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Yaffa – the city my family once called home

Amirah AbuLughod is a farmer living in New York and a granddaughter of one of the 120,000 Palestinians displaced from Yaffa in 1948. She visited Yaffa on Interfaith Peace-Builders’ recent Olive Harvest Delegation. To read more delegate reflections from the trip got to www.ifpb.org/del63.

I walked these streets – we walked these streets – with a man whose family stayed after the Nakba in 1948. His family was one of only 4,000 who stayed out of an original population of 120,000.

My family was one of those who had the means and opportunity to leave.

I learned on the tour of my grandparents’ city that those who stayed were forced into Ajami – the refugee camp ghetto created for Yaffa refugees on their own land. The ghetto was dismantled only after Holocaust survivors witnessed Ajami and saw something all too familiar.

We walked through the now artist village which was once the location of my siedo’s (grandfather’s) home. I’m told by family that the site of his home looks so very different than it once did. As we sat in the beautifully landscaped park surrounded by greenery, blooming bougainvillea, and a salty breeze from the Mediterranean, our guide informed us that any open space in Yaffa was once the most populated. The most populated areas were the first to be demolished, flattened to the ground – they now lay barren of homes, filled with people enjoying the view of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to most people’s definition, Yaffa is a beautiful city – sea side views, a bustling shopping scene, an artist’s village, restaurants everywhere you turn.

I found myself struggling to see the beauty. I knew what I was seeing was nothing like the Yaffa my grandparents called home and what did resemble their existence there felt like a restoration of mockery.  It looks nothing like what my ancestors called home because my ancestors were those people who lived on “the land with no people for a people with no land.”

I looked out over the Mediterranean Sea, a piece of the scenery that hadn’t changed since my family’s presence. I realized that the water, the sea still remembers my grandmother’s face looking out over its expanse. That sea holds the familiarity and memory of all of those ancestors.

And so, I turned away from the land and focused on the water. Grateful.

Grateful to have the opportunity to hear from those people of Yaffa who stayed, survived and continue to survive. Grateful to be able to look over the water and see what my ancestors saw and grateful to be able to show the sea my face. A hopeful face, a humbled face, the face of her granddaughter.

Yaffa the city my family once called home

Tags: #ICC4Israel, #NAKBA

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police




The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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