Laura van Rij (L): What is your connection to Lifta?
Amina (A): I was born in Lifta, in the old town. When I was three years old I came to the Mount Scopus area, there was also land of the Lifta people. I used to help my father to harvest the olives. There was no electricity, we used oil lamps. I can remember my aunts´ wedding in Lifta, I went there with my father. The couple getting married was riding on horses and the rest of the village walked behind them. The bride and her husband rode both on their own horse. Everyone sings, they said it gives you good fortune. They shouted ´Be ready Abu Musa, when they come you have to be happy for your son and his wedding and make sure everybody can eat!´
L: How do you remember your life in Lifta?
A: We lived the simple life but we were happy. We didn’t need to go to the market, all we needed was our field, the trees and our hands. When they finished their work the women would sit together and make the traditional clothes. Every morning they would collect wood for the stove, they had to walk far to find it. People had time for each other, when somebody was ill all the villagers would visit and bring milk. If that didn´t help they put him on a donkey to go to the hospital in Jerusalem. My grandfather moved to America when my father was still very young. He was doing hard work, cutting stones for the houses in Lifta. He didn´t want to stay here.Before he went to America my grandfather advised the family to move to Mount Scopus. He said the climate is better here. That the life would be better.
L: Did you live on Mount Scopus in 1948?
A: We lived on Mount Scopus already when the war began. We were attacked by the Jews, we were afraid to leave our houses. When they came to the houses with their guns I stayed on the field to escape the shooting.
L: Where is the rest of your family living now? Where did they go after the war?
A: My family is living separately. My uncle is in Amman, my daughter as well, another daughter in Bethlehem… Each Palestinian family lives separated, divided by many borders. West Bank, Amman, Europe. I met a man in Hebron, his sons were living in six different continents! They are all somewhere else, as if he had no children… We went maybe once a month to Ramallah, that was a lot. Today my son went to Ramallah and to Tel Aviv! Times have changed.
L: Do you visit Lifta?
A: Yes, I went there two times. I can´t walk there anymore, my back is bad. The path down there is difficult, so I don´t go anymore. The last time I went was ten years ago. My grandfather’s house is there, it is still standing up but no one can return anymore. Look, weep, and go away.
The interview is for the project "It's all about people - Narratives from Lifta" done by Laura van Rij as part of her M.A. in public history at The University of Amsterdam.
Interview location: the house of Mohammed Abu Leil, Jerusalem. June 3, 2013.
Translation from Arabic to English by Mohammed Abu Leil
Translation to Hebrew: Yonat Nitzan-Green