Today I took my first trip down south in 1948 Palestine. I went to the Palestinian village of Beer Seba’. I went on this trip to witness the work of Zochrot for my film. This Israeli organization takes Israelis (mostly) on tours of destroyed Palestinian villages so they can learn a more factually-based history than the one they learned in their textbooks. On this trip there were also 1948 Palestinians who joined in from places like Yaffa and Al Quds.
Zochrot organizes these trips but they typically have local Palestinians from the village conduct the tour. Today we had many speeches from both Palestinians and Bedouin from the area talking about their history as well as current problems they face in the area because of Israeli policies. For instance, the mosque pictured above is fenced in and Muslims are not allowed to use it at all. Apparently, the Israeli government has stated that if a Christian community wanted to pray there they could, but not a Muslim community. They feel that it is a security risk to allow Muslim prayers to take place in this mosque.
In addition to the Palestinian and Bedouin speakers sharing their history with us we heard from one Israeli who was a member of the terrorist Palmach group, which was responsible of the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the Beer Seba’ area. All of the speeches were in Hebrew, and although there was translation available, I made a decision to not stand near the translator as I think it will be better for the sake of the film to hire a translator. I didn’t want the stories told second-hand on film. But I got a sense of the stories from the bilingual folks around me.
I will be scheduling an interview with the head of Zochrot in the coming weeks, but I’m still left with the fear that these Israelis will come to such events, hear about this tragic history, which of course has a corresponding present, and do nothing. I am anxious to hear what the organization knows about these trips and if any tangible transformations take place.