Yesterday, Palestinian Land Day, protests took place in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and world-wide.
In Palestine, a 20 year old non-violent protestor, Mohmoud Zakot, was assassinated in northern Gaza by an Israeli soldier. In Bethlehem, Maan news reported, in addition to mass injuries, three were critically injured, “one of whom was hit in the face by a tear gas canister.”
At Qalendia Israeli military checkpoint, “249 were treated for injuries and 20 hospitalized,” Maan reported, and “Israeli forces injured nine medics and damaged three ambulances at the protest.”
In Lebanon, demonstrators congregated in the southeast at Beaufort Fortress (Qalet el Shqif), a fortress from the 12th century bombed by Israel and later used by the IOF during their occupation of southern Lebanon. With the ruins of the fortress in the background, Palestine tens km beyond, and the decision not to protest directly at the Lebanese border, the March went on in the nearest feasible point to Palestine and Al Quds.
A variety of speakers took stage, but my attention was on the thousands of Palestinians who came for Land Day and Jerusalem.
Some climbed up onto the ledge to look over the valley and south to Palestine, their only means of seeing their home country. But with the haze, it was more a matter of imagining Palestine’s border than clearly seeing it.
The crowds of Palestinian refugees, spread out through the many poor-quality camps in Lebanon with miserable living conditions, smile, wave, grin, sing, cheer. One shining face after another, karama (dignity) and samoud (resilience) abound, as it has among Palestinians for decades since their forced expulsion by the Zionists and under the Zionist occupation.
I talk with some of the many women who are singing, clapping, and cheering—the same vibrant, gracious faces I see at Gaza demonstrations.
An elderly woman tells me her dream is to go to Al Quds (Jerusalem) and pray in the holy Al Aqsa mosque. A dream like so many Palestinian refugees.
One older man grins at me, welcomes me with the usual Palestinian warmth and fervor, and surprises my question of where he comes from with “Jabaliya, Gaza”. He was born there and desperately wants to return. He finds me a little later in the crowd and write his full Gaza address and his name, for me to visit his family still there and pass on his hello.
Another man who seems like he could be a farmer confirms my thoughts by answering “Simsim” to my question on his birthplace, a rural farming region near Gaza. Palestine Remembered elaborates on Simsim’s history:
Until May 13, 1948, the 1500 Palestinian residents of Simsim lived in their northern Negev village and worked their lands. Zionist military forces expelled them to the Gaza Strip. Only two families remain in Israel. Most of the village؟s refugees lived in the Jebalya refugee camp, where they still live today, about 15 kilometers from their village. Since their expulsion, the refugees from Simsim, like the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in the Gaza Strip, have suffered not only from difficult living conditions but also from additional violent Israeli attacks, including occupation in 1967, bombing, shelling and assassinations.
The town of Sderot was established about 10 kilometers from Simsim, on the land of the village of Najd. The jumping off point for the Israeli attack in 1948 was Kibbutz Gvar؟am, which had been established near Simsim in 1942. Later, the kibbutz took over the village؟s lands. What had once been the center of the village, including the remains of about 345 buildings, a desecrated cemetery, dry wells and a destroyed mosque, is fenced off and used for the kibbutz cattle.
Later, I’m drawn back to the stage by the singing of a group of young boys. Their final number is a Palestinian favourite, wane a Ramallah.
But among the speakers, I’m gripped by the words of one of the four orthodox Rabbis from Neturei Karta who have come to the demonstration from the States.
We will never accept the existence of this rebellion against God called the Zionist state of Israel. It is against Judaism, it is against God, and we pray every day for the speedy and total dismantlement of this State. Our name, our identity of Judaism has been hijacked by this evil occupation by Zionism. We pray that we can serve god together in a free Palestine, as we have for hundreds of years. We are thankful to you, to the Muslim people around the world and the Muslim countries for giving us a safe haven, a home. And we say to the Zionists: “you are heretics, we are not allowed to have this State. You are rebelling against God. Stop you rebellion. Stop the occupation.”