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You have reached an Electronic Intifada slide show. The Electronic Intifada (EI), found at electronicIntifada.net, publishes news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from a Palestinian perspective.
The year 1948 is the worst year in Palestinian history. It is the year of the destruction of Palestinian society and the dispossession and expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their villages and cities by Zionist forces. Today, there are about five million Palestinian refugees around the world, still waiting to exercise their right of return. Most refugees live in the surrounding Arab countries Jordan, Lebanon and Syria; however some of them live very close to their original homes. In my case, I live only three kilometers from my own village: Lifta.
My parents were born in Lifta, they spent their childhood in its hills and valleys. I inherited from them the memories of the life in Lifta with its easiness and hardships. Since I was a child I was addicted to my grandparents’ stories about Lifta. They told me that before 1948, about 3,000 Palestinians lived in Lifta, most of them where farmers. The lands of Lifta totaled around 8,700 acres planted with olive trees, figs, cactus and almonds. Lifta had hundreds of beautiful old-style homes, two schools, community club, olive press, mosque, library, and cemetery. On 28 December 1947, a Zionist terrorist group attacked the village coffee shop, killed five civilians and threatened the rest of the people forcing them to leave the village. The people left with the hope that they would return after a few days. Afterwards the Zionist forces bombed Lifta’s houses to insure that the indigenous inhabitants did not find anywhere to return to.
The estimated number of Lifta refugees today is around 30,000 who are scattered around the world. My family, along with dozens of other Lifta families live in Jerusalem. We can visit the village but cannot return to it while a number of Jewish settlers live in some of Lifta’s houses.
In my imagination created by the stories I’ve heard and the reality I see, I perceive Lifta as an inhabited place, full of people and amazing nature. I imagine the people meeting during the days next to the water spring, where young women fill their water jugs and young men wait to chat with them. In the evenings, people meet in a house to listen to the al-Hakawati (storyteller) who tells stories inspired from history and our culture. I imagine the wedding-parties next to the water spring where young men and women dance debke — the Palestinian folkloric dance — to the flute and sing dallona (folklore) songs.
I have no words to describe my feelings when I see my house and land in front of me inhabited by strangers who prevent me by their laws from returning to it. I thought maybe through pictures I would be able to tell part of the story of Lifta. To express myself, my anger, my hopes and my dreams, I created the above work. It is my way to feed my imagination and develop a new vision of the place that belongs to me and the place that I belong to. A place that the Zionists failed to erase from my memory.
Lifta, like many other Palestinian villages, does not only consist of abandoned walls and trees, rather they are history and future, life and existence, struggle and victory that will be achieved one day through the right of return. With the images I’ve captured, as well as my imagination, I try to illustrate, on one hand the destruction of the place and the society that inhabited it and on the other a continuous picture that connects past and future, sadness and happiness, dreams and reality.
Anan Odeh is a human rights lawyer and refugee from Lifta, Palestine. Born in 1972, he lived most of his life in Jerusalem and moved to the US two years ago to continue his studies.