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On A Donkey: A Syriac history

Contributed by Terra Sancta School For Girls on 11.03.2006:

Tamara Kando

I interviewed my grandmother whose name is Salma Kando. She told me about the difficult life that they used to live. She told me the story of how she and her brother came to Palestine.

“I was born in 1915, so I am 84 years old. I came from Halab [Aleppo] in Syria together with my father and brother after we ran away because of the Turkish occupation. The Turkish government had taken my father and put him in prison. My mother died a short time after, and we were alone. While my father was in prison, our neighbor used to phone my grandparents in Merdin in Syria. They sent our aunt to take care of us. When my father was released, we came to Palestine. My father hid us on the donkey. I was seven years old. We stayed in a place called Hosh Al-Sabeh where we shared ten rooms with other families. I tell you, our life was very difficult.”

“I married Khalil Kando when I was 15 years old. Then I became pregnant and had my first boy. We had six boys and three girls, but one of the girls died. Our life was difficult, but we had our peace of mind because life was simpler; there were no cars and no lights, we used to light the candles to do odd chores at night. The old people used to go to a place called Sha’babon, it is now called Artas, in order to wash our clothes and bring water. There were no paved streets; all the streets were full of dirt. At one point a pipeline was dug to bring water to Canal Street in Bethlehem. We used different containers for drinking and bathing because we didn’t have running water. Later on each family installed water tanks on the roofs of their houses. “

“There are many differences between life then and now. We used to hand-wash our clothes because there were no washing machines. We cooked on burnt wood because there were no gas stoves. We chopped the tomatoes into pieces and dried them inside jars with some salt, so as to keep them cool because there were no fridges. We made bread ourselves without going to the bakery. There are no similarities between life before and now!”

“What about the political developments?”

“News spread about the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews. The Israelis entered Palestine in 1948 with all their military might. The Arabs did not expect to be defeated, and the Palestinians ended up leaving their homes out of fear or by force. Some of them escaped to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gaza and other areas. The others escaped to Jordan and foreign lands. The unfortunate ones ended up in refugee camps in the Arab countries leaving behind their houses, money, clothes and lands. That was how Israel conquered the areas and put it under its control.”

From: Your Stories Are My Stories: A Palestinian oral history project. Saint Joseph School for Girls, Bethlehem, Wi’am – Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center, Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows. Culture and Palestine series AEI-Open Windows 2001. For more information: or

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