and revised slightly by me. Published on his Facebook page.

Rajab Mustafa Ghanem, 19 years old in 1948, the Year of the Nakba, worked with his father in a grocery store in the city of Lod/Lydd. Hearing about Jews forced to flee from Europe, he believed Palestinians were to live with them and give them shelter because they were victims of war. Forced from his home by what he called “Zionist gangs,” his family fled by foot, carrying no food or water, first to Ramallah, and then by truck to Gaza, the Bureij refugee camp. After Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, he moved to the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. He never saw his city again, nor his father and mother who remained in Gaza and died there. Today, 90 years old, he told us his only wish is to die and be buried in dignity in his hometown, Lod, and not in Amari as a refugee.

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Dahmash mosque, Lod/Lydda

One early morning day in May 1948, the Zionist militia or gangs attacked the city with planes, tanks and artillery and told people to surrender. The men were asked to go to the Dahmash mosque. Many went there and the mosque was filled with men. But there was no room for Rajab and his father. The gangs entered the mosque and ordered the men and boys to lie on the ground, shot and killed hundreds including some of Rajab’s friends and relatives.

The Zionists forced thousands of people of the city, including Rajab and his family, to go east out of the city on foot without allowing them to carry anything, out of town, into the unknown. They walked all day without water or food, and some died on the way. Until they arrived in Ramallah a few days later. Then from Ramallah, he went by truck with his family to Gaza, specifically the Bureij refugee camp. He lived in Gaza until 1967 after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, he moved from Gaza to the Amari refugee camp in Ramallah where he lives with his family to this day. He has not seen his city since 1948, nor his father and mother, who died in Gaza in 1995. Today he is 90 years old and he told us the only wish he has is to die and be buried In Lod, in his hometown in dignity and not as a refugee. 

History of the expulsion in 1948

The Friends’ Play Center in the Amari refugee camp was operated by the Ramallah Friends School, and was located in one of several refugee camps in Ramallah. Thanks to Rosi Greenberg, kids and internationals designed and painted this mural—suggesting their dreams, not their reality (photos from 2007—in 2019 apparently the Center no longer operates).

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Ramallah

Ismail_Shammout's_Where_to_1953..

Ismail Shammout’s “Where to?” (1953)

As the bus drew up in front of the house, I saw a young boy playing in the yard. I got off the bus and went over to him. “How long have you lived in this house?” I asked. “I was born here,” he replied. “Me too,” I said.

—Father Oudeh Rantisi, a former mayor of Ramallah who was expelled from Lydda in 1948, visited his family’s former home for the first time in 1967.

LINKS

Israel’s Law of Return

Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd

Israeli army veterans admit role in massacres of Palestinians in 1948, Published in Middle EastNews (2014)

Tour at al-Lydd – Report (Zochrot, 2012)

Lydda, 1948, By Ari Shavit (2013)

TO BE CONTINUED

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From my journal, 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 based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

(Thanks to Fareed Taamalla)

The world should not have to constantly catch up to what Palestinians have always known about the Nakba… Israel fears the ghosts of its dark and violent origins. Palestinians are those living ghosts. Listen to what they have to say.

Amjad Iraqi, writing about Israel sealing documents that record the atrocities of the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe in 1948 that enabled the creation of Israel

PHOTOS

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Fatima’s sweet smile captivated me, especially when she sang or chanted a sorrowful song about the loss of her home in Beit Nabala. Her smile quickly vanished and grief and tears took over.

She’d married when about 14, probably common during that era, and thus had a child before the Nakba which she must have carried when her family fled the Israeli militias. Her village—stone cutting one industry—about 10 km (3 miles) northwest of Ramla, was connected by train to Tel Aviv. A British military camp was near the village housing soldiers from Africa and India who acted as guards. Villagers and soldiers had no interaction, nor did they with the few Muslim soldiers who prayed in a local mosque. Jews worked inside the camp, also with no village interaction.

However, Arab villagers did interact with Jews who lived in a small settlement between Beit Nabala and the town of Lydda (Lod). They had friendly relations. She told us her father had once asked for water and received it from their Jewish neighbors.

In the first days of the Nakba, village fighters traveled west to help other fighters near Haifa but soon returned to defend their own village. It was being bombed. Villagers fled to Kibiya/Kebbia east of Beit Nabala. During the first day of flight, they sought refuge in another village where they slept under fig and olive trees. This was early summer.

Asked if she and her neighbors knew about the massacre at Deir Yassin, she said they’d heard everyone in Deir Yassin had been killed, some by Jews who’d shared life with the Arabs in that village for decades. Fatima and her neighbors were demoralized even further after they’d learned that a key Arab leader had been killed. News spread rapidly during this period of assault, including the infamous massacre in the Umari mosque in Lydda. There, Israeli militia herded many of the men into a mosque (which I later visited and photographed from the outside) and then shot them.

Her husband returned to Beit Nabala periodically to rescue other villagers and save some plants, this at great risk of being shot as an “infiltrator.” She told us that during World War 1, in 1917, when the British had attacked her village, people had fled and remained away for 14 days, so this time they assumed they’d soon return. Thus, as was true in many attacked villages, people brought very few belongings with them.

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Fatima’s son

According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, in 1992 the village site “…is overgrown with grass, thorny bushes, and cypress and fig trees. It lies on the east side of the settlement of Beyt Nechemya, due east of the road from the Lod (Lydda) airport. On its fringes are the remains of quarries and crumbled houses. Sections of walls from the houses still stand. The surrounding land is cultivated by the Israeli settlements.” She lives now in the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah. 

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Former schoolhouse of Bayt Nabala, presently used by the Jewish National Fund in Beit Nehemia (Thanks to Wikipedia, 2013)

LINKS

‘Raining Bullets on Beit Nabala’ – Beit Nabala, Ramle district (from BADIL, a video interview with Miriam Backer, former resident of Beit Nabala)

Bayt/Beit Nabala (from Zochrot)

TO BE CONTINUED

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From my journal, 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 based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

(Thanks to Ayed Al-Azza)

Of all the ironies of history none throws a more sinister light on human nature than the fact that the new-style nationalist Jews, on the morrow of the most appalling of the many persecutions that their race had endured, should at once proceed to demonstrate, at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs whose only offence against the Jews was that Palestine was their ancestral home, that the lesson learnt by Zionists from the sufferings which Nazis had inflicted on Jews, not to forbear from committing the crime for which they themselves had been the victims, but to persecute, in their turn, a people weaker than they were.

—Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, abridged ed, vol 2, 1957 

June 10, 2019, Monday, Bethlehem, Palestine-Israel

PHOTOS

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From my speaker notes:
Abdul Qader Hassan Monjid Al-Lahham
Interview assisted by Ayed Al-Azza, my colleague from Aida refugee camp
June 9, 2019
In Deheshe/Dheisheh refugee camp
From the village of Beit Etab/Bayt Itab 11 miles west of Jerusalem

  • Like other refugees, he is reluctant to engage in yet another interview.
  • Age 29 when expelled.
  • Ayed didn’t know him (but referred to him as uncle, an honorific, even tho not-blood related).
  • Lives with 2 unmarried daughters (about 68 and 72), sons and daughters, including great-grandchildren.
  • He’d worked for UNRWA in charge of water.
  • At first, he was separated from family, including his wife.
  • After a few days, the family reunited.
  • He was devoted to his sheep.
  • He’d been arrested near the village of Beit Nattif when with his sheep. The Israelis confiscated all his sheep and never returned all of them.
  • He sold his remaining sheep at a price less than their worth.

Ayed and I met him as Abdul left a small store with a bag of fruit. He was much bent over, walked next to Ayed. I photographed as they walked thru the camp to home. He looks easily the part of an aged refugee. He didn’t change facial expression much, looked down mostly, and his thick long eyebrows tended to conceal his features.

Nes Harim-Dehesh-earth SM

Nes Harim, the westernmost point on this map, is an Israeli moshav (cooperative agricultural community) built on the lands of Beit Etab, which of course is not included. (click HERE for actual map)

I was with Ayed from 9:30 am when he generously picked me up in front of the Manger Square hotel, and, nearly 6 hours later dropped me there after the interviews. Generously he bought me lunch. I raised the question of payment. At first, he asked me what I thought fair. I returned the question to him. $200, he said. $200 seems high, I replied, and suggested half. Oh no, can’t. So we settled on $150 which I calculated to be about $40 per working hour (because the other 2 were largely social and not directly related to the project).

I hope you don’t hate me now, he said. No, not at all, I can appreciate all that went into the organizing before the interviews. And he explained: finding people, overcoming people’s reluctance, deciding times, etc. Lots of unpaid work, like a teacher not paid for preparation and follow up.

Today I meet Fareed [my colleague on this project, helping me find and interview people] in Ramallah, traveling thru the Valley of Fire that so terrifies my friend Alicen and me. Someone told me death by auto accident is the largest category of death in the West Bank. So, if unlucky today, this might be my last journal entry. Will the photos survive? Will anyone be able to work with them to continue or complete the project?

LINKS

Deheshe/Dheisheh refugee camp

Beit Etab (video)

Al-Ahram
March 15, 2000

…The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is a fundamental right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the European, the American and the African Conventions on Human Rights;

The right of the Palestinian refugees and the uprooted to return to their homes is an inalienable right and has been affirmed by the UN Resolution 194 over 110 times since 1948;…

TO BE CONTINUED, WITH MORE DETAIL TO COME LATER FROM MY AUDIO RECORDINGS

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From my journal, 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 based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. 

(Thanks to Ayed Al Azza)

That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination might well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given to them.

—Hannah Arendt

PHOTOS

Note: there are alternative spellings for most Arab words, eg, Jibreen = Jibrin = Guvrin; Al Azza = AlAzza = Al-Azza, Bayt = Beit (means literally a house, but more broadly a place, a village or town); etc.

From my journals of June 10 and 11, 2019:

After my recent series of interviews and portrait sessions I realize, as expected, the stories tend to be repetitive, except of course for the locations of the destroyed original villages. Most villages were primarily agricultural; people reported they led pleasant and safe lives (few spoke about encroaching Jews). The Nakba in many cases occurred during Ramadan in early summer; some people were about to harvest corn but needed to flee—the unleavened bread story from Jewish scripture. Most had good relations with neighboring Jews, and all were forcibly expelled with little help from other Arabs or the international community. Some expressed fierce anathema toward some Arab countries, including Egypt which Issa told us had soldiers stationed nearby but the soldiers had done virtually nothing to help.

The stories blend together. I believe I can remember and concentrate much better when I meet no more than 3 people each day, with gaps between. Ideally, 1 each day but logistically this would stretch out my work too far. When I write my speaker notes as I try to do daily, I anticipate much confusion. The audio recordings will help, as will the photos. Today [June 11, 2019] I intend to make a second directory like the one I made last year, send it to my Palestinian colleagues, Ayed and Fareed, to get names and villages straight. Then sketch the stories, and later use the recordings.

Today [June 10, 2019] to Deheshe and Azza refugee camps in Bethlehem (Azza now renamed by UNRWA Beit Jibreen after the area most residents come from). For this project my first time in both camps (I’ve visited both on earlier trips). Interviewing and photographing the first couple, Issa Younis Al Azza, aka Abu Ahmed and his wife, Aisha, 10 years younger, led to interviewing their son, Ahmed, and then his wife, Shahrazad (just getting all the unusual and some times repeated names straight is itself a major challenge—Ayed is invaluable). Then with the second couple, using English, a long, well informed, impassioned, congenial conversation (all in English), joined by their son, Ahmed, the grandson of Issa and Aisha, about their situation and the USA role in it. All recorded, how much to use is a question. This type of intense conversation may be a first for me in this project.

When expelled from the same village, Issa was 19, Aisha, his wife, 9. He’s now 91 and she 80. Their age difference is apparent. I noticed it immediately.

Their village, Beit Jibreen, is southwest of Hebron about 43 km/26.7 miles. (walking time via Googe Maps to Bethlehem is about 9 hours, an altitude change of 650 meters/2,100 feet. Imagine walking this distance in 1948 with whatever clothes, food, etc one could carry; vehicles were sometimes available.) In fall 2018, I’d visited the village, now replete with archeological details, designed by Israel to be a tourist site. While living there, Arab people understood the site was rich in history, deep history, dating back at least to Greek and Roman times. They understood people had inhabited the region over millennia. (After the Nakba, Israel excavated more of the area; shockingly, but not surprisingly, there is no mention of Arab times.) While in the early part of the 20th century, when Issa and Aisha lived there and for centuries earlier during Arab times, Christian brothers lived in the Crusader church. Many people have interviewed the couple; at least locally, i.e. in the West Bank, their story is well known.

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Beit Jibreen (press here to enlarge)

Map Beit Jibrin

One walking route to Bethlehem

Relations with neighboring Jews were good. But during the Nakba, Jewish militia shelled the Egyptian outpost there, and the Egyptian soldiers fled during a full moon night. Soon after the expulsion, Issa snuck back into the village to retrieve belongings and harvest, and Jews shot at him.

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Video of Aisha Al Azza at Beit Jibreen interviewed on Jordanian TV

Equally valuable during this interview I spoke with their son, Ahmed Al Azza, a retired teacher, and his wife, Shahrazad. Together they founded a kindergarten in the camp. They need to raise money to continue its operation. With Ayed’s help, we discussed the possibility of crowdfunding. They showed me on a smartphone a video of a Jordanian TV interview with Aisha, Ahmed’s mother, when she returned to Beit Jibreen. Recounting her experience as a young girl before Nakba, she looked visibly pained. (I’ve not been able to find the video on the Internet.) They confided to Ayed and me that earlier when Ayed had approached the elders about my visit, Aisha had expressed suspicion, I’m not sure why. I’ve heard from other sources that some interviews can either distort the message or lead to troubles with the authorities.

Ahmed (the son), a championship chess player (he showed me many trophies), brought Ayed and me to the top floor. As is true in all the camps, residents build up because of restrictions by Israel and presumably UNRWA which administers aspects of the camps. Aided by his sons, one in particular, another Ahmed, Issa and Aisha’s grandson, the family saves money and when enough accumulates they add another room or level.

Ahmed brought us to the local cemetery and on the way showed us a community building erected for social gatherings for people from Beit Jibreen.

In another video we watched, Issa at the destroyed village, he wept. Later he told us he wished to be buried in Beit Jibreen. I asked if that would be allowed. No answer. Which raises a question about how neighboring Israelis will treat the gravesites. Do the dead and dying have the right of return?

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Azza refugee camp

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MAP-Expropriated land by JNF.jpg

JNF = Jewish National Fund

LINKS

Bayt Jibrin by All That Remains

Zochrot about Bayt Jibrin

Blind Spot at a Heritage Site, by (de) colonizer (2015)
A research and art laboratory for social change, working to challenge the colonialist nature of the Israeli regime. To learn more please visit www.de-colonizer.org.

Mapping what’s been lost, by  (

Archival photographs—David Staniunas

Tour Beit Guvrin (nothing mentioned about Arab habitation)

TO BE CONTINUED

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