On the table, I could see pita bread and coffee, and on the floor a little baby girl shoe they probably had no time to have her wear before they fled, and also a china set, jewelry and dresses, a washing machine and some books
(Testimony by 1948 fighter Hava Keller)
The events of the Nakba left behind them towns, villages and houses empty of all human presence, but full of belongings. Despite its massive expulsion of the Palestinian population and the attempt to erase all its traces from the country’s landscape, its cultural remains are still present in many Jewish Israeli homes. There, they serve as a reminder of days gone by and as a testimony – whether consciously or not – that the land their new owners inherited by force of arms had not been a wilderness bereft of people and of culture.
The Absentee Objects project seeks to locate objects found in the houses of Palestinians deported, force to leave and prevented from returning during and after 1948, and taken by Jewish soldiers, civilians or institutions, whether in an “organized” fashion or for the sake of personal gain.
If you, your family or friends own a Palestinian object from the 1948 war or its aftermath, please contact us. We would like to hear their present owners tell the object’s story, its meaning for them, and thoughts and doubts they may have: What to do with the object? Give it away? Or maybe find a way for redress?
One of the leitmotifs in testimonies by Jews who fought in 1948 is a detailed description of the moment after the expulsion, when the fighter enters the family’s private space and sees it full of signs of life but emptied of all tenants, and is impressed by the material richness. Many fighters display and talk about objects looted (“souvenirs”) they keep to this day, and about their powerful emotional meaning for them.
Absentee Objects is an initiative by Yael Plat, an artist, curator and culture researcher, as part of her final project for Zochrot’s Pre-Transitional Justice Lab.
For questions and further information, please contact the artist at
If you would like to send us a photo of the object and its story, and/or the object itself, mail us at POB 51698, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 67212
To contact Lab Coordinator Jessica Nevo, +972-3-695-3155; if you have anything else to tell us about the life and events of 1948, please email Jessica at email@example.com
You must inspect all the farms in the Upper and Lower Galilee… to determine how many herds (abandoned cows, sheep and goats) and how much other property were “taken” from Arab villages during their occupation and thereafter, crops, furniture and all manner of objects, and submit the detailed list to the Minister of Defense [David Ben-Gurion].
Ben-Gurion to Zalman Mishary, November 11, 1948
A recent article: “This Also Happened in 1948”
The Pre-Transitional Justice Lab is a first-of-its-kind initiative in civic society in Israel/Palestine. It relies on Zochrot’s accumulated experience over the past 15 years and on models of transitional justice and other related practices developed around the world to study the reality of our lives: an enduring and intractable conflict, occupation, dispossession and erasure – in a word, the ongoing Nakba. For further information,
*The photo is taken from this blog