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The Moshe Dayan Carpet and the Beginning of the Nakba in Baq’aBy David Halaby
I was only six months old when this story happened, but I learned about it a generation later. I was moving house in Berkeley, California, and my father was helping in the effort. As I carried a small - by then almost antique - carpet into our new house, my father saw it and said, “Oh, so you ended up with the Moshe Dayan carpet.” My ears pricked up, “What do you mean?” “This is the carpet Moshe Dayan sat on when he came to a meeting at our family home.” Having not heard this story before, I stopped everything I was doing and asked him to explain.
I was born and lived in Upper Baq’a, a western suburb of Jerusalem. My great-grandfather, Tanas Daoud Halaby, had built our family home in the late 19th century - a traditional stone house, large enough for three generations of Halabys. It had a large veranda with a distinctive balustrade, a courtyard garden, and a red-tiled roof.
In January of 1948, Moshe Dayan, the Zionist military leader, had requested a meeting with the heads of families living in Baq’a. It was decided that the meeting would take place at our family home. Dayan came at the appointed time with his aide. After the first social courtesies, Dayan said, “Why don’t we all sit like the Arabs?” and then proceeded to sit down on the carpet with his aide. The people who were gathered in our living room looked at one another and said, “Let us sit like the Arabs,” and sat on the prearranged chairs, leaving Dayan and his aide on the carpet.
Dayan was apparently planning to bring some of his troops into the neighbourhood and wanted to find out what the people’s reaction would be. At the time the people in Baq’a were unarmed and not yet part of the conflict. They were resolutely opposed to any Zionist military control. Dayan was very disappointed in the outcome of the meeting; the next night he sent sappers to blow up our family home, but they mistakenly bombed the house next door, killing two teenage sisters in their beds.
Several days later my mother discovered an unexploded grenade that was thrown onto our veranda. This was the start of the Nakba for our family and the Baq’a neighbourhood. Immediately people began to arm themselves and take turns patrolling the streets at night.
My father and our neighbours defended our area as long as they could, but after the Deir Yassin massacre, they realised that they were no match for the brutality of the Zionist forces. People started to leave Baq’a for safer grounds, not realising that they would never be allowed to return to their homes.
David Halaby is a Palestinian-American who now lives in Berkeley, California.
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