Nakba Day: 74 Years After Israel's Independence, Gaza Refugee Believes Palestinians Will Return Home
05:04 GMT 15.05.2022 (Updated: 17:26 GMT 15.01.2023)
© AFP 2023 / AHMAD GHARABLIArab Israeli protestors hold up Palestinian national flags during a demonstration near the city of Sakhnin in northern Israel, on May 5, 2022 ahead of the Palestinian marking of the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. -
© AFP 2023 / AHMAD GHARABLI
On 15 May 1948, the newly established state of Israel was attacked by the armies of several Arab states. Israel fought back, but nearly 750,000 Palestinians were displaced within the country or forced to flee abroad during the war.
Saadah Al-Zakar, a Gaza-based Palestinian refugee, is now 92 but nevertheless remembers May of 1948 well, when the Jews of what back then was known as Palestine declared independence, establishing the State of Israel.
The following day, on 15 May, at least four Arab states declared war against the newly established state. Israel fought back.
During the war, roughly 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted in an event the Arab world calls “Nakba” (“the catastrophe”) . Some were forced to flee to neighbouring states, while others were displaced within the country. Al-Zakar was one of them.
Before the war, Al-Zakar, who was 20 back then, had already established a family. She got married at the age of 14, brought up six children and the family had been residing in Jaffa, an area that's now part of Tel Aviv.
"Life in Jaffa was stable and secure. We owned 30 dunams (over 7.4 acres) of land, several houses, shops and livestock. But when the war came, and the Israelis started attacking and expelling us from our homes, we had no other choice but to escape imminent death," the 92-year-old says.
The destination Al-Zakar and her family chose was Gaza. In order to reach it, they needed to travel on foot for many days. But nobody was waiting for them in the Strip with open arms. Lacking money and connections, they became refugees, relying on the assistance of others.
13 May 2022, 17:19 GMT
"We suffered a lot during these days. For many weeks we were living on the streets, hiding from the sun under the trees. We had no roof above our heads, no food and no water," Al-Zakar recalls.
Not much has changed since then. The 92-year-old and her family are still refugees, although they are housed in buildings that were constructed over time with the help of various regional and international donations. They still rely on the assistance provided to them by UNRWA, a United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency, Turkey and Qatar. But the funds given to them are simply not enough to keep them afloat.
Longing to Go Back
Al-Zakar admits that she never tried to sue Israel or claim their properties back. Nor did she attempt to go back to Jaffa, primarily because of the Jewish state's refusal to let refugees in. She says "fighting with Israel in court" is a hopeless case but she is sure that "history can be corrected through an armed struggle".
Since 2007, the militants of Hamas, a group which controls the Gaza Strip, have fought four major wars with Israel. None has brought Palestinians an inch closer to obtaining their own independent state. None has helped them to claim their properties back. Yet, Al-Zakar believes it is just a matter of time.
"I believe that one day we will be able to restore what we had lost. Future generations will succeed in places where my generation has lost. And I have asked my grandsons to bury me in Jaffa."