When commemorating the Nakba every year in May, the words and images of displacement, asylum, tents, massacres, zionist gangs, and genocide are often drawn upon. But another important aspect of the Nakba is remembering the joy and beauty as the older generation describes our historical homeland and its lush gardens planted with natural herbs of Mariamiyeh (sage), zaatar (thyme), and orange, almond, and fig trees. They also describe how Palestinians used to travel freely to Beirut, Amman, and Cairo using public roads and the Palestinian airport, travelling to the beaches to swim and fish—which is now completely restricted for Palestinians.
This year, 15 May marks 75 years of the Nakba, or catastrophe, when Israel was declared a state and 700,000 Palestinian people were brutally massacred or forced to leave their homes and become refugees in other parts of their homelands or in the neighbouring countries. Their homes and villages were replaced with the new Israeli settlers who occupied Palestinian lands and declared their new homeland, ignoring the right of the other to exist, to dream, and to hope.
During my visit to Jordan in 2022, I met an old man in downtown Amman who asked me where I came from. I replied that I was from Palestine, and he said he also was Palestinian, from Jaffa. The man stopped talking as tears fell down his cheeks. He started to describe memories of his home and memories in Jaffa when his father used to collect oranges from the orange farms. The old man wished to return to his home, at least for one day, to see Palestine and to walk on the beach of Jaffa. He then explained brutal stories about hundreds of families who were massacred by the zionist movement of Haganah (paramilitary) gangs who brutally killed many innocent people and forced the rest to escape and take refuge in other places until today.
The old man had fled Yaffa with his family and first they reached Hebron, then together with other thousands; they continued on until reaching Jordan as refugees, still waiting to return.
Let us pray and light candles for all the refugees who have lost their homes, memories, and their families and who are still seeking and looking for a safe place to survive. Pray for a world without borders and a right to return home.