Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Returning to Deir Yassin to Commemorate the 57th Anniversary of a Terrible Event

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Returning to Deir Yassin to Commemorate the 57th Anniversary of a Terrible Event

Article excerpt

About 150 Jews and non-Jews attended an April 7 commemorative event at Deir Yassin, on the west side of Jerusalem, within sight of Yad Vashem, the most famous Holocaust memorial. If there's any positive story to be told about the ceremony, it's a bittersweet one. It is positive in its current implications, but a commemoration of a tragedy. On April 9, 1948, members of two different Jewish Zionist terrorist groups broke into Palestinians' homes and killed between 110 and 140 people. This was not the only massacre of the time, and probably not the biggest, but it was the one people heard about, the one that caused so many thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in fear, not realizing that, 57 years later, they still would not be allowed to return. Today, most of the village's land has been taken by the modern Jewish religious neighborhood called Har Nof. The buildings in the center of Deir Yassin have become part of a mental hospital known as Kfar Shaul.

Zochrot, an Israeli organization committed to remembering the Nakba, or Palestinian "catastrophe," planned the commemoration along with the international group Deir Yassin Remembered. We walked the land with survivors, organizers from the sponsoring groups, and Mordecai Vanunu, the Israeli whistleblower who spent 18 years in prison for disclosing Israel's nuclear weapons program and who still is forbidden from leaving Israel. We carried white flowers, one to represent each of the 93 victims' names that are known. The names were written in Arabic and Hebrew on placards. At first I thought there were only a few Palestinians in the crowd, but as I started hearing Arabic spoken all around me, I realized I had only been counting headscarves. The crowd was a mix of Israeli citizens and internationals, and the Israeli citizens were a mix of Jews and Palestinians.

Young Orthodox Jewish children watched us from their playground as we approached the area set aside for us. Speeches began, and singing-mostly songs whose lyrics were Mahmoud Darwish's poetry. Translation was constant, Arabic to Hebrew and vice versa on stage, and then Hebrew to English in the audience for a small group of us sitting in the back.

Zaiyneb Akel, an 80-year-old survivor of the massacre, was there, and she began to tell stories, personal stories about many of the killings. She talked about the good relations the Palestinians and Jews had previously enjoyed, how they had been friends, how she doesn't know what the Palestinians could have done to the Jews to make them do this to her family. …

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