Until 1948, the Palestinian village of Summayl al-Khalil stood on a gentle sandy hill some 4km southeast of Kibbutz Kedma, and further, the villages of Tall al-Turmus, al-Jaladiyya, al-Sawafir and the town of Isdud (some 20 km away), north of al-Falluja, 'Iraq al-Manshiyya and Kibbutz Gat, northeast of Jusayr, Hatta and Karatiyya, east of Beit 'Affa, 'Ibdis and the town of al-Majdal (some 20km away), southwest of Tall al-Safi and Bi'lin, west of Barqusya, ra'na, Zikrin and 'Ajjur. (1)
Now, the remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Summayl al-Khalil stand on a gentle sandy hill some 4km of the Kedma Youth Village and Timorim, the towns of Kiryat Malachi and Ashdod, north of Kiryat Gat, Kibbutz Gat, Menucha and Vardon, northeast of Zavdiel, Aluma, Revacha and Otzem, east of Segula, Komemiut, Negba and the town of Ashkelon, southwest of Kfar Menachem, Geffen and Tirosh, west of Beit Nir, Luzit and Aggur. (2)
To arrive at the village site from the Tel Aviv area, drive south on Highway 40, and about five kilometers north of Plugot (Al-Fallujah) Junction, turn east on Segula Junction. Drive about 1500 meters along Route 3553, pass the entrances to Segula (to your left) and to Vardon and Menucha (to your right), cross the railway bridge, and immediately after it, before arriving in Nachala, turn left on a dirt road where the JNF sign says "Bible Forest" and "Barkan Vineyards". (3)
On Saturday, May 5, 2012, we have arrived there – about 100 people in all – accompanied by refugees from the village currently living in Ramle in order to learn from them about the village.
We walked along the dirt road, between sabra (local cactus) bushes, fig and sycamore trees on both sides. About 500 meters down the road, it twists right and then immediately left. There, on the right, we saw a patch of land with young trees planted by the JNF, and immediately after it we could see the hill where the village of Summayl used to stand. We stopped there for a general explanation about the village's location, and its neighbors before and after the Nakba. We posted a sign with the village's name and handed out the booklet Remembering Summayl al-Khalil produced by Zochrot especially for the tour.
Then we proceeded down the road around the hill to our right. After about 200m, at the next curve, the hill's landscape was clearly visible to our right, with sabra bushes and broken walls on the top. We could also see newer construction debris there that is not part of the village. We continued along the road as is straightened and began rising a bit, and sat under a large tree at the foot of the hill to the right. In front of us, across the road, we could see more thick sabra bushes and olive trees that looked like an oasis. Across the dry riverbed, in front of the hill to the southwest, was the site of Summayl's cemetery. The area became a quarry and the cemetery was completely destroyed.
We continued along the dirt road until it branched out to the right. We followed this route towards the village center. On the hill, we could see from there the remains of the Crusader fortress wall that used to stand there and starting walking in that direction. To the left we saw a Bedouin tent and a large herd of sheep and goats.
To the right, as we climbing up the hill, we saw a hole in the ground with a concrete cover and an opening at the center. Al-hajja Sara and her family led us to the ruins of a house near the hole. "This is our house. It belongs to my father Isma'il al-Dirbashi. This is where I was born; it was a concrete house with two floors". She also explained to us that the hole near the house is actually a subterranean granary which used to belong to her family. Inside the house, we planted another sign with the village name. All members of the al-Dirbashi family and their friends who took part in the tour stood "inside" the house for a group portrait. Next to the house, they also celebrated the birthday of Sa'di al-Dirbashi, one of the family members born at this very house 67 years ago. The house used to stand almost at the edge of the village to the west, with most of the other houses standing east of it on all sides of the hill.
Youssef 'Abd al-Wahid Hajjaj (55), born here to Elhaja Sara and her husband, also born in Summayl, stood next to his grandfather's house and told us that recently, he has been ordered to evacuate his family house in Ramle due to road and railway construction works in the area. "The house is publicly owned – it belongs to a Palestinian expelled from Ramle. I have been living there ever since I was a child. If they want to kick me out of my present house, I say, let them expel me here, to Summayl, to my original home".
(1) Most of them are Palestinian towns and villages with Arabic names, and two of them are Jewish Kibutzes with Hebrew names.
(2) All are Jewish towns and settlements with Hebrew names.
(3) In Hebrew only.
Translated by: Ami Asher