Take us to your leader®. Then take us to your reader®.
How it works? [Click here]
Who we are
Our Agenda

Latest News
Good & Bad News

101 Palestinian History
Link & Resources
The Valley Galleria
nileMedia Reader

Join US
Contact Us

May 17, 2001
One family's life in exile

By Robert Fisk


Note: 'One family's life in exile' tells the story of every dispossessed people

Traumatic memories of the 'disaster' fuel dreams of a return from exile

By Robert Fisk in Mar Elias camp, Beirut
The Independent
16 May 2001

Internal link: Arafat defiant as wave of bloodshed stains disaster day

There was an awful irony about Ruqiya Haj Hassan's 53rd birthday yesterday. Her people's nakba had already begun on 15 May 1948 and she was to spend only two months of her life in the land she still calls Palestine. Her parents were to tell her, years later, of just how terribly the Palestinian "disaster" struck them down.

Walking day and night out of their land, Ruqiya's family lost their way in the hills of Galilee. Demented and ravenous with hunger, they left her behind in a cave, only finding her again - three days later - almost dead of thirst. Two of her small sisters, Arabia and Zakia, died on the road. "Even my brother died later, killed in an Israeli air raid here in Lebanon in 1982," Ruqiya says. "My father went back to the West Bank and visited our village of Shaab again when another sister of mine - who had stayed behind - was married.

"At the marriage he had a heart attack and died and so, in the end, he was buried in his home village in Palestine."

The old are dying out, of course, and the memories with them. It took all of 15 minutes in the little refugee camp of Mar Elias in the centre of Beirut to find a man who remembered the nakba. Hussein Abdul Razek was 11 when his family fled Palestine. His story is that of every dispossessed people.

"Our village was called Amca but the Israelis came and we fled to Tarshiha in Acre," he remembers. "Then we set off by foot northwards with many other Palestinians, to Farsouta, the last place I remember in Palestine. I recall how thirsty I was all the time. All I wanted was water. We crossed into Lebanon, travelled through Jouaya and got to Tyre, just walking, walking."

Exhausted after their exodus, the Razek family -- Hussein had three brothers and three sisters - found their only shelter in a railway freight car.

"While we were sleeping in it someone attached a steam locomotive to the train and it headed north with us inside, all the way to Tripoli. When we got there, we walked to the nearest Palestinian camp at Nahr el-Bared. Years later, we moved down to Beirut and lived in the Chatila camp.

"We had all our land ownership papers then; British documents that proved the land in Amca was ours, even the key to our house in the village. In the camps war in 1987 (between Palestinians and the Lebanese Shia Muslim Amal militia), they were all lost when our house was destroyed."

Hussein's memories of "Palestine" remain vivid. "I remember a school trip to Acre and seeing the great mosque and the gate of the city," he says. "And I remember our land at the end of the village of Amca, our fig trees and the cactus in our field."

Hussein's wife, Fatmi, was only two years old in 1948 but, after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, she was able to return - for just a month - to visit cousins who had stayed behind after the birth of Israel. "My uncle met me on the border and he called my name at once even though he hadn't seen me for 35 years. "I loved that village of ours. I wanted to be a bird and fly back there afterwards."

Robert Fisk
The Independent