As the 70 th anniversary of Nakba approaches when 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes in the wake of the creation of Israel farming families on the West Bank recount their struggle to survive
In the middle part of the last century the inhabitants of the village of Al Walaja , not far from Jerusalem, considered themselves very lucky.
Fertile hills, terraced for growing veggies and fruit, led down to a valley where an Ottoman-era railway line connected Jerusalem with the Mediterranean port of Jaffa. Close to a station, Al Walaja’s farmers always had buyers for their lentils, peppers, and cucumbers. Mohammed Salim, who calculates he is approaching 80 as he was born” sometime in the 40 s”, recollects vast fields owned by Al Walaja households.” There was nothing else here .”
Today, Salim lives in what has fast become an enclave. In 2018, Al Walaja sits on a tiny cusp of the land it commanded when he was a child. During his lifetime, two wars have displaced all of the village’s residents and swallowed most of its land. More was subsequently confiscated for Jewish settlements. And in the past two decades a towering concrete wall and barbed wire have divided what remains of the community as Israel claims more territory.
Every year on 15 May, Palestinians mark the anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands were forced out of their homes or fled amid the fighting that accompanied the creation in 1948 of the state of Israel after the end of the British Mandate. For the residents of Al Walaja, the Nakba was the beginning of a seven-decade struggle to survive.
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