Sixty years ago in Battir (Part 2)

For a long time any discussion of the “Arab-Israeli conflict” has skipped one basic fact: Israel, whether one loves or hates it, was created at the expense of the Palestinians. An entire people and hundreds of communities that had lived for centuries in tranquility had to be ruthlessly and unjustly shattered to make room for the Zionist state. The story of my village, Battir, southwest of Jerusalem, is only one of hundreds. EI contributor Hasan Abu Nimah recalls his village’s story. 

Sixty years ago in Battir

One afternoon in May 1948, my village Battir fell under heavy fire from the opposite slopes, across the railway line to the west, which had fallen to the Jewish fighters. We carried whatever belongings we could and headed east a few miles where there were vineyards and a small spring. We thought it would be a short escape, but we camped in that vineyard with many other people from the village all summer, our hopes dimming as the heat rose. EI contributor Hasan Abu Nimah recalls his village in the first part of a two-part series. 

A meaningless stamp

I’ll never forget his face. He held his hand to his ear listening to his earpiece as he stared right at me. He smiled as I struggled to carry all my bags, following a young female soldier with my passport in her hand. I no longer cared at that point and I stared back as hard as I could — cursing him with my eyes. She walked me to the bus stop and handed my passport to another soldier. She walked me to the bus stop and handed my passport to another soldier. I waited in the blistering heat silent and motionless. 

Waiting to return to where "the air is different"

The situation of Laura and Ibrahim is just one of many created by the latest Israeli policy to cleanse Palestine of Palestinians. As their lawyers told them, “The Israeli government wants the least number of Palestinians in the Palestinian territories.” In mid-August, they left Ramallah for Amman, thinking it would be for just a few days, in order to renew their three-month visas to stay legally in Israeli-occupied Ramallah. Their daughter was visiting them in Palestine from the US, and she stayed behind, waiting for them to come back so she could spend the last two weeks of her summer vacation with them. But when they arrived at Tel Aviv Airport, they were detained for a night. 

"We don't want more Palestinians here!"

Yesterday I came to Aqaba, Jordan, and today I went to the border at 8 am. I was nervous, but at the same time I felt good, doing something that I had been anticipating for a long time. I crossed the Jordanian border without any problem, only 15 minutes later I picked up my bag again and started walking to the Palestinian side which is controlled by Israel. Two armed guys were waiting there and asked me for my passport. They look each other and asked me “Where are you from?” despite that one of them had my Chilean passport in his hand. After that I went to the questioning room, and two other officers were there and asked me the normal questions — well, normal by Israeli standards. 

Deported from our own homeland

On the night of Sunday, July 30, my husband and I became deportees. We had left the West Bank a few days earlier when our one-month visa was due to expire. Since arriving in Ramallah in January 2005, we had been leaving the occupied territories right before our visa expired and re-entering the country to get a new visa at the border. But since the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, we had been hearing about other US passport holders who were being denied re-entry when they left to renew their visas. We left nervously but still thinking we would be able to return, if only for a month. 

The struggle for balance

It has been much harder to write from here than from Lebanon or Syria. And I realize now that this is what I need to tell you all today. Especially today - because the reasons I haven’t been writing are I think an example of the obstacles we face as loving, caring people in this violent, angry world. I cried all day when I arrived in Jordan - for many reasons - but mainly because it felt so removed, so distant not just geographically, but mentally and emotionally, from the devastation being wreaked on Lebanon. Every day since, I have struggled here with the balance that plagues so many of us: How to participate in both our own daily lives and the world that often seems so distant from them. 

Remembering Nick Pretzlik

There was a face I knew! It was the coffee seller that my friend ordered from, and introduced with respect: “This gentleman is an accountant, but when times got bad and he couldn’t find appropriate work, he began to sell coffee.” The man was humble and welcoming, smiling inside an enormous purple parka, and adding, out of excess generosity, enough cardamom pods to make the little glass of coffee nearly atomic. Here in one of Jenin’s several internet cafes, the coffee man was smiling from the screen of a website, alongside a brief but potent article by one Nick Pretzlik. Annie Higgins remembers an activist for the Palestinian people. 

Heading for Jerusalem

We have a picture taped above a computer at home, sent to us a month ago on the email circuit, of a naked Palestinian man who has just been strip-searched by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Ramallah and relieved of his clothes altogether, now surrounded by other Palestinian men trying to cover him.