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Will I Tell The Same Story To My Grandchildren?

Contributed by Terra Sancta School For Girls on 11.03.2006:

Rasha Dibis

I had an interview with my grandmother about her life under occupation. She started talking about her earliest memories, which were about the year 1936. “I was 13 years old and we were still under the British Mandate. What was special about that year was a strike that lasted for six months all over Palestine as a result of the killing of Izeddin Al-Kassem, a revolutionary leader, and also because the number of the Jews in Palestine increased all the time. I remember how we used to buy our food during the strike. We used to put a basket tied to a rope and lower it down for the grocer to put the milk in it. We went to the butcher’s own home and got our meat. Those who had a farm got their needs directly from their own lands. The strike included the schools, and we stayed at home without having education for six months. The people’s economic situation was of course very bad.”

“The resistance continued from 1936 until 1947. The people became really angry when the British occupiers handed Palestine to the Israelis. Our disaster was in the year 1948 when Palestinians who collaborated with the British [nicknamed the fifth regiment] and who were their mouthpiece used to tell people: ‘You’ll leave for only two or three days, then you’ll come back. We fear for your safety.’ Many people believed the British and left all their belongings in their homes. Of course they never made it back. Among those people were my sister and her husband who had a house in the Bak’a neighborhood in Jerusalem. It consisted of three stories and was recently built. They were obliged to leave their own home. Now my sister is in Lebanon. They tried once to visit their home many years ago but the Jews who lived there refused to let them in.”

“At that time we were in Jerusalem, and danger wasn’t so close. But when we heard the reports of massacres by eyewitnesses, and of the horrible ways Israeli soldiers killed people in Deir Yassin, we were terrified. Many left their homes seeking safety, and we were among them. We left Jerusalem for Jericho because it was safer there.”

“Abdel-Kader Al-Husseini, a nationalist leader, was killed in the battle for Jerusalem. After that we decided to go to Jordan and stayed there for six months. When we returned, many parts of Palestine were under occupation, like Jaffa, Nazareth and all the northern areas of Palestine as well as West-Jerusalem. The economic situation was bad; the number of servants increased, and there were many refugees. At that time the UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] organization was founded to help the refugees and to give them food and tents to live in.”

“We returned to our home in Jerusalem and were obliged to live among the Jewish people. But there was no communication between us; the Jews had their own places like Musherem [Mea Shearim]. When we wanted to see people from the West Bank we used to get a special permission to go through a gate, the Mandelbaum Gate. We continued our daily life until the situation exploded again in the year 1967. At the time we stayed for ten days in Jordan. We returned to Palestine, although the Israelis didn’t want people to return and therefore destroyed the Allenby Bridge. However, we managed to return to our homes. On our way we saw the dead soldiers on the bridge.”

“It was our story allover again. Many people were evacuated from their houses. Our economic situation was really bad. Add to this the thieves who made their appearance during the period. Israeli soldiers plundered the shops and houses of Palestinians who couldn’t return. There were talks between the Arabs and the Jews, but of course our suffering continued. The worst day in my life was when one of my sons, Riyad, who was 16 years old then, was missing. He helped people who wanted to return from Jordan back to their homes. He used to take his father’s car, but one day he was late. I was worried and we went to a person who was in charge of the army. He accompanied us to search for him. We found his car but not him. The Jordanian officer made some phone calls and learned that my son was in prison in Nablus [in the West Bank]. He asked us to return home and assured us that our son would come back later. That night I couldn’t sleep at all but thank God the next day my son returned. He was very tired; he hadn’t slept after being subjected to a harsh investigation all night.”

“Now we are in the year 2000, and our situation is not getting any better, to the contrary. The Israelis are using extreme force. There isn’t a safe place anywhere. We can’t travel to any place without the permission of the Israeli authorities. The number of settlers is increasing, and the refugees didn’t come back yet. Our problem is becoming more and more complicated. There is no hope.” My grandmother ended the interview by asking God to help and protect us.

After this interview I wondered if I would continue my life as my grandmother did. Since her childhood my grandmother was under occupation. I asked myself if I would tell the same story to my grandchildren. I wish I could see into my future and know its secrets. What is there in store for my children and me? I hope to have a better life, better than that of my grandmother.

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: nancy@alami.net or aei@p-ol.com

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