Israel’s 60th Anniversary: Taybeh School Reflects Steadfastness of Palestinians
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
(Taybeh, Palestine) Thursday was simply a magnificent day in Taybeh with the Latin Patriarchate School celebrating their Open Day activities which included many “Dabkeh” dance groups, sports, poetry and even a special skit ironically reflecting life with the “Apartheid” Wall between Israelis and Palestinians. Children, who have been deprived from every normal activity of childhood that others around the world take for granted finding the hope to laugh, sing, and dream of a better future but stuck in the misery of occupation. Most of the performances encompassed holding the Palestinian flag in the highest position as a symbol of the strong yearning for a free Palestine.
In the Taybeh drama directed by Ms. Valentine, the female character played by Hannen, reminds the world that it has been sixty years since over 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes and belongings, businesses, farms, their towns and cities. This awful “catastrophe” is termed “Nakba” in Arabic. Israel’s 60th Independence celebration this week in creating a Jewish state is in reality Palestine’s destruction and mourned as the national day of tragedy. Palestinians have experienced forced displacement, dispossession, and the suffering continues until today. The “Apartheid” Wall and the brutal military occupation are aimed at continuing to expel Palestinians like the Taybeh students who attempt steadfastness in Palestine with their mere presence and hope for a better future in their beloved homeland.
By the end of 1948, two-thirds of the Palestinian population was exiled. It is estimated that more than 50% were driven out under direct military assault. Others fled as news spread of massacres committed by Jewish militias in Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin. When my late father-in-law, Canaan, would speak on public radio in Boston about Deir Yassin and that over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed and all the atrocities committed against Palestinians in 1948, I would just wanted to hide under a rock because I did not believe it. I thought how can you say to Americans that the newly-established Israeli government confiscated refugee land and properties without respect to Palestinian rights? I thought in my mind “Baba how can you say that Palestinians lost all they had while Jews found everything they needed and took it while the world was watching?” However, every Palestinian that I have met in the last thirty years has confirmed this catastrophe. It is a fact that Israel rapidly moved Jews into the newly-emptied Palestinian homes. Today, the United Nation has registered approximately 4.4 million Palestinian refugees and at least another estimated 1 million who are not so registered.
Jewish leaders spoke openly of the need to use military clashes to expel as many Palestinians as possible before other Arab countries could come to their defense. The Haganah militia’s Plan Dalet
was the blueprint for this ethnic cleansing. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”
As Israel celebrates 60 years on May 15th, Palestinians are encouraged to plan mass demonstrations across Palestine to commemorate sixty years of exile and dispossession. A silent march will take place in the Western neighborhoods of Jerusalem to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba organized by Nakba survivors who want to create greater understanding and awareness of this catastrophe. No flags, no posters but advised to wear black garments. The Ellahi Holy Land Christian group is promoting flying 29,915black balloons over Jerusalem (exactly 365 days X 60 years). Across the globe different solidarity actions are taken place to demand the restoration of Palestinian rights. The famous Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, reflects on the Nakba, “I came from there… and remember.” The late renowned Edward Said emphasized what the Holocaust is to the Jews is what the Nakba is to the Palestinians.
Another important fact about the Nakba is that it not finished. The “Apartheid” State of Israel is driving Christian and Muslim Palestinians out of Jerusalem.
Following the Orthodox Pascha (Easter) celebrations, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives visitors in Jerusalem to exchange good wishes and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. I set out from my village of Taybeh on Bright Tuesday with my family, whom all hold valid American passports and they had obtained the permits needed based on their Palestinian Id card from Bet El to enter Jerusalem.
However after four hours sitting in my car, I still could not enter Jerusalem from the Hizma checkpoint. After a few hours I pleaded with the soldier to please allow me to either pass the checkpoint to go to the patriarchate or return home to Taybeh but it was inhumane to sit in the car for no logical reason. The solider insisted that I need to be punished because “you are smuggling illegal immigrants into Israel.”
I asked her to look at the passport that showed my husband was born in Jerusalem and taking my husband and my 75 year old mother-in-law to Jerusalem during holy days is a basic right especially since they are dual citizens. I could not get anywhere with the soldier that kept saying “go back to your car” every time I tried to approach her. I was so frustrated and angry that day that to top it off this is a normal story that the American Consulate officers hear all the time.
The only thought that kept going through my mind is that even normal people being treated by violent and unfair actions every day can simply turn to violence to resist injustice.
Furthermore, I would like to quote Dr. Elias Akleh who recently wrote: “Greek Orthodox Christian celebrations of Saturday’s Holy Fire and Sunday’s Easter in the Church of the Holy sepulcher in Jerusalem late April were violated an spoiled by aggressive interruptions of Israeli army and police. Instead of Christian worshippers, armed Israeli soldiers crowded the entrance to the Church. Instead of lighted candles, police batons were raised. Instead of musical bands playing their instruments, Israeli soldiers brandished their automatic weapons, and instead of celebrating, Palestinian Christians were confronted by Israeli police thuds, were beaten, and many were arrested.”
The world must finally understand that the Nakba is a root cause of the Israeli Palestinian problem and it is marked on May 15th the day after Israel declared its independence in l948.
The world should not celebrate the birthday of a state that currently engages in ethnic cleansing, violates international law, is inflicting a brutal collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and continues to deny Palestinians their basic human rights.
As a mother of three children, I cannot understand how Jewish mothers teach their children to celebrate their state founded on terrorism, massacres, and the dispossession of another people from their land.
The only way to justice and a just peace in Israel and Palestine is one state for all of its citizens and the return of the Palestinian refugees to the homes and lands that were stolen from them as adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1948, resolution no. 194. The two state solutions have failed us. We cannot survive behind a 27 foot wall with closed boarders while the harsh treatment is creating more fanatics.Until there is a free Palestine with Jerusalem open for all faiths, you have to assume that Palestinians have no other alternative but to continue with their resistance. But, for us in Taybeh that resistance will continue to be peaceful and promoting non-violent resolutions. Therefore, Kudos to the principal Mr. Ghaleeb, Ms. Suhair and all of the teachers at the Latin School for the hard work reflected in this excellent day where students are yearning just to be normal in the most abnormal of circumstances.
(Maria Khoury is writer and the author of Witness in the Holy Land. She lives in Taybeh, Palestine.)