Newspaper article International New York Times

Navigating Lost Villages in Israel

Newspaper article International New York Times

Navigating Lost Villages in Israel

Article excerpt

The "iNakba" navigation app aims to promote discussion of the displacement of Palestinians that surrounded Israeli statehood.

Heading up to the Sea of Galilee last weekend, I traveled a lost land. While my husband drove through 2014 Israel, past vast greenhouses and sleek malls, I navigated 1948 Palestine on my iPhone.

Using the new iNakba app, I saw scores of villages destroyed or abandoned as Israel became a state 66 years ago. Not far from Hukok, a kibbutz where I rode my bicycle on Sunday through the construction site of a subdivision of large, lovely villas, iNakba showed Yaquq, with five photographs -- an ancient spring and olive press, the remains of a column and those of a house.

"Nakba," Arabic for "catastrophe," is how Palestinians refer to the events surrounding Israel's Declaration of Independence. INakba, unveiled on Israel's Independence Day last week, is how the Israeli group Zochrot hopes to inculcate those events into the public consciousness. The app is in Hebrew, English and Arabic -- and, probably more important, integrated with Google Maps and the GPS tool Waze, placing this painful, contested history into the daily data stream of any willing smartphone user.

"It's not a coincidence that we all use the phrase, 'Now you're on the map' -- maps are a very political tool," said Liat Rosenberg, director of Zochrot. "If you're on the map it has legitimacy. It forces Israelis to have it in their face."

Zochrot, Hebrew for "remembering," has for 13 years been leading tours of destroyed villages, collecting testimony from aging Arabs, and advocating the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. But it preaches almost exclusively to the converted. Israel is a country where government-funded organizations can be fined for mourning on Independence Day, and where the foreign minister denounced as a "fifth column" thousands of Arab-Israeli citizens who marked the Nakba last week by marching in support of refugee return.

Ari Shavit's new book, "My Promised Land," has begun to bring into the mainstream discussion the idea that Zionists must wrestle with the Nakba. …

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