Reflections on The Nakba at 70

Posted on Jun 14, 2018

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What the Nakba Means to Us

by Nahida Halaby Gordon and Sami A. Halaby

IPMN – It has been slightly more than 70 years since we had to leave our home, our Palestine, and our Palestinian community of family, friends, and neighbors. It was a traumatic event in our lives, which we relive year after year.

Imagine how you would feel if when you visit the country of your birth, you are treated as an enemy alien and, if allowed to enter, you would only be able to stay at most three months. You find your home confiscated and occupied by people who were encouraged to come because they were persecuted elsewhere. As you move around you become aware that your community has been erased. Your roots have been cut. Nothing is recognizable – villages have been destroyed, churches, mosques, schools and cemeteries and other infrastructure have been replaced. Palestinian street names are replaced by Israeli names. Olive trees and farmland that have been terraced for generations are being replaced by ecologically unsustainable agriculture. The wasteful use of water has reduced the Jordan River to a trickle, the Dead Sea is shrinking, and Lake Hula in the Galilee has dried up. People in Tel Aviv and in the illegal settlements water their lawns, fill their swimming pools, and plant trees unsuited to the environment in order to maintain a European life style alien to this part of the world. The injustice of it all is galling.

The Nakba has transformed Palestine from a pastoral country were people lived peacefully to an expansionist, highly militarized, insecure state that is constantly at war with its neighbors. It has a state religion; it refuses to define its borders; and it privileges those who are identified as belonging to the state religion.

The lack of a just resolution to the displacement of our community, the continual attack upon our culture and upon our memories continues the pain of separation from our Palestine. As the years pass, the realization that the end of our days will arrive before we see a resolution to our loss is a suffering that can only be lessened by our faith and hope that a better day will come, if not for us then for those who follow us.

~ Nahida Halaby Gordon and Sami A. Halaby are siblings who lived through the Nakba. Curiously, they cannot technically be called “refugees” because the family had the wherewithal to get to safety before it was too late (and before an artificial date established by the dominant culture of that day). But that does not make them any less children of the refugee diaspora. They were young children who with their parents escaped their home in Jaffa never to return. Their hearts still long for a home that shall never again belong to them. Nahida has served in leadership positions in our network for many years and in telling us her story, both she and her family have brought Palestine to life in our hearts. Their witness to us has been continual and inspiring. There is no better way for us to remember the tragedy of the Nakba than to hear about it in their own words. We thank both Nahida and Sami for their willingness to share. Theirs is a story we must never forget.