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Ramzy Baroud: Nakba Forever Internalized among Exiled Palestinians

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Artwork: 'Past Tense Continuous: Live Reenactment of the Nakba' by Dima Hourani. (Photo: Cairoscene, file)

By Ramzy Baroud – Al Jazeera

At 76, Tamam lives in the same refugee camp to which her family fled after their exile from Palestine during the Nakba in 1948. At least 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed between 1947 and 1948, as more than 500 Palestinian villages and towns were demolished to make room for Jewish settlers.

Tamam still talks about what befell her family, reliving the dramatic and bloody events.

Only a few years of her life were peaceful. Despite her failing memory, every recollection she manages to conjure up from her childhood – before the establishment of Israel upon the ruins of villages such as her own – is repeated with joy.

She can still taste her first chocolate bar, one that her brother, Salim, had tried to confiscate, foiled only by the timely intervention of her older brother, Ismail.

Salim disappeared during the joint French-British-Israeli war on Egypt in 1956, the aim of which was to reclaim the nationalised Suez Canal, to tame Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, and to occupy parts of the Sinai desert.

During that time, Israel briefly occupied the Gaza Strip. Salim ran away with a group of teenagers, hoping to cross the Gaza border through southern Israel into the Naqab desert and eventually go into Jordan. Their calculation tragically misfired, and they all disappeared.

Tamam and Ismail spent years looking for Salim, to no avail. An elderly woman who claimed to communicate with the spirit world finally told Tamam that her brother was trapped in an earthy prison, deep underground; they assumed he was dead and buried.

Tamam’s grief never dissipated over the loss of Salim. Still, she noted: “God was generous, as He always is with poor people.” He blessed her with three boys and three girls ..

– Read more: Nakba Forever Internalized among Exiled Palestinians – Ramzy Baroud, Al Jazeera