Zochrot was founded in 2002 by a small group of Jewish-Israeli activists in order to call for the recognition of the Nakba and the Palestinian refugees' right of return by Israeli society.
In the days following the outbreak of the Second Intifada and the collapse of the Oslo Process, when Palestinian society, even within Israel proper, had lost all trust in political processes, whilst many Israelis had declared that "There is no partner", Zochrot's founders realized that it was the refusal of Israel society to learn about the Nakba, its non-recognition of the oppression under which Palestinians are living under the Israeli regime, and its denial of refugees' rights, that had led to an impasse in a process that right from its inception had lacked any goodwill, honesty or recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.
All of these were not even part of the Israeli discourse. Despite the fact that remnants of destroyed Palestinian settlements are scattered across the country, most Israelis were not familiar with the word Nakba, and have never learned to think of the country in which they live as having been established through war crimes that continue to this day. Instead, Israelis are being taught to believe in a mendacious, highly distorted but compelling narrative of "the few against the many" and "a land without people for a people without a land".
Zochrot was born out of the decision of activists who were themselves inculcated within the Zionist paradigm, to refuse and reject the efforts of suppression and repression and to take responsibility for the crimes of the past and for the future. This realization dawned on a tour in Canada Park to learn about the villages Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba, all of whose inhabitants were expelled in 1967, and on whose lands the Jewish National Fund had built the park. It was there that the idea was first raised to put in posted signs commemorating the erased villages, as a way to expose the truth. With the founding of Zochrot, that idea was expanded to include the hundreds of villages, towns and cities destroyed in 1948 and later, with a view to substantiate, in every space where Israelis live, the Palestinian lives that have been wiped out of both the physical space and the Israeli memory.
Ever since its establishment, Zochrot has viewed the exposure of historical truth as a key objective. Although its stance is considered as transgressing the boundaries of Israeli consensus, the organization has managed to open the eyes of thousands of people, and to trigger a rethinking of history and the present among many significant groups. But we are not content with making historical information available and educating about the past. We emphasize that the Nakba is not just a historical event but rather an ongoing process to deprive the Palestinian people of their entire homeland. For us at Zochrot it is important to keep pointing to these facts, as well as to call for the implementation of the Palestinian right of return, which we see as the key for the de-colonization and de-Zionization of the space; in other words, a call to change a regime that grants full rights, including self-determination, exclusively to Jews, and creating a just and sustainable solution. Zochrot was founded at a time when many – Israelis, Palestinians and others – have lost all hope for a solution of peace and reconciliation in the space between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river. Our position is quite the opposite: we insist on hope as a radical stance and on cohabitation. Yet our hope is not disconnected from reality and historical facts. This is why we emphasize that any sustainable solution obliges Israeli society to look courageously and honestly at the roots of the conflict and to take responsibility for past and present grievances, and that the shared existence we seek would be possible only with the dismantling of a regime that privileges Jews and marginalizes Palestinians.
We know that in order to mobilize a deep change in Israeli society towards return, justice and equality, we must challenge not only colonial, but also gender, ethnic and class relations. We have therefore chosen at an early stage to use the verb form Zochrot (in Hebrew, the plural female form of 'remembering'), as an expression of our attempt to create an alternative for the militaristic memory of the 1948 war that prevails in Israeli society. We are rigorous in consistently listening to and learning from Palestinian women – witnesses, scholars, artists and activists – whose voices we continue to bring to the Jewish public in Israel.
Similarly, because the Zionist project is inseparable from race ideologies, our discussion of the Nakba and de-colonization also refers to white supremacy and practices of differentiation and exclusion. Concurrently, since 2015 Zochrot has been dealing directly with the ways in which the Jewish society of Israel may take responsibility for the Nakba without denying the power relations between Zionist European Jews and Jews from Arab and Islamic countries, as well as the way in which class and gender gaps and racism within the Jewish society can be countered without exacerbating the oppression of the Palestinians. We regard this feminist and anti-racist stance as a pre-condition for full liberation and sustainable equality, and we are committed to it not only in theory, but also in practice, both within and outside the organization.
Zochrot has been and remains the only organization that focuses on the mission of Nakba recognition and support for the right of return among Jewish society. Over the years, despite our reliance on mainly modest donations from the public and from non-governmental funds, Zochrot has been successful in providing access in Hebrew to previously unavailable comprehensive information about the Nakba and the Right of Return.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have participated in our tours of Palestinian villages, towns and cities that have been emptied and destroyed in 1948, thereby learning a history of the space that they inhabit of which they had been unaware, as well as learning to begin to think of a Palestinian return not as a threat, but rather as a key to the solution. Thousands of others have participated in courses, workshops, study groups, conferences, discussion and other activities initiated by Zochrot.
Zochrot's testimony database contains testimonies by dozens of Nakba survivors, as well as by Israelis who have fought in 1948 and recounted war crimes in which they took part. It also contains details about depopulated and destroyed sites and historical documents about Zionist colonialism.
In 2014, Zochrot launched iNakba – a mobile app allowing users to navigate to uprooted Palestinian settlements and learn about their histories. iNakba is a unique tool that draws a map of the invisible country – the one that was destroyed and hidden from view. Many thousands have used and are using the app, including Palestinian refugees wishing to see their settlements of origin once again. The app is being relaunched in 2022, reflecting our vision for de-colonization and the rebuilding of Palestine as a space of justice and equality for all its inhabitants.
Today Zochrot is a registered association with five team members and dozens of members and volunteers, mostly Jewish Israelis, and a broad community base of participants in our activities and supporters in Israel and abroad.
Zochrot conducts workshops, conferences and study and action groups for delving into practices of return, that is, not only a recognition of the right of return, but also thinking about the arrangements and actions that could enable a return and support the lives of returning refugees and of all of the country's inhabitants.
Across the entire spectrum of these activities, Zochrot continues to be one of a handful of groups in Israeli society to outline a radical and coherent vision for justice in Palestine that includes the rights of all of its inhabitants and returnees.