Thursday, May 22, 2008

MIDEAST: The Anniversary Is Over, the Agony Is Not

By Mohammed Omer

RAFAH REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza, May 19 (IPS) - Holding up an old copper key, Yousef al-Hums settles down to retell the story of his eviction from what was once his home, and now is Israel. Because only the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel is over, the occupation of home of which al-Hums still keeps a key is not.

What was to Israel the creation of their nation is to Palestinians al-Nakba, meaning the catastrophe, of eviction from their homes and homeland. From that event now, it's 60 years, and counting.

Palestinian children do not learn of that event from history books, but from people like al-Hums. "We cannot return to our homes today," he tells his sons and about 50 of his grandchildren gathered around him, with the key raised. "But you are going to return to your grandfather's home in Yebna village."

That the home or the village does not exist any more only adds to the emotion around the upheld key. "Every day I pray that when I die I am buried on my land in Yebna," he says. "Those were the most beautiful days of my life. Everyone in our village supported every other."

Al-Hums got married in 1947 at age 15. And then in May 1948 it all changed.

"It was about 2am. We all had to run after we heard that the Haganah (a Jewish force at the time) had invaded our village." Like others, he fled with his wife to Gaza, the only exit route left. He barely survived, he said, and showed scars on his hand he said came from an attack by a British helicopter backing the Jewish forces.

Today, home is the Yebna refugee camp in Gaza, where he lives with his two wives, seven sons and the many grandchildren.

He has been back to the real Yebna twice, the first time in 1976 and the second in 2000. By the second visit, he said, nothing was left of the farm as he had known it. "They took away everything and all is destroyed," he said. Read On

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