Walking around the city of Jerusalem I am often amazed at how seemingly normal everything is. It is like an image of a picture-perfect family. Everything appears to be okay on the outside, but on the inside there is self destruction and violence.
May 15, 1948, is a day that has been forever branded in the Palestinian consciousness. It is a day that symbolizes a massive uprooting that sent about 85 percent of the native population into exile. There were invasions and massacres that killed around 13,000 and caused 800,000 to flee in the months leading up to and after this day. As I walk through the streets of Israel, I can't help but feel haunted by the sorrows of these misplaced voices.
And being here and so close and intimate with this Nakba, or Catastrophe as it is called in Palestine, I am beginning to understand first-hand what happens when a trauma is not dealt with. Over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed, many of which became Israeli cities with different and, sometimes, similar names. Others became national parks Generations later, Palestinian refugees still try to return to their homes.
"There is lots of talk about the "peace process" by politicians and media regarding this sliver of land."
The Zionist Israeli state does not want to allow the refugees to come back to their homeland because their numbers would change the ratio of Jews to non-Jews in favor of non-Jews, and thus Israel would no longer be able to be a "Jewish Democracy."
The idea is the Jewish people need a place to be safe. Yet I find it hard to understand how one group of people can be safe and have a homeland by making another people homeless and unsafe as a result. There have been many massacres of Palestinians since the Nakba inside and around Israel, in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Kuwait.
And there have been many Nakbas ever since this first one. East Jerusalem right now seems to be a vortex for this recurring trauma. Thousands of houses are slated for demolition in Israeli efforts to "Judaize" the city.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading an article about a little Palestinian boy living in East Jerusalem who was carrying a heavy bag on his back. When someone asked him what he had in it, he told them that he was carrying his most precious belongings in the fear that he might come home one day to a pile of rubble.
I have not been able to stop thinking about that little boy. Nor the fact that every day many people here live in fear that one of their most sacred spaces, the space in which they lay their heads to rest, could be gone so quickly without any sort of compensation or justice.
"Thousands of houses are slated for demolition in Israeli efforts to "Judaize" the city."
Below is an account by Father Rantisi who was 11 years old in 1948:
"I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July of 1948. The pain sears my memory, and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try.
“First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries. (My family had been in the town of Lydda in Palestine at least 1,600 years). Then, without water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days. The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving. Terror filled my 11-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen. I remembered overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?"
These stories haunt me. Recently an employee of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, was fired for mentioning Al-Nakba. The village of Dier Yassin, which was massacred and destroyed in 1948, is visible from the museum. The employee was simply mentioning a similarity between the Jewish trauma and the Palestinian trauma.
And what happens to a trauma when it is denied recognition, when it is denied the reasons for its distraught state? I can look at my own inner process and see similarities. See the ways in which I sometimes want to deny that feeling of uprootedness or horror. Go about and pretend like all is okay on the outside, picture-perfect, yet within I am driven by a sense of inner violence that needs pain to remember itself.
There is lots of talk about the "peace process" by politicians and media regarding this sliver of land. Ideas of breaking it up even further into a "two-state solution" and giving a fair solution to the "refugee problem”.
"I am beginning to understand first-hand what happens when a trauma is not dealt with."
To all of this I can't help but cringe a bit. I feel that if we are to create true peace, (and why would we do anything less?), then we need to honor people’s most basic rights -- their right to return to their homes.
I keep hearing people who are not Palestinian speak of these things. To them I would request that they stop trying to pretend to know what is best for another people. I also hear Palestinian politicians feeding into this rhetoric, and to them I also request that we take a deeper look to see what is truly best in this situation.
Many Jewish Israelis still don't feel safe in the world; neither do many of the worlds’ Palestinians. What about this? One state for two peoples?!!! One place where Palestinians and Jews can come, find refuge and celebrate our intertwined destinies.
Deema Dabis can be reached at email@example.com.