Susan Wahhab, 15 May 2011
For the past few days I have been wondering what to write about 15th May 1948 Nakba day (Nakba in Arabic means catastrophe). I have to admit it’s not an easy conversation to have while still maintaining the quest for peace. Memories of Nakba bring up feelings of anger, dispossession and injustice. Feelings we could choose to let them either foment or suppress in our hearts. Both feelings can lead to frustration, anger, hatred and consequently war and more war (with each other and with the other).
When I remember Nakba I remember my grandparents. My maternal grandparents, Issa and Labibeh Habash were lucky! They found a truck to load the children in with some clothes and left Jaffa to Amman thinking it will be couple of weeks and they will be back. My paternal grandparents, Saliba and Wedad Wahhab weren’t so lucky! They were marched out of Ramleh on foot walking for 3 days through the rocky hills to Ramallah with five children under 10.
My grandparents’ stories are 2 personal stories out of more than 700,000 that make up the Nakba stories; when our grandparents lost their homes, businesses and groves and with it the dream of a country. These are stories that most Israelis and many people in Western countries don’t know about. The aim of my bulletin today is not to make you angry. My aim is to educate you if you don’t know about Nakba but also to bridge the gap that is missing when we talk about peace and justice between Israelis and Palestinians.
With this bulletin I aim to make peace. Not knowing each other’s narrative is what keeps the war and occupation going and with it more Nakba stories of people losing their homes and farms to the wall and settlements. Israelis don’t know much about our history and narrative and we don’t know much about their history and narrative. I would like to introduce to you Roni Segoly an ex Israeli soldier and secret service agent who is now a member of combatants for peace, a joint Israeli-Palestinian NGO.
Roni: “I was born in Baqa neighborhood in Jerusalem (this is the Arab name of the neighborhood that is used until today). I grew up in an Arab house, which to me meant a house with high ceilings, nice tiled floors and thick walls. The fact that in the past Arabs lived there didn’t occur to me at all. In 1967 right after the 6 day war, when I was 10, a few Arabs knocked on our door, and they told us in broken English that they used to live in the house once, and they asked to see it. That was an embarrassing and strange situation, what do we do? And what do they want? I mean this house is obviously ours. Anyways we let them in, they looked around and left, and we haven’t heard from them since. I presume we weren’t very kind to them. This moment has been engraved in my memory ever since.
In 2006 I went with my mother to Romania to see where my roots were. In other words, where she ran away from after the Second World War. We went to the tiny remote village where she was born. It was a deserted village in northern part of the country and we looked for the house she used to live in. Today, obviously Romanians inhabit it since they are almost no Jews left in the area. We didn’t find the house, so we knocked on the door of a neighboring house. Someone opened and asked what we wanted? We explained and they were very unfriendly. Then I suddenly realized, this is an identical story to the one that happened in my childhood, with the original residents of the house I grew up in.”
I believe that Roni’s story is the bridge we must all walk on to make peace with each other and stop the madness. It’s hard to hear someone else’s story when you are suffering. “I want to talk about my story as my story is more painful than yours”. The Palestinians and Israelis are similar! Both have stories of hardships and oppression. Both are fighting for “who’s story is more painful”. I believe that both have suffered. Now its compassion time: let’s sit down and listen to each other’s stories for the sake of the next generation.
Roni: “It took me a while until I was able to tell this story. It took me time until I was able to explain to myself what was happening here. I am sure in the justice of our way, I know that I belong to minority [combatants for Peace] here in Israel, but we are determined. You cannot rule another nation for a long period of time and there is no way to lead a humanitarian occupation. There is no way to be evil to others with out letting this evil penetrate into our lives.
I feel that we are the true bearers of the spirit of Judaism, which means that one needs to acknowledge the right of another even if they aren’t Jewish…Assessments of different struggles in the world always show that it ends in negotiation and some compromise.
Dezmand Tutu said “ A man is a man when he approves of others as human beings” and old Hillel said “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”. ”
If you want to hear more of Roni’s story and many others like him. http://cfpeace.org/?cat=6&story_id=176.
Send this to everyone you know and ask them to pass it on. The more we know about each other the quicker we can get to peace. Peace is only possible when we make peace with ourselves and then reach out for the other.
I can’t stress more the importance of signing the petition to send to the UN. It takes less than 2 minutes to sign up. http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41477.html
Salam Shalom Peace be with you
Facebook Cause – Help by joining, donating, or inviting your friends!