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Nakba Day: Palestinians remember their home

  • Palestinian children mark Nakba in Ain al-Hilweh, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: Fatima Miari is adamant that she one day will return to her village in Palestine, the one she was forced to leave 65 years ago.

“You never lose the right you keep fighting for. We will return home to Palestine,” Miari, 77, said as she watched some kids re-enact a scene depicting their grandparents fleeing from their villages in May 1948, a performance organized by a number of Palestinian associations at the Ain alHilweh refugee camp in Sidon.

May 15 marks the 65th anniversary of the Nakba or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homeland as a result of a war which would conclude with the founding of the Jewish state.

The student performance was one among many events that Palestinian factions all over Lebanon have organized to commemorate Nakba Day. A number of tents will also be erected in Ain al-Hilweh Wednesday to commemorate the day.

“I still remember how our house looked. If I die before my return, I want its photo to be buried with me,” Miari explains.

With beards and moustaches drawn on their faces, kids taking part in the performance hurriedly packed mattresses, blankets and other necessities, just like their grandparents did more than six decades ago. They also carried cardboard keys, representing the ones to their original homes, along with banners bearing the names of cities and villages that Palestinians were made to leave.

“I am here for the sake of Palestine, so that we return home,” said Mohammad Qusaya, who along with all the young performers wore a traditional Palestinian kaffiyeh.

“My grandparents have experienced the Nakba. A long time has passed, we should return home,” he said, as fellow Palestinian kids waved their nation’s flag.

Passersby stood on the roads to observe as Hiam Abu Salem, a teacher, asked her students to wave Palestinian flags and sing a song with her about returning to Palestine.

“Tomorrow we will return home. My grandfather will return, carrying his house key. He will plant olives, figs, apples and oranges and my grandmother will bake and tell stories about our country,” sang the students.

“We are marking the Nakba by teaching children not to forget Palestine. They all know by now which villages their families were forced to leave,” Abu Salem said.

“We teach them these lessons about Palestine so that we can preserve our right to return.”

Palestinian children who were recently displaced as a result of the Syrian war also took part in the show.

“We came from Haifa. My family was displaced from Palestine and we were displaced from Syria. I wish we could die so that this torture ends,” said Hanan Abu Taha.

“We feel pain every day. Life is difficult here; there is no place to have fun,” she added. “Isn’t it my right to live like the children in other parts of the world? Isn’t it my right to sleep at home in Palestine?”

Mahmoud Hasan Mohammad, a former fighter for the pro-Syrian Palestinian Liberation Army still believes that resistance, rather than diplomacy, is the only way to return to Palestine.

“Palestine will be back only when we obey God’s orders to fight the Jews, the enemies of God. Negotiations only create obstacles, not solutions,” says 53-year-old Mohammad, from Haifa originally.

“We have to organize ourselves and then prepare [for resistance].”

Palestinian factions in Lebanon began holding events, similar to the students’ performance, to commemorate the Nakba.

To mark the day the Hamas Movement held a rally in Sidon’s Martyrs Square Sunday. The speakers at the rally unanimously emphasized that only resistance could liberate the Palestinian territories.

On Monday, refugees and representatives from most Palestinian factions demonstrated in the southern town of Naqoura. A delegation of protesters handed officials from the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon a memo meant for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, highlighting the need for the agency to help implement their right of return.

All Palestinian factions, save Hamas, will combine their efforts and hold ceremony at the Mar Elias refugee camp in Beirut Wednesday.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization also held an exhibition Monday of photographs taken during the Nakba.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 15, 2013, on page 4.
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