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Joint Palestinian and Israeli demonstration against the Segregation Wall in the Abu Dis neighborhood of
Jerusalem. The demonstration was coordinated by Ta'ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership.
Photo: Bryan Atinsky, 2003.

Adele Andre, Baq'a (West Jerusalem), June 24:

The first time I see Adele she is in a film about Jerusalem in 1948, made by BADIL. She is a foreign national (French), but because she was displaced as a child during 1948 and has lived in Jerusalem ever since, I feel that her testimony is justified for inclusion. To reach Baq'a I have to cross over from East into West Jerusalem, a 'frontier' marked by a broad autostrada intended by Israeli city planners to demarcate and separate the still mainly Palestinian Eastern sector from the rest of the city. Originally mixed Arab and Jewish, Baq'a is a relatively old suburb with small houses in gardens. In one of these, Adele Andre lives alone. Only she and a married sister in France survive from the Andre family as it was in 1948 -- two parents and seven daughters.

I find a diminutive woman past retirement age. She greets me with a smile that lasts through the recording session, amazing because she's suffering from a bad insect sting on legs already swollen with varicose veins. I wonder how she manages alone. She says she has one relative living nearby, a step-uncle on her mother's side. She serves me lemonade and cookies. Her sitting room reminds me of my maiden aunts' home in south London -- the same lacy curtains, crocheted table covers, and array of family photographs, the same aging chairs. Only the pictures on the wall are different, denoting Catholic piety.

Adele has a French passport but her forebears were from Bethlehem. Catholics, they emigrated to France several generations ago. Her father and mother re-migrated to Palestine a few years before the Nakbeh. Her father must have been wealthy, because he bought land in Jerusalem and built a large villa on part of it, situated where the Egged bus company is now.

Adele is ready to record her story, but first she hunts for a letter that she once wrote to Mrs Weizman (wife of the first President of Israel), entitled "A Sad Story". It's a brief account of her life. Mrs Weizman replied saying she couldn't handle such things, but had passed it on to the Israeli authorities. I read the letter later, after hearing Adele's story. It contains some details that she doesn't speak of, for example that she had received two marriage proposals that her mother discouraged her from accepting.

The contrast between Adele's welcoming persona and her tragic story could not have been more marked. Most of her family - father and siblings - died during and soon after the Nakbeh. Adele looked after her mother until the latter's death in 1988. She had been the main bread-winner for the family from adolescence, in a series of low-paid administrative jobs interrupted by periods of unemployment and caring for her mother. From a historical perspective, the most interesting part of her testimony is her description of the concentration camp into which, in 1948, the Israelis herded all non-Jewish residents of West Jerusalem who had not fled during the fighting. Though a foreign national, her father's land was confiscated, his villa blown up and booby-trapped. Though they could have gone back to France, Adele and her mother had stayed on. Even though they had French passports, they shared in the Palestinian situation of displacement, loss, and marginality.

Adele Andre speaks (in French):
"According to our [family] history, I know that my father was born in Bethlehem, and at the age of three he left with his parents to go to France. They stayed with him until he was six years. When he was six they put him in a Frères school, and they came and went between Bethlehem and France because they had houses that belonged to them. My father remained in France until the age of 30. Meanwhile he did his military service, not in war but as an employee in the military administration. When he finished military service he began to work. He worked and sent money to his father so that he could buy him a plot of land and put it in his name so that he could build on it. Every penny he earned he sent to his father. Unfortunately his father, like many other people, instead of registering the land in the name of his son as he had asked, put it in his own name. Meanwhile he went on sending money -- sending, sending, sending continually -- and always his father put it in his own name. One day when he had decided to come back to the country [Palestine], he wanted to look at the land that he had bought. And he decided on a plot here, a large plot of 60 dunums, and also two or three other plots in Qatamon that he bought and left empty. On the plot of 60 dunums he began to build a villa of two floors that was really very beautiful. Then, by coming to this country, my father met my mother who was Italian..."

[Hajji Aisha Alwayn Aqel] [Na'ila Zaru']


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