On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, when so many around us were celebrating the establishment of an independent state on the ruins of the Palestinian lives, homes and communities, we gathered at Jaffa’s Saraya Theater for a community activity of truth-saying and acknowledgement, resisting oppression and promoting redress.
Zochrot Director Rachel Beit Arie began with a statement about the place where we gathered – about Jaffa, the large and vibrant city 90 percent of whose inhabitants became refugees in 1948, and specifically about the Old Saraya building, home to the city’s governor throughout the 19th century. After the new government building was inaugurated at the Clock Square and until the 1948 Nakba, the building served as a soap factory owned by the Damiani family. After the war, it was requisitioned by the State of Israel, and today it is home to the Jewish-Arab Theater and Saraya Theater.
Beit Arie’s address was followed by a performance, where passages from Israel’s Declaration of Independence were read, interspaced between testimonies of Zionist fighters about the 1948 war events, against the background of photos of Palestinian sites before and after 1948. The performance was directed by author and playwright Alma Ganihar, the music was played by conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira, and the texts were read by four Israeli youngsters, including conscientious objectors who have signed the 2021 high-school graduates’ refusal letter.
We heard the testimony of Palmach fighter Yerachmiel Kahanovich about the deportation of Palestinians from the Eastern Galilee during Operation Broom in May 1948 and about the massacre at Dahmash Mosque in Lydda (July 12, 1948); the testimony of Binyamin Eshet, also of the Palmach, about the same massacre and the looting in Lydda; the testimony of the late Amnon Neuman about the expulsion of Palestinians from the Western Negev to Gaza and the burning of their houses and about a rape at the village of Burayr; the testimony of Haganah fighter Hava Keller about the occupation of Acre and the deportation of its inhabitants in May 1948, and the postwar demolition of the nearby village of A-Samiriyya; the testimony of Haganah fighter Yaakov Shafrir about the April 9 massacre at Dir Yassin; the testimony of Palmach fighter Zvi Steklov about the bombing of the mosque in the village of Al-Dawayimah, west of Hebron; and the testimony of Michael (Mikey) Cohen about the expulsion of the inhabitants of Huj (a village near Gaza) and means taken to prevent the return of refugees, including the burning of fields and the demolition of houses.
The performance ended with a sharp transition from the 1948 events to the Nakba that is ongoing to this day in Palestinian locales all across the country and in the region, including in Gaza, East Jerusalem, Ein al-Hilwe refugee camp in Lebanon, and Jaffa itself.
After several concluding thoughts by Beit Arie and Zochrot Education Coordinator Yaara Benger Alaluf, an open conversation took place. Among other issues, we talked about the importance of truly acknowledging and taking responsibility for the injustices of the past and present, about ways to take action to promote political change, about decolonization practices, about the importance of following a Palestinian political leadership, and about moral and practical aspects in planning the return of Palestinian refugees.
About forty people were present in the event, which was broadcast live on Facebook.
Click here to watch the entire event (in Hebrew).
The presentation screened during the performance, with the testimonies and site photos attached above.