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Voices from Ramallah: What does Nakba mean to you?

During events in Ramallah on Thursday, Palestinians stopped to tell the Middle East Eye in their own words what the Nakba means to them
'I wish to go back to the house where my father used to live,' Asseel Rihan, 16, told MEE (MEE/Kate Shuttleworth)

Issa Bishara, 60, retired journalist and teacher: "Nakba means a lot to me, it means we as Palestinian people lost everything. It means that we left our paradise to live in such a hell surrounded by the occupiers. This is the general meaning for me. It’s a day that means a lot of people left their homes; left their relatives. People are still full of hope that they will come back one day to their homes. Some of my friends are refugees who left their homes and I feel for them - I am not a refugee, I am from Nablus living in Ramallah, but I don’t have the same feelings they have. When they hear stories from their grandfathers and fathers they talk about such scenes as if they were there, as if they could see the destruction even if they don’t know them. Some people are still forbidden from seeing their old homes. It’s a very disappointing situation nationally and internationally. Everybody has their own story and such stories need to be told in order to have a full narrative. The international community is doing nothing in comparison with our suffering. They are doing nothing - they just talk about peace and they occupy us. Nobody knows what the future holds for us. 

Samer Nofal, 32 (MEE/Kate Shuttleworth)
Samer Nofal, 32, auditor:  "It’s a day to remember 1948 when Jewish people came to take the land of what is now called Israel. They tried to move their people onto these villages. They killed women and children and elderly men and women. This day has a very important meaning for Palestinian people because this is the right of Palestinians to live in their original villages. All the people who now live in refugee camps, they still consider this day particularly important. My family is from Ramallah and were not directly involved, but when you talk about the refugee families, you talk about too many families and the families are all connected. The people living in camps are used to their lives as refugees, but it doesn’t mean they have forgotten their rights, their home and their land."

Karin, 66, retired: "I am Palestinian-American and my husband was born in Salama Jaffa and I am here to on his behalf to remember the Nakba and the misery they went through and to share with Palestinian people here a day of mourning. It’s not changing. The Nakba is continuing. We still have refugees everywhere and we still have settlements and Palestinians being displaced from the West Bank, lands being stolen. So the Nakba continues. It never stopped. Of course, there is hope, but there’s a long way left. We don’t see any signs of Israelis changing their stance on the Nakba. We see more signs of aggression and no one is extending the olive branch."

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Asseel Rihan, 16 (MEE/Kate Shuttleworth)
Asseel Rihan, 16, student: "Today is important because we are telling people that we do exactly remember what happened back then and we are not giving up our dreams and our rights. So we’re coming back and that’s it. A lot needs to change. The Arab leaders need to look at what’s happening because they are covering their eyes and refusing to see what’s happening. If someone really opens their eyes, they would know what to do. I wouldn’t call Israel Israel because it doesn’t exist; it is Palestine and always will be and I don’t think Israelis will ever wake up. They have their own beliefs, like we do. They will keep teaching these beliefs to their kids and their ancestors. My father is from Atlit and with my grandparents, they had to travel all the way to Ramallah, so now we’re settled here, but inshallah, we will go back one day. I wish to go back to the house my father used to live in because he tells us every night stories about that house. I really want to just see that house, even if I can’t live in it."

Leila Kheir, 35, and Layan Kheir, 2 (MEE/Kate Shuttleworth)

Leila Kheir, 35 and Layan Kheir, 2: "I know it’s a sad day, but we’re smiling we have to be positive in some way. The Nakba is a tragedy and it should be seen like this to everyone, including the Israelis. Until this is acknowledged, no one, not even us can really move on from here."

Samer al-Rantawi, 15 (MEE/Kate Shuttleworth)

Samer Al-Rantawi, 15, student: "My English isn’t very good, but I will tell you about my pictures. An Israeli tank comes to Palestinian villages and destroys it. My people was forced to flee it. This is the real story of the Nakba. Now, this one, moves on 66-years until today. See, now its checkpoints, soldiers? Still we face this struggle today."

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