Τρίτη, 18 Μαΐου 2010

Continuing History

13 May, 2010, Naomi Fukuda

In May, when Palestine was going through short spring, I had one farewell, the biggest farewell since I came to Palestine.

A grandmother whom I loved passed away. She, a woman living in Beit Jibrin Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, was 72 years old. It has been more than 60 years since she came to live in the camp after she was forced from Beit Jibrin village which is now on Israeli side.

Every time I went to her house for a coffee in her late life, she told me stories of when she was forced from her village. About the nights she spent in caves, when suddenly calm and peaceful days were broken by planes flying over her head. About the day she left house with school bag. Embroidery of ducks on the bag. Wish and belief that she would be able to go to school soon. About the trip and stay in Jericho and Hebron which led her family finally to Beit Jibrin Camp in Bethlehem.

She also told me how beautiful the village was. Wonderful remains of ruins of Roman period. The flat, vast and fertile field, where people produced not only vegetables and fruits but also wheat flour. Amazing taste of fresh bread made from the flour. Many olive trees more than 1000 years old. Olive oil which was ground by a donkey in a big stone mill from Roman period. Ducks and cows her family owned. And her wish to go back to the village, and to smell herbs and olive trees again.

One sunny day after a few weeks from her death, I visited Beit Jibrin village. Green spreads on the fields with lots of red and yellow flowers in soft wind. Now this village is in nature protected area of Israel, and Beit Guvrin Kibbutz is established on the village. I went inside the kibbutz and took a slow walk, touching and feeling old stone houses and old olive trees from the period of Beit Jibrin village, and picked up some oranges, maramiye and zatar. Since the construction of the wall started in 2002, people in refugee camp cannot even visit the villages from where their family are. On the wall of the mosque which was destroyed and abandoned, there are many names of people who visited here before the construction of the wall and the massages of “we will return here”. However, in the mosque or in houses abandoned, there are many garbage thrown in. If people from the village continued living there, it would have been remaining its beautiful atmosphere. I was imagining who was living here and how their life was 62 years ago. I walked slowly , thinking that a grandmother may be walking here in this landscape now. Later I brought maramiye and zatar to her tomb to bring the soft wind and smell from the village.

She was a kind of “symbol” of people living as Palestinians and as refugees, not only for her family but also the people in the camp. And also for me, she was “a grandmother of Palestine”. Her memory and wish continue to be inherited to her children, grandchildren and great-grand children.

When Israel was established in 1948, many Palestinians forced to leave their land which now became Israel. Refugees, 750,000 at that time and now about 4.7million (UNRWA registered), have wished to return to Palestine 62 years ago until today. Today, one and another of the generation who know “Nakba” passes away. And by seeing the people taking over its history and wishes to another generation, I feel that this is not past history but continuing history. When I think of a smile of a grandmother, I feel a responsibility as a “witness” of the continuing history.

A broken toy of piano was thrown away in abandoned mosque

The landscape from old building is probably the same calm view from 62 years ago

In kibbutz. Old building and olive tree who know the history continue remaining there in silence