Excerpts from the booklet

Letter from a Palestinian refugee to a Jewish student

"Dear Gil

Try to send you all info through office word, but no chance, my computer only write from left to right and you know Arabic language is from right to left, so I'll answer all your questions in English, hope can help you.

The village is in the middle between Acre an Naharia, around the village as I know more than five Zionist settlements, and to the south of the village there was a British military camp, both the camp and the settlements were making troubles in our life , the settlements mostly every night were shooting any one from the village they saw.

The British soldiers also made our life like hell, and I remember one day a big military truck was hitting my father's store and I was there, but god saved me. I disappeared and in the end they found me but Am still alive.

The relation between the village people and the Palestinian Jews was very good, we visited them and they visited us in all occasions, we were medicated at Naharia clinics and hospitals, an alderman from Naharia was a good friend to the village, and many times I heared him saying to us: be careful, there are bad days will come, and that happened, when one early morning around thirty trucks entered the village, the soldiers was dressed Arabian style, so we thought they are Arabs coming to defend us, but they began shooting every one they saw. Most of the residences escaped to the north, because the Zionists made a save side in the north to kick out everyone, we escaped to Lebanon, through Albassa and Tarshiha. After we left the village the Zionists destroyed all the village except the mosque and old Romanian building.

In Lebanon we lived around one month in a village called Tyrharfa, with no clothes, non food and with little money my father was carrying in his pocket.

After they asked us to move to Tyre City (Sour) from there they took us by train to Aleppo –Syria. 95 percent of the village people stayed in Ein Elhelwa Refugee camp. We reached Aleppo, they put us in Elnyrab Camp. After one month they moved us to a Syrian village called Altamanaa, from there also moved to a city called Maarat Alno'aman, from there to Hamah city. That what happened to my family.

After that we knew that all the village people are in Ein elhelwa camp to the South of Sayda city in Lebanon. With some help from our people we returned to Ein elhelwa in Lebanon, and we stayed in tents, and imagine what was happening to us in winter or summer under the tent.

The Red Cross gave us tents and food, and opened for us school, I studied there.

The connection between me and the village people is still going, they phone and I phone them in all occasions, my big brother stays with his family in Damascus, the second one in Aleppo. Now in Ein elhelwa there are three sisters and two brothers with there families. I have also three sisters married and living in Jordan , I visited my three sisters in Jordan after I became an American citizen, because with the Refugee Lebanese travel document the authorities of Jordan don't let me in. Also my big daughter lives now with her husband and three children in Cairo, last time I visited them was in 2000 .

As I told you I can write to you better and more in Arabic, but I will try to find a solution for that, also there are a TV station did an interview with the Alderman of the village two years ago, he remember better than me, so I will contact that station to send me a copy of the interview, as they promised, when I receive it I'll send copy to you. Hope this gives an idea. Thank you for taking care of my village info."

And my best regards

Zakaria Elnatour

Discovering the Unknown

Gil Shner, Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz (Lochame HaGeta'ot)
Translated by Oshra Bar

Al-Sumayriyya village, or simply Samariya as refered to by the people of my kibbutz, has always been a thing of uncertainty for me, as well as to the rest of the residents.

Two years ago, as part of a history assignment for school, I decided to find and learn the story of the village, both from the point of view of its residents, and from the Jewish Zionist point of view. I toured the ruins of the village and took pictures, along with my dad, a member of the kibbutz who, like me, set foot in that area for the first time.

Through the Internet I tried contacting refugees from the village or their family members, to tell the story from their point of view – a story I did not know. I contacted a man born in al-Sumayriyya, who was about 7 when the village was abandoned by its residents and is now 68 years old and lives in the United States. Zakariyya Alantor, the Al-Smiria refugee, told me about his life and about what he and his family went through from the moment they had to leave their home. I asked him questions, told him about myself, and we communicated via email for a certain period of time.

Zakariyya was cordial and understanding towards my being a Jew, an Israeli living today on the same land he grew up on. I was excited to find a man who believes one must see a person's humanity and not his\ her religion and faith, and to my surprise he treated me with no grudge or resentment. I have learned a lot from him.

I do not feel guilty for living on a land taken from its former residents, in part due to the fact I am a descendent of people exiled from their land in Europe, who came to Israel as refugees and founded the kibbutz in which I live. However, I think it's important that people know and recognize the stories of this place and of the people who lived here in the past. It's part of the history of our home.

Zakariyya was born in al- Sumayriyya village in 1941, and to his recollection he was 7 when the village was abandoned. His house was on the west part of the village, fronting the mosque, near the main road crossing the village, separating the east and west sides.

During the deportation he and his family left for Lebanon, as refugees. They lived in several refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon. These days, his ten brothers and sisters live in Lebanon, Sirya and Jordan. Zakariyya has 6 children, 2 boys and 4 girls, all married but one, sill in school in Milwaukee, USA.

On December 1971 Zakariyya moved from Lebanon to Libya following his work, from there he sent his son to the United State to study, and his son became a U.S. citizen. Afterwards, his son filed request for visas for the whole family and they moved to the United States, except for the firstborn daughter still living in Cairo with her husband and children, waiting to get a visa herself.

I sent Zakariyya a few questions about his opinion of the Jewish people and would he be willing to return to his land, and this is what he answered, on 13 April 2007:

"-You ask me about my feeling to the Zionists, yes I don't like them they took my land, they destroyed my home They made me a refugee since 1948"

-"I don't hate the Jews, we were citizens, neighbors, celebrated in all occasions, I remember when any one of us feel sick we were going to the clinics and hospitals in Naharia, the Palestinian Jews were very nice, and I am able to live with them. I prefer to return to my village either all my family."

-" My philosophy is not to look to human through his religion, the religion between him and god, I look to the others through there humanity, through there style with the others."

Town Today

According to the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, the remaining structures on the village land are:

"One room from the mosque, portions of a building, segments of walls and arches from fallen houses, and graves are all that remain of al-Sumayriyya. The remaining part of the mosque is a square stone building with a flat roof that is supported on girders and crossbeams." 

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