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An Arab house reflected in a modern building, the Port area, Haifa
Leaving Haifa, 1999

Before leaving Haifa I meet with Majed Khamra, collector of documents and photos, and member of the Haifa History Association. He takes me to his home where his wife, her mother and sister are making 'ma'moul' for the Greek Orthodox Easter next weekend. The kitchen smells sweet, spicy, and welcoming.

Majed shows me photos of Haifa before General Allenby's victorious entry in World War 1, the old city wall and city near where the Port is now. He shows me pictures of Haifa's mayors. The last Arab mayor was Hassan Shukri, about whom the people sang, "Hassan Bek yadayoos, beya' al watan lil yahood" ('Hassan Bek is a crook, he sold the country to the Jews'). The mayor preceding Hassan Shukri was Majed's maternal grandfather, Abdel Rahman al-Hajj. He says the great majority of Haifa's Arab residents today are post-1948 immigrants. Not many of Haifa's old families remain.

I try to persuade Umm Ramzi, Majed's mother-in-law, to let me record her life story. She is from Eilaboun, a village near Tiberias where there was a massacre at the end of October 1948, but she won't allow her voice to be recorded. Fifty one years later, she is still afraid.

Palumbo gives an account of the attack on Eilaboun 6. Later I met another refugee from the same village, who gave me an account of what happened there in 1948. She said that the Hanagah entered the village at 6am on November 2. People were sheltering from air-raids in the church. The Haganah took away 13 men from the village and 17 bedouin who lived nearby. They were never seen again. Among them was the narrator's brother. The women and children were ordered to go to Maghar, five kilometers away. From there they went to Farradi, then Kufr Iman. At Kufr Iman, the Israelis came one night, put everyone in two trucks "all standing like cattle", and took them to Rmeish (in Lebanon). Eventually they managed to return clandestinely. The Haganah had looted Eilaboon but left the houses. Women, a priest, old

men -- only these had managed to stay on in the village after the attack. 7

Majed tells me that his mother was 14 years old in 1948. The family left for Acre and then Sidon by ferry boat. The Lebanese Army sent them to Miyeh Miyeh (an old camp east of Sidon city), then tried to transfer them to the North. They managed to reach Yarmouk camp (Syria), staying there until 1951, when Majed's paternal grandfather who had stayed in Haifa managed to get them a family reunification permit. They returned to Haifa, found their home in Wadi Nisnas occupied, got a room and stayed.

These accounts throw light on the first years after the Nakbeh, before Israel's borders were completely closed. In this still relatively unstudied period, the thousands of Palestinians uprooted by the Nakbeh milled around in what had been Palestine, or between Palestine and the Arab 'host' countries, trying to return and sometimes succeeding, or forced to settle provisionally in some new 'home'.

I move back to Jerusalem to meet Leena Saraste who is accompanying me on this trip. I first met Leena when she was doing a photo book about Palestinians in Lebanon 8, and we have stayed in contact ever since. She is also taking photos of Easter in the Old City, and of Artas for the Finnish Oriental Institute; we spend our first day together struggling through crowds of worshippers in the narrow streets. We stay at the Austrian Hospice. From its roof there's a wonderful view of the Old City's domes and towers.

While staying in Jerusalem we record with speakers in the city itself and in nearby villages - Silwan, Nebbi Samuel. But I want Leena to see Jaffa, and meet Andre Mazawi and his wife Suher, friends since an earlier trip. From Jaffa we hope to carry on the Nagab. I'm eager to see what Leena will make of the great distances and skies, and the struggle of its isolated people to survive predators such as the Israeli Green Patrol.

6. Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 Expulsion of a People from their Homeland. London: Faber and Faber, 1987, p. 163-166.
7. This eye-witness account corresponds in the main with Palumbo's, based on the report of a UN observer, Captain Zeuty, but differs in some details such as the date of the attack.
8. Leena Saraste (1985), For Palestine, London: Zed Books.

[Abbas Zeinideen] [Umm Nakhleh Saqar]


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