Some parts may not make sense because it was half personal narrative, half research. This was written by me through my grandpa’s eyes but the last paragraph is all me. In 1947, when I lived in the British Mandate of Palestine, my world was so intact. My family gathered at the sound of my uncle’s tubla, or drum, and sat around while the women danced.
There were 476 people living in my village, Daniel. We lived on the olive trees we grew. They gave the remedy for every disease and cut we had. We ate their olives with every meal. I was twelve years old at this time, and my little sister, Miriam, was seven years old. Our dad died resisting against British colonization, so she often looked to me for answers that I simply could not give her.
Our mom was our rock. She is the toughest woman I’ve ever met in my life. Even in this time where women were oppressed, she made sure no man disrespected her. My small family lived in a big, tan house with green vines growing all over the place. There was green everywhere. My country is beautiful.
It has different geographical terrain; the south is desert, the north is mountainous, and there are the fertile plains where Daniel is. At this time, there were about twenty thousand Jews living in Palestine. More would be coming soon. We didn’t think anything of it at the time. There were Christians already there and we lived in complete peace with them for centuries, so why wouldn’t we be able to live in peace and harmony with the Jews?
This seems sensible since Palestine is the Holy Land, birthplace of all three world religions. We were ready to welcome anyone in our country with open arms. This was the case until force was used against us, ethnic cleansing. On November 30th, 1947, surrounding Arab nations waged war because of the violence that was being implemented by Zionist gangs. I asked my mom constantly “Mom, are we going to have to leave anytime soon? What if we end up getting killed?”
My mom would reply, shrugging it off, “Abraham, they will have to pull me by my hair, ears, feet and hands at the same time in order to get me to move half a centimeter.” I thought we were here to stay forever, and nobody was about to make a “religious” claim to land that we farmed and maintained for over a thousand years.
April came, and death came with it. Irgun Zvai Leumi, a Zionist gang, was led by Menachem Begin, who eventually became Prime Minister of Israel, to attack the District of Jerusalem’s Deir Yassin. This event swung like a golf club hitting every Arab country in the region right in the abdomen. Everyone who didn’t know there was such thing as Deir Yassin found out on April 9th, 1948. The gangs shot at anything or anyone that moved. Fahimi Zeidan, a twelve-year-old girl at the time recalls:
I hid with my family and another family when the house door was blasted open. The guerrillas took them outside. An already wounded man was shot, and when one of his daughters screamed, they shot her too. They then called my brother Mahmud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother who was carrying my little sister Khadra who was still being breast fed, they shot my mother, too.
Haleem Eid saw “a man shoot a bullet into the neck of her sister Salhiyeh who was nine months pregnant and then brutally stabbed her body.” An eight-year-old girl at the time named Thoraya later recalled hiding behind her aunts as they were stabbed to death. A group of twenty-five surviving men paraded around the streets of Jerusalem screaming to get everybody’s attention. The gang took them immediately and killed them all. An Irgun officer, Yehoshua Gorodenchik, said, “We eliminated every Arab we came across at that point.
” The massacre at Deir Yassin lasted two days. The air was stiff when we found out what happened. We were mortified. Mortified is an understatement; we were traumatized. My uncle told us, “The gangs didn’t leave a woman in Deir Yassin in which they didn’t rape! They didn’t leave a child in which they didn’t shoot! They didn’t leave a pregnant woman in which they didn’t stab in the stomach!”
Purity and virginity are vital in the Arab world. That makes rape the worst possible crime. In fact, I would say that they would rather be killed than raped. My mother, whom I never saw cry before, wailed that day. We were exhausted at that point. The men in my village ordered the women and children to leave immediately; they were planning to act as a resistance, if necessary, to defend the District of al-Ramla. For the first time ever, the women didn’t argue. Miriam and I were terrified.
The men told us “Guys, relax. King Abdullah of Jordan will help us! He promised us he’ll get everything back for us after only three days! You’ll be back. We’ll all be back.” We would find out later that King Abdullah threw us under the bus and sold a lot of Palestinian land to the European new-comers in exchange for promised rule of the West Bank. Colonists rode through al-Ramla singing “Yallah, yallah! Go to Abdullah!” Miriam picked olives from the trees and put them in bags so we can eat them on the way to Betunia, another city in the Palestinian West Bank (west of the Jordan River), with a large population.
While she was picking dozens of olives, I went into my home and said a few prayers in hopes that God would help us. I locked the door and put the key in my pocket. I kept that key with me everywhere I went expecting to go back home any minute. When we arrived in Betunia, we waited for news of when we could return to Daniel, or news of relatives that died.
One day we got news that my aunt had been shot in the hip for protecting her husband. An Israeli gang member knocked on her door and asked her where her husband was. She lied and said that he died so they wouldn’t kill him. Just as she said that, my uncle came up behind her, and the gangbanger shot her husband three times in the head and once in the heart.
The war ended May 14, 1948, a month and three days after the Deir Yassin Massacre, the Jews of Europe won the war and declared a state on the same day. They made a religious claim to our land and carried it out through violence. They founded a country through the blood of innocents.
On July 10, 1948, Israel occupied Daniel. There was no turning back now. My village was now in their hands. Unless I converted to Judaism, I would not be allowed back in to see my village. This had to be the most critical time for the Middle East in all of history. Everyone knew the worst was yet to come. Life moves on. There would always be a void in my heart. We moved on to the refugee camps.
I got a job as a stone mason in Jordan, and people I worked with taught me how to draw houses. I didn’t spend a penny of the money I made. I was the one who had to take care of my family, given I was the man of the house at a very young age. I married Noelle when I turned 17 years old; she was 16 years old. I bought a house with all the money I saved and lived with my mom, sister, and wife. I had six kids by the time I was thirty-five years old. I built the first condominium complex in Jordan when I was thirty-six years old.
That year Golda Meir told the Sunday Times: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” She just denied everything. I lined up all my kids and told them to never forget their Palestinian identity. My family was there for over a thousand years. Golda Meir’s was not.
Everybody asks the Palestinians what makes them hold onto their land so hard and deal with all the bombardments and oppression. They say it’s easier to just flee to Jordan. Even Palestinians who haven’t stepped foot in Palestine have strings attaching them to their homeland. They smell Palestine. They feel Palestine. When they watch bombardments on TV and see Palestinian kids with no heads, hands, arms, etc., their hearts are with the Palestinians. That’s something nobody will ever take away from us.
When I turned forty-five, my wife said we should move to America. I disagreed. I liked it in Jordan. Besides, any day now Palestine would be free, and I’d be the first person back in Palestine. I prayed everyday for this. I prayed for this until my very last breath. I was told I was being selfish, that soon my kids will need a solid education. What was I going to do? We moved to America.
I went from being a famous architect in Jordan to being a store-owner. I wasn’t very fond of a lot of the things I saw in America. I didn’t know how to speak English, and I never learned. My sons got beat up every day for having an accent. My daughter was being assaulted in school, causing me to move her to an all-girl private school. It was just hard being in a new place.
I grew to appreciate the freedoms of America. When the year 2000 came and the second intifada, or uprising, happened in Gaza Strip, occupied Palestinian territory, none of the American media covered it sufficiently. Muhammad al Dura, a twelve-year-old boy, was hiding with his father in a corner and then was shot by Israeli forces in 2000. It wasn’t on any American news channel. When a fellow American, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death by an Israeli tank that America paid for, while trying to block it from demolishing an innocent family’s home, the media didn’t cover it because it was “bad press” for Israel.
Worst of all the media didn’t report when Jenin, a refugee camp, was under bombardment for ten days by Israeli forces. There were tanks on every corner about to demolish innocent families’ homes while they were inside. Many people were buried alive. Men, women, children and people with disabilities would be shot without shame when they tried to escape.
Israel denied ever killing civilians, but we wouldn’t be deceived into believing that because foreign media and documentaries showed us vulgar videos and pictures of decapitated children and fallen homes. In fact, Iyad Samoudi, the executive producer of “Jenin Jenin” a movie revealing the horrors of the attack was killed by Israeli forces while he was filming in the leveled camp. Mahmud Darwish, a famous Palestinian poet, wrote a poem: “If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.” Nobody could truly understand that, except for Palestinians themselves. Out of all the losses I have ever endured, losing Palestine was the worst. People come and go, but your country should always be there for you.
When you lose your country, you feel cheated out of your way of life, and your heart builds sadness. It builds a big, dark hole of sadness. My grandchild, Nadine, kept asking me why I never smiled and why I never seem impressed by anything. I think she eventually figured out why. Rest in Peace Abraham D. July 30th, 2007
When my grandfather died, he gave me the best gift ever. He transferred his unconditional love and loyalty for Palestine to me. My grandfather never ever thought that he would die without there being a Palestine, people don’t address the fact that there were 1.3 million Palestinians living there in 1948, a number that has multiplied many times over since then.
Since 1967… 700,000 Palestinians have been kidnapped. Twelve thousand of them are women, and tens of thousands of the detainees are children. There is a whole nation behind bars, and the media hides any evidence of it. The Gaza Strip is often referred to as an open-air prison camp.