A journey back in time
Predating the modern offices and apartment blocks in Ramallah are two refugee camps. My visit to one, Jalazon, was with Mohammed Aruri, long time Trade Union organiser in the West Bank and Gaza for which he has been targeted by the Israeli authorities and imprisoned 4 times. He has travelled widely and spoken at many conferences including Unite and Unison and I value him greatly as he is my translator! We visit the home of one of the 17,000refugees to meet the retired camp leader Abu Hazin. About 85 years old, he sits with his wife next to a two electric bar fire and tells me his story. I have read many accounts of the Nakba of 1948, read Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and heard him speak but nothing was more heart wrenching then to listen to a survivor recount his experience
In 1948, 531 villages were depopulated and /or destroyed by Israeli forces and Abu Hazin and family, with many others of the village of Bait Nabala, came east and ended up in Jalazon to live in tents. Abu quickly became camp leader organising the camp and food supplies. Fast forward to 1967, the camp became more amenable and rooms were built for families, which eventually became houses. In 1970 Abu and his wife returned to visit their destroyed village. He tells the story in an impassioned but restrained way and the room’s atmosphere is full of their relived pain and suffering
“We will never forget our homes and villages”, says Abu.
A photo on the wall shows them looking at the destruction
Imprisonment and House demolition
Abu has been imprisoned by the Israel three times. The first time was in 1970, when he 2 of his sons and three of his daughters were prisoners as well. The last time was between 1993-6 for being a PLO supporter. His original house was also demolished.
During the first intifada there were many arrests and Abu’s son was killed by the army. Abu’s wife was left alone in the house, but the soldiers still came round to harass her speaking Hebrew. Managing to find an interpreter she said :
“Why don’t you leave me alone, it is only me and my god living here now”.
Abu Hazin and his wife
Picture of son killed in 1st Intifada
I leave the camp with a heavy heart knowing that they will live the rest of their lives never being reunited with their land and that the destruction of Pal homes, livelihoods and political arrests is still goes on after 47 years of occupation.