Beit Safafa: Divided in 1948, United in 1967

Beit Safafa, a Palestinian village South of Occupied Jerusalem, was divided in the occupation of 1948 and united in the occupation of 1967.

The name Beit Safafa is of a Syriac origins. It means the house of the thirsty. This village was amongst the very few Palestinian villages that were divided in the aftermath of the war in 1948. Ironically, when Israel occupied the Eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, this small village was reunited. Beit Safafa is the home of three clans: Salman, Alian and Hussein. It is currently the home of about fifteen thousand Palestinians.

In November 1947, the United Nations announced its Partition Plan. This plan was refused by the natives, as well as new immigrants, in Palestine. Clashes throughout Palestine erupted between the well-trained Zionist military forces and the poorly-equipped Palestinian citizens. The Zionist forces commenced attacking Palestinian villages in efforts to expel its citizens. As the other Palestinian villages, Beit Safafa was attacked by settlers from the nearby settlements of Ramat Rachel and Mekor Chaim.

A.M., 83 years old resident of Beit Safafa, was 18 years old when the attacks started in 1947. “Settlers from Mekor Chaim started attacking our village nightly after the UN Partition Plan in 1947,” A.M. said. “We used to stop these attacks with the help of some volunteers from Egypt and Sudan.” Beit Safafa lost its first martyr end of December 1947. Musa AlHaj Issa “AbelZeit” was killed while defending the Southern entrance of the village from a Zionist attack.

In light of the attacks in 1947, Safafians [residents of Beit Safafa village] bought some weapons from different sources. Each man was responsible to buy his own riffle depending on his financial capacity. End of March 1948, after 5 months of nightly attacks on the village, the Abdel Qader AlHusseini arrived to Beit Safafa. alHussein was the leader of the Palestinian local military forces, alJihad alMuqaddas, that was formed across Palestine in efforts to resist the Zionist attacks. Along with the Safafians, AlHusseini planned the first attack on Mekor Chaim settlement. One Safafian was killed in that operation. The Zionist causalities were unknown.

The next big battle for the Safafians was in the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Qatamoun. Beginning of May 1948, Zionist militias launched a big attack on Qatamoun in efforts to occupy it and expel its Palestinian residents. Armed Safafians headed towards Qatamoun monastery that was under attack. Six Safafians were killed during the failed attack on the well-equipped Zionist militias that took over the neighborhood.

In May 1948, A.M. with five other men headed to the Eastern entrance of the village to block an attack from Ramat Rachel settlement. The battle that was known later as Dar Qattan battle witnessed the first clear victory for the Safafians. “We saw traces of blood in the battle field the next day,” said A.M. “They suffered many losses and we seized several guns and boxes of ammunition.”

Dar Qattan battle raised the spirits of the residents of Beit Safafa. Ten days after Egypt declared war on the newly established Zionist state “Israel” in May 15, more Egyptian volunteers arrived to Beit Safafa. These volunteers were led by an Egyptian officer Ahmed Abdel Aziz. Abdel Aziz led Palestinians to several victories against the nearby settlements. Months later a unit from the Jordanian army arrived to Beit Safafa. The Zionist militias failed to occupy the village.

But this was not the end for the Safafians. On the 3rd of April 1949, Jordan signed the Rodos Armistice Agreement with the State of Israel. In that agreement, Jordan gave up about half of the lands of Beit Safafa to the Zionists upon their request. Israel wanted to put its hands on the railway line that passed crossed through the lands of Beit Safafa. What they did not get in war was handed to them by the Jordanian side. This divided Beit Safafa and its families, part under the Jordanian control and the other under the Israeli control. A fence divided siblings and families into two different states.

“We refused!” A.M. said angrily. “They [Jordanian Authority] told us that they make decisions and our opinion is irrelevant.”

“The families were divided. The separation fence was the location of all our happy and sad occasions from both sides. The UN recorded us as Refugees since we lost many lands.”, A.M. continued.

This situation lasted for almost eighteen years until June 1967, the Six Days War. “It was not a war,” said A.M. “The Jordanian army gathered our riffles and warned us not to shoot any bullet.

“They claimed responsibility, but they ran away. Some of the Jordanian soldiers wore women clothes and ran away. They did not fight and they did not let us fight. Everything was planned.”

Ironically enough, in the occupation in 1967, Beit Safafa was united. Families reunited again. Nonetheless, since 1967, the Israeli government commenced confiscating the village’s lands and building settlements. In 1973, Gilo settlement was built on confiscated lands from Beit Safafa and Beit Jala villages. Today, Gilo hosts more than forty thousand settlers. In 1991, the Israeli government confiscated more lands to the South East of Beit Safafa. Ethiopian Jewish settlers built caravans and established Giva’at HaMatos settlement.

“These lands were owned by Jerusalemites from Nashashibi and other families,” said A.M. “After the war in 1967, the Israeli government confiscated the land.”

A.M went on recalling, “We protested against the confiscations but the occupation forces suppressed us. And it was gone.”

Today, Beit Safafa remains occupied suffering from land confiscations and the suffocating occupation practices. Safafians refuse to divide their village again under any political solution. “We will not accept the division of our village again,” insisted A.M. “The two-states solution is unacceptable and the occupation must end.”

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