before i left palestine a dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful silver necklace she had made for me. it says: فلسطين لاجئين 194. i think that this necklace has made more people in jordan offer up where they are originally from. ever since i crossed the border into jordan the other day i hear from everyone i meet, انا اصلي من… the first person was the manager of the taxi shop on the sheikh hussein bridge. he is originally from beesan, the palestinian village closest to this crossing point. the next person was the man working the front desk at the hotel. he’s from iraq al manshiya. next my new landlord who is from halhul. and then the cook at the hotel who is from dawayima. and then the taxi driver who is from ramallah. this is the first time i’ve been in jordan and have had so many people offer up where they are from, where they belong, where they long to return so quickly.
a few days before coming here a dear friend of mine who is writing a memoir about his life with another dear friend of mine had a meeting in deheishe refugee camp with his uncle, his mother’s brother, to hear more about his village and his mother’s family’s history. i was in al quds, where he lives, and told them i was going back to deheishe and could drive them if they wanted. but i told them i had to run an errand on the way–an errand that would lead us to drive past his mother’s village of zakariya on the way. they decided to come with me and to take some time to visit his mother’s village. my friend has been past it many times over the years, but he’s never gone inside the zionist terrorist colony that now exists on his mother’s land.
i have been to zakariya with kids from deheishe refugee camp in the past so i knew where the mosque was and the one remaining palestinian home and the school that were not destroyed. we drove around for a bit, but he was clearly uncomfortable being there and so we did not stay long. as we drove out of the village i noticed that the sign, which used to say the name of the village in arabic, english, and hebrew had the arabic scratched out (mind you, it was the transliteration of hebrew and not the original name of the village, but it was arabic nonetheless). only one week ago when we were at camp with the kids that arabic was on the sign. now it is not. it seems that vigilante colonists are taking action in relation to the new initiative to make all signs in palestine only have transliterations from the hebrew whether in arabic or in english. i wrote about this new racist apartheid project on the part of the zionist entity last week, but here is an update from imemc:
The Israeli Minister of Transport has been charged with the task of erasing the Arabic names in Israel, in what has been condemned as a bigoted attempt to deconstruct the Palestinian legacy, especially in Jerusalem. The Arabic name of Al Quds is also set to be changed, as is Nazareth, and other cities within Israel.Palestinian Chief of Justice has responded by declaring this as a means of erasing the Arab identity in Jerusalem and greater Israel. The Chief Justice and Chairman of the Commission in Support of Islamic and Christian Sanctities in Jerusalem has made similar statements, and calling it an act of racism. In addition to these implications, it is against international law to make such changes to a city that is still contested territory. From the creation of the Israeli state, Jerusalem has been a heavily contested area, subjected to many changes, land confiscation, home demolitions, evacuations, and settlements to cut the city off from its Palestinian heritage.
my friend jen marlowe wrote a piece about this for world focus, where she shares some of the history she heard later in deheishe camp that day:
Less than an hour later, we were sitting in Deheisheh Refugee Camp, talking with Sami’s uncle Mustafa, two years younger than Sami’s mother. We asked Mustafa to fill in the missing gaps of his sister’s story, and he was more than happy to oblige. Sami and I learned the details of how his grandfather died fighting the British in 1939 and the attacks that pushed out the residents of Zakariyya.
Zakariyya holds a prominent place in Mustafa’s house in Deheisheh and in his heart. A 1921 photograph of the old school (now convenience store) with students sitting cross legged outside is framed on a shelf. A map of Zakariyya is on the wall, with the former houses indicated and a code to decipher which areas were inhabited by which families.
Mustafa spoke not only about his memories of losing Zakariyya. He spoke about a more recent pain as well. His older sister, Sami’s mother, had been struck two times with brain tumors. The first was in 1977 when Sami was fifteen years old. She received a life-saving surgery. Mustafa came to the hospital in Jerusalem every day. He fed her daily, tenderly. She would eat only from his hands. The second tumor took root in her brain in 2007. But this time, Mustafa could not feed his sister as she lay on her death bed in Jerusalem. The Israeli military would not issue him a permit to visit her.
Mustafa and Sami sat in silence as I digested this information. The evening call to prayer sounded from a nearby mosque in the camp. It was time to wrap up the interview. I had one final question. “Did you realize in 1948 that you were leaving Zakariyya for good?”
Uncle Mustafa’s eyes glistened slightly, both from the memory of his beloved home and the fresh loss of his sister.
“Until now I don’t accept that I left for good. As long as I am alive, I have hope that I will someday return.”
Those who were forced to leave their homes will always be filled with longing to return to them. Acknowledgment and empathy are natural responses. But Mustafa’s yearning seems to be met with something other than empathy by the current residents of Zakariyya. With fear, perhaps? Dismissal? Contempt? Whatever it is, it permits the ancient mosque of the historic village to dilapidate to the point of ruin. It permits the Arabic word “Zakariyya” to be scratched out on the entrance’s sign. As if by scratching out the name, somehow the existence of Zakariyya and its people will themselves be erased.
Mustafa’s very presence, however, is a form of resistance to this deletion. Sami’s uncle sits surrounded by memories and remembrances of his home, waiting in quiet dignity for his longing and his claim to be acknowledged rather than erased.
one of the most amazing things mustafa gave sami was a map of the village of zakariya. a group of refugees from the village got together and mapped out where exactly everyone lived in their village and color coded it by family and listed the names of the families on it. i took a photo of it and posted it below. it is amazing and i hope that by spreading this around others can do the same for history’s sake and for claiming their land when they return to their villages.
the erasure of the village via nightly murders of palestinians in zakariya, something that ultimately forced them to flee to places like ramla inside 1948 palestine where some are internal refugees, as well as to refugee camps like deheishe, was one level of ethnic cleansing. but of course this is ongoing with the new laws forcing the word nakba that describes this history to be cleansed from textbooks:
The Israeli government decided on Wednesday to remove the term ‘Nabka’ from school textbooks. Israel’s education Ministry said that using term Nakba or catastrophe to describe the creation of Israel is inconceivable.
Approximately 700.000 Palestinian were expelled and displaced by Jewish arm groups and hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed in 1948 and the state of Israel was declared on Palestinian lands.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that using the word Nakba in Arab school is considered as spreading propaganda against Israel. The decision to bar using ‘Nakba’ in textbooks was made despite the fact that it is only used in Arab schools in Israel.
It was introduced into textbooks in Arab schools in 2007 when the Israeli Education Ministry was headed by Yuli Tamir, member of the Labor Party. The textbooks that contains the term Nakba was intended to be studied by children aged eight and nine.
Yisrael Twito, spokesperson of the current Israel Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, said that the ministry studied the issue and decided that using the term Nakba to described ‘Israel’s independence’ should be removed.
The term Nakba was not used without presenting the Israeli side of it, the text reads ‘the Arabs described the war of 1948 as the Nakba – catastrophe, loss and humiliation, and the Jews calls it the war of independence’, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported. Arab member of Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, stated that the Arabs will not accept to be gagged by laws that aims at controlling their feelings, beliefs and history.
‘We will not accept to be silenced, we will continue to shout out loud, their independence is our catastrophe’, Zahalka stated, ‘We will always oppose Zionism, and we will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state’.
The new law was approved by 38 members of Knesset, while 14 voted against it. It also bars any institution that receives government funding in Israel from commemorating the Nakba, or financing related activities.
and it gets worse. now, as jonathan cook reports in electronic intifada, palestinians are going to be forced to study the zionist entity’s anthem, yet another method of ethnic cleansing one that is an attempt to cleanse the minds of palestinian youth:
Officials announced last week that they were sending out special “national anthem kits” to 8,000 schools, including those in the separate Arab education system, in time for the start of the new academic year in September.
The kits have been designed to be suitable for all age groups and for use across the curriculum, from civics and history classes to music and literature lessons.
The anthem, known as Hatikva, or The Hope, has long been unpopular with Israel’s Palestinian minority because its lyrics refer only to a Jewish historical connection to the land.
Saar’s initiative is widely seen among Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens as a further indication of the rising nationalistic tide sweeping policymakers.
Last week the ministry also announced that textbooks recently issued to Arab schoolchildren would have expunged the word “nakba,” or catastrophe, to describe the Palestinians’ dispossession at Israel’s founding in 1948.
Hala Espanioly, who chairs the education committee of the Arab minority’s supreme political body, the Higher Follow-Up Committee, told the Israeli news website Ynet: “If there is an attempt to force the Hatikva anthem on Arab schools and Arab pupils, it will be akin to a kind of attempted rape of their identity.”
The issue of the national anthem, based on a 120-year-old poem by Naftali Hertz Imber and an ancient folk melody, has been a running sore between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations for decades.
Arab citizens are unhappy with its heavily Zionist lyrics, which speak of how the “soul of a Jew yearns” to return to Zion, as well as referring to “The hope of two thousand years, To be a free nation in our land.”
In 2005 some legislators were outraged when an Israeli parliamentary committee considered, among possible constitution changes, revising the anthem’s lyrics from “the soul of a Jew’” to “the soul of an Israeli.” The change was not approved.
Saar, then an ordinary politician, led the opposition to changing the lyrics: “In two words: definitely not. I wouldn’t make any changes to Hatikva. It would be a compromise on the state’s identity.”
The refusal of prominent Arabs to sing the anthem in public has provoked several notable controversies.
The most high-profile concerned Raleb Majadele, of the Labor party, who was appointed Israel’s first Arab cabinet minister in 2007. In an interview he said that, though he always stood during Hatikva, he drew the line at singing it.
He later defended his position to Israeli radio: “Where is it written that a person appointed to be a cabinet minister in Israel must stop being an Arab, and turn into a member of a different religion and ethnicity?”
Arab players in Israel’s national football squad have also admitted being uncomfortable during the playing of the anthem before games. TV broadcasts often zoom in to show that their lips are not moving.
Abir Kupty, today an elected official with the Nazareth municipality, produced one of Israeli TV’s most talked-about moments four years ago when she was filmed sitting down when the anthem was played. She was the only Arab contestant in a reality show to find Israel’s future leaders.
Kupty said: “This decision by the education ministry is part of the current hysterical right-wing mood in Israel. They hope they can erase our Palestinian identity by making us love the anthem.”
She added that Arab pupils were already deprived of the chance to learn about their own history, culture and identity. “The curriculum in Arab schools is heavily controlled by Jewish officials and by the security services.”
Sofia Yoad, the education ministry’s director of curriculum development, said the anthem kits included a book and two CDs containing 40 historic recordings of Hatikva, including it being sung in a concentration camp and at the Declaration of Independence.
“It is very important to learn about the national anthem even if pupils are not Jewish,” she said. “After all, this is the story of a country’s independence.”
Astrith Baltsan, a pianist who researched and wrote the book over three years, said she had originally been commissioned to produce it for Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations last year.
But when Saar saw it, she said, he had been keen to use it in all schools. She added that, when she played the anthem at a ministry launch party last week, even the Arab schools inspectors stood. “When you know the story of the anthem, you show it respect,” she said.
The Higher Follow-Up Committee, a national political body representing Israel’s Arab minority, has staunchly opposed the use of the kits. It wrote last week to Saar, warning that the initiative would “only deepen the alienation of Arab students and teachers.”
Figures released by the education ministry this month show that only 32 percent of Arab students passed their matriculation exam last year, compared to 60 percent of Jewish students. The pass rate was a dramatic drop from the 50.7 percent of Arab pupils who matriculated in 2006.
Yousef Jabareen, head of Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organization monitoring education issues, blamed the poor results on growing cultural bias in the Israeli education system as well as severe budgetary discrimination.
He said the increasing weight placed on Jewish heritage and Judaism lessons put Arab pupils at a severe disadvantage, and that further alienation was caused by the state’s refusal to allow the Arab education system any autonomy in selecting its own curriculum.
A report published in March, he added, showed that the government invested $1,100 in each Jewish pupil’s education compared to $190 for each Arab pupil. There was also a shortfall of more than 1,000 classrooms for Arab students.
Jabareen pointed out that a committee appointed last year by the dovish previous education minister, Yuli Tamir, had recommended curriculum reforms to encourage a “shared life” and common values among pupils, including more frequent encounters between Jewish and Arab students.
In April Saar quashed the committee’s report.
Opposition to the study of Hatikva is shared by ultra-religious Jews known as the Haredim. They believe the anthem should include a reference to God in the lyrics, and have proposed an alternative entitled HaEmunah.