Monday, June 14, 2010

Destroyed villages

I wanted to share an experience that we had a few days ago that was particularly haunting and troubling to me personally.

Last Friday morning we were led to three destroyed villages from the 1948 war and the precursors to it. Our tour guide was an Israeli woman who, after doing her military service and college, began to question certain gaps in the history that she had grown up hearing. She did a master's project that turned into a book about destroyed villages and the lack of historical markers and absence of public awareness in Israel about the history of the sites.

Lifta was the first village we visited. It is currently a favorite swimming hole/ nature spot, but it is also one of the few places you can see many of the buildings from a thriving Palestinian community that people had fled from during the War of Independence/Naqba (catastrophe).

Deir Yassin was the saddest and the most invisible among modern development of a psychiactric hospital, park, and residential buildings. It was a site of a village that had made a pact with the Jewish military force, the Haganah. However, Irgun, a right wing Zionist militia that was in competition with the Haganah, didn't respect the truce. They invaded the town without warning, received some resistance, lost some of their fighters, and as revenge committed a massacre of men, women, and children. The Red Cross confirmed that a massacre had occurred. The Haganah condemned it but used it in their propaganda to frighten Palestinians into fleeing. The events there were seen as a turning point in the war because so many Palestinians heard about what had happened at Deir Yassin and fled their homes and villages in fear that the same would be done to them.

I asked about the claim that Palestinians fled during 1948 not because of intimidation by Zionist fighters but rather because of the Arab nations' calls for people to flee temporarily and return after the war. She said this was true in a few cases, but a very small percentage. I know that research on this has been done on Israeli government records that became open after 30 years passed; I don't remember the names of articles or books -- Craig?

The last destroyed village we went to was En Karem, traditionally thought to be the place where Mary visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Now it is a fashionable area with arts centers and upscale cafes and bars. I did not take good notes about this village's story. Would one of the other trip participants fill this in

In order to reach a place of humility and reconciliation, a community must know about its past -- the good and the bad that it has done. Primo Levi said of the Holocaust, "It happened. Therefore it can happen again." This applies to the massacre at Deir Yassin as well, and is a good reason to document and remember this incident.

Here are a couple highly recommended books on the subject. I have started reading the second one:

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