Hearing from Sitti: Love, Loss and Mourning during the Nakba

        The Nakba was a time of uncertainty for every Palestinian. It was a time where no one could even begin to predict what lay ahead. Many Palestinians believed they were temporary refugees, that it would be just a matter of days before returning to their homes, businesses, and lives. Daniyal, a small village located between Lydd and Ramla, was populated by approximately 400 Palestinians before the ethnic cleansing that took place. Sitti Soraya, a teenager at the time who is said to have been the most beautiful woman, was engaged only recently to a man from Dar el-Sheikh after disagreements over the finances. Her fiancé Taher’s father agreed to pay $100, while Sitti Soraya’s father demanded a $200 promise. After two days of stubbornness, Taher’s father agreed to pay the $200, and Taher and Soraya became happily engaged. “Getting engaged then was not like it is now. When a man asked for a woman’s hand, he gathered her whole entire family,” Sitti told me bitterly. Little did they know that the financial confusion was the least of the obstacles to come. A few days before Zionists attacked Lydd, a survivor from the Deir Yassin massacre came to Daniyal and warned the elders in the village to protect the honor of their women before it is too late. Immediately, Soraya and Taher’s families sought refuge in a nearby village named Shilta and stayed there for three days with a scarce supply of food and water. They then went to Bil’in, where Taher’s father owned a large amount of land and slept under the olive trees for almost a week until continuing to Beitunia. “Finally, in Beitunia, I got married to your grandfather. We did not have an official wedding as planned, only signed papers. We then rented a home there and stalled for a year until moving to Jordan.”

       An estimated thirty to forty people, including Sitti’s grandmother, stayed in Daniyal because they could not make the long hot trek, due to old age and poor health. A relative snuck back to Daniyal to get the money he left behind, only to see all that was left of Sitti’s grandmother were pieces of her hair sprawled on the floor. Sitti began counting all the elders who stayed and were killed on her fingers. She sighed and said “None of them were spared.” I gasped with everything in me upon learning this information. Losing Palestine was like losing a loved one. Sitti’s mother wore black every single day after the Nakba, mourning the loss of her home and belongings. Life would never be the same again, and everyone knew it. In a calm, yet angry tone, she said “Lucky them. They went into our homes and found them full and furnished…” When I asked Sitti what her attire was like in Daniyal, she bragged “I used to wear the thob everyday! A relative used to make them for me by hand.” I asked her if she brought any of them with her, already knowing the answer was no, but hoping it would magically change. Sometimes I catch myself thinking there is nothing more to learn about the Nakba. Just one week after hearing Teita’s perspective, I pursued Sitti’s and felt shock upon hearing it. Why does my jaw drop every time, and why do tears well up in my eyes? Arrogance is what I blame for the presumption that there is nothing surprising or new to learn from different Nakba survivors.


  1. these remind me of the vioeds holocaust remembrance groups collected. they filmed my grandmother’s story (polish jewish). they are both tragic episodes. of course there is no EQUATING the two events, but there are very clear similarities . violence and ethnic cleansing and racism the key similarities.we all know how even the free expression of commemorating the nakba in israel is illegal for state affiliated institutions, and met with repression among others. imagine if the jews were ever told they could not mark the tragedy of the holocaust. sick. at the same time, i witnessed marches of right wing groups in jaffa, with some calling for death to the arabs (just months ago). if they want to crack down on expressions which threaten the peace the israeli state can start with these racist events. they have no excuse to stop nakba commemorations by citizens. although it will upset the (many) israelis who are callous and do not know the full history so what? israelis, the average one, can take such upsetting protests, and not move to violence. i cannot say how i would feel as an arab when armed right wingers marched through jaffa stating that the arabs will be gone . THAT is scary. THAT is something you MIGHT want to consider repressing but i even support their right to be racist, as long as the state prevents violence, and the kind israelis stage counter-protests (they do, but not enough go).the world needs to wake up. i had never seen such a high level of hypocrisy and projection as i did in israel. almost every charge leveled at palestinians, often unsubstantiated or hyperbolic, can usually (more accurately) be leveled at the israeli state/violent settlers.1) they are violent [just live near a violent settlement]2) they do not want us to exist [just listen to major politicians, or read the texts of previous PMs. many deny the concept of a palestinian, and further, ANY sovereign palestinian state…. what then shall they do with all the unwanted humans… or perhaps they are of the camp that dehumanized them]3) they teach their kids to hate [the hate is more palpable with israelis, and i lived with family in israel, and in the west bank; also see the maps some israelis are brought up with]4) they celebrate violent acts [some have shrines to baruch goldstein, and fringe groups advocate violence and memorialize the extremists. ben gurion was a terrorist, and he clearly has some memorials. many viewed the attack on gaza from lawn chairs while having a BBQ… BBQ being appropriate considering the white phosphorus display they were able to take in]5) they venerate terrorists [see 4, also sharon was a terrorist and terror facilitator, found ~’personally responsible’ by the high court for sabra and shatila]6) they do not want peace [read the palestine papers, or just know the history since 1948, not the hasbara]7) the list would be very long, i’ll stop myself here the reasons zionists like to say there is no truth, and only narratives? they are in a position of relative power, zionism was built on lies and thus feeds off them currently, and further:the truth, when they realize it exits, tells a very very very sad story.

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