Survivors remember the horror of the Nakba

Survivors remember the horror of the Nakba
Feature: Two former residents of Acre tell of their flight from Palestine in 1948, and the hardships they and their families faced as they fled.
2 min read
15 May, 2015
Palestinians have suffered for decades since the Nakba [AFP]
Ruqayya Youssef Abu Laila and Ibrahim Abdallah are among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced to flee their homeland during the Nakba in 1948.

Ruqayya now lives near Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in south Lebanon. Ibrahim lives in Sidon.

Ruqayya left Acre in Palestine when she was 15 after the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre. "We had Jewish neighbours who owned farms. They lived among us and with us. They didn't hurt us."

Local men came to their house and told them to leave because Zionist forces were close by. "I had only been married a week. My uncle wouldn't let us take any clothes because he thought we would only be away a week," she said, describing the moment they left.

     When we arrived in Tarshiha it was night, we sat in the town square and cried.
The family stayed nearby in the Christian city of Kafr Yasif for 10 days, before moving to the Druze village of Julis. They took refuge in a school and watched as Zionist tanks entered the vilagge, at the same time as the Deir Yassin massacre was taking place further south.

"Zionists killed the residents of Deir Yassin in unimaginable ways. Our family decided to leave Palestine. Everything we owned we had left in our homes. I sold the jewellery I was wearing and we walked to the town of Tarshiha. When we arrived it was night and we sat in the town square and cried."

After that the family travelled to the town of Sidon in south Lebanon before moving to Beirut and then Syria. Finally, they returned to Lebanon and settled in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, where Ruqayya's husband found work in an orchard. "We have suffered badly. I wish I could go back to Palestine," she said.

Ibrahim, known locally as Abu Talibm, is also from Acre. He left Palestine aged 16.

"My father bought himself a rifle and four cartridge clips to fight the invaders, but they were much better armed. The Arab countries did not fight alongside us, and they did nothing to support us. Everyone conspired against us and our cause."

Abu Talib was on Tall al-Fukhar hill in Acre when the city was attacked. The Palestinians were poorly armed compared to the Zionists, who had tanks, and they were forced to flee.

"We had to sell the women's gold to stay alive. I spent most of my youth as a refugee."

When the Zionists entered Acre they burnt anything they could, including people. They shot other residents dead, Abu Talib said. When they left they thought it would only be leaving for a few days.

"If our men had had enough weapons the Zionists wouldn't have been able to occupy Palestine and expel us from our homeland," he said.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.