Commemorating the 58th Anniversary of Nakba

"We Will Be Back"

 20-04-2006

 

 

On the occasion of the 58th Anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestine Media Unit (Zajel) of the Public Relations Department organized a one-week series of events to commemorate the Palestinian Catastrophe (Nakba) of 1948. The program includes an exhibition of photos and posters of Palestinian citizens and villagers on their daily life, as well as a portray of newspapers issued in Jafa city before the Diaspora. It depicts the cultural, social, human and political atmosphere in Palestine before the Diaspora. The goal behind this exhibition is to raise public awareness among university students and the general public. Many eyewitnesses of the Nakba attended the opening of the exhibition; The Vice President for Academic Affairs thanked Zajel Media Unit for its efforts in organizing such activities. The visitors of the exhibition, among them several elders residents in Askar camp who have directly suffered 1948’s deportation, enjoyed seeing the pictures, posters and newspaper extracts. Amjad Rfaie, Director of the Social Development Center in Askar Refugee Camp praised the quality of the exhibition to such an extent that he is planning to transfer it to Askar in order to facilitate the access to the photographs to the resident’s of the camp.

 

The photographs reflect on scenes of daily life in Palestine before the Nakba, as well as pictures of the exodus and their situation in the refugee camps. 19-year-old engineering student Ali Ibrahim has just come out of an exam and takes the opportunity of his free time to get to know more about that important period of Palestinian history. “I feel lonely and sad when I see pictures like this”, he says, pointing at a portrait of several resistance fighters proudly showing their guns. “Look at their expression, it’s amazing. We have a picture at home from my grandfather looking like those men, seeing these pictures reminds me of him and how he must have suffered”. “My grandfather”, he explains, “often talked with us about that difficult time, but he died six months ago”.

 

 

But not everybody has a relative who can tell them about the Nakba. Some people come from families that are originally from the West Bank, and so have not experienced the deportation. Some others originally come from cities like Jafa but have seen their grandparents pass away due to the many years having transcurred since that time. And again some other young people are experiencing the pain their parents and grand-parents feel whenever they remember the Nakba, what makes it extremely difficult for some of these elders to talk about those times. For these persons, exhibitions like these are very helpful, for they give a valuable information that up to now they have not had access to. As Fawaz, a teacher of Science explains, for some people these images are new, as they know the general terms of what the Nakba was about, but they don’t realize what a tragedy it was. One of the reasons, he says, is the lack of information about this period children get during their education, as the Nakba is often not mentioned at all in school history books and is treated only in a very general way by university books. As a result many students are very surprised when they see pictures as those shown in the exhibition, because they have never been confronted to them. “That’s why it is so important to mention the Nakba also at school”, Fawaz says. “We need to talk about it more often to remind new generations about their right to return to the towns and villages they are now banned from”. “Organizing an exhibition is efficient and easy, but we also need to take it as a subject for cinema productions, documentaries and, above all”, he emphasizes, “to teach the Nakba from the beginning, at school”.

 

Ihab, 19 years old and Pharmacy student is one of those cases. His family comes from the West Bank but in his village, Kafr al-Dik, there are quite many people originally from Yafa city who prefer to live on and be silent about a time too difficult for them to talk about. The newspaper extracts amazed him, for example, the weekly cinema program or advertise a spectacle by famous singer Oum Kalthoum in Yafa, as for him they represent “the proof that we were in that land and that we had education and culture”. The digitalized features are part of different newspapers released in Yafa between 1925 and 1939 such as Aldefa, Falastein, Aljamea Alislameyeh, Aljehad and Alyarmuk. For Aseel Khayat, 21-year-old IT student, all Palestinians intrinsecally know about the Nakba and what their parents and grand-parents must have suffered because it is very similar to what young generations are experiencing since the beginning of the Intifada. “Most of us know about the Nakba because our parents tell us, but even if they didn’t, we would know what it must have been like because we experience it every day”, she affirms.

 

Part of this series of events is the projection of several documentaries, such as Route 181 and Frontiers of Dreams and Fears.

 

Capturing the fragments of a land shattered by politics, history, and colonialism, Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Israel-Palestine, clocks in at about four and a half hours. The film's length is epic-worthy, but it allows the filmmakers to present oral history from a wide variety of people who live along the 1947 partition line. By portraying both the divide of the physical landscape and that of the humans that inhabit it, viewers receive a fuller understanding of this conflicted part of the world. Route 181 is a collaborative effort between Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan and his Palestinian peer Michel Khleifi. It introduces to its audience, through extended interviews with various Israelis and Palestinians, the nuanced complexity of those people who live along the green line.

 

Offering a rare glimpse into one side of the Middle East conflict, Frontiers Of Dreams And Fears explores the lives of a group of Palestinian children growing up in refugee camps. The film focuses on two teenage girls, Mona and Manar. Although living in refugee camps miles apart, the girls manage to communicate and become friends with each other despite the overwhelming barriers separating them. The film reveals their lives and dreams and their growing relationship, at first through email, then culminating in their dramatic meeting at the fence that separates them at the Lebanese/Israeli border.

 

 

For 23-year-old Safa, a stroll through the exhibition sumes her in a melancholical mood. “People know about it”, she affirms about the Nakba, “but they need to know more and more in order not to forget”. As she suggests, it is important to go to all testimonies, write down every single word they say and create special archives for the Nakba. “Else”, she says shaking her head, “we will lose our identity”.

 

What exactly makes up the identity of a people who for decades has been banned from their liberty, their rights, their families, their land? Occupation has also affected their cultural heritage, their traditions and whole legacy -usual indicators of the “identity” of a people-. The concept of identity could be subject to long discussions, but what seems clear is the importance of taking a deep look into their history in order to preserve the collective memory. Only by being aware of their past will the Palestinian people get the strength to re-built its identity.

 

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