Israeli Jews Should Mark Nakba Day, Too

It is possible and necessary to teach that this glory that is the establishment of Israel also has a dark side - so we can know our history, and understand the wishes of the Palestinians.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Were Israel a little more confident of the righteousness of its case, and were its government a little more open, then all schools in Israel, Jewish and Arab alike, would today mark Nakba Day. A few days after the celebrations of our own Independence Day, in which we lauded the bravery and the achievements that we are rightly proud of, we could offer a lesson in citizenship. It would be a different heritage lesson, the kind that includes the story of the other side, the one that is denied and repressed. Not a single hair from our head would be lost were we to do this today. Sixty three years later,with the country established and flourishing, we can now begin telling the entire truth, not only the heroic, convenient part of the story.

On that day it would be possible to tell our pupils that next to us lives a nation for whom our day of joy is their day of disaster, for which we and they are to blame. We could tell the pupils of Israel that in the 1948 war, like in every war, there are also some acts of evil and war crimes. We could tell them about the expulsions and the massacres. Yes, there were massacres: All you have to do is ask the veterans of the war to tell you about the towns that were "cleared" and the villages that were razed, and the thousands of residents who were promised that they would be allowed to return in a few days, a promise that was never kept, and about the poor "infiltrators" who tried to return to their homes and their properties in order to collect remnants of their lives, and were killed or expelled by the IDF.

Not only is it possible to permit the Israeli Palestinians to commemorate the day of their heritage and express their national and personal pain, something that should be self-evident, but also to teach us, the Jews, the other narrative.

It is possible to justify everything Israel did during its War of Independence, and it is also possible to ask difficult questions, but it is, first of all, essential to know - everything.

It is necessary to know that there were 418 villages here that were wiped off the face of the earth, and it should be remembered that there were more than 600,000 natives of this land who fled or were expelled not to return to their homes, and that to this day most of them, they and their offspring, live in terrible conditions, carrying keys to their lost homes. It is possible and necessary to teach our pupils that this glory which is the establishment of Israel also has a dark side. This must be taught so that we can know our history, and so that we can understand the wishes of the Palestinians, even if there is no intention of realizing them. We can call this, "know your enemy," but to know we must.

We must know that under nearly every patch of Jewish National Fund forest rest the ruins that Israel was keen to erase, to ensure that they not serve as evidence of a different heritage. We can know that under our flourishing Canada Park hide the ruins of three villages which Israel razed after the Six Day War, putting its residents on a bus and expelling them. We can now turn our sights to the ruins of the homes that remained on the sides of the roads, from which we turn away, and remember that once there was life there. We can even put up memorial sites, in the land full of memorials, to commemorate the villages that are no longer there. We can ask how is it that along the coast, between Jaffa and Gaza, there is not a single village.

We must also ask why the mosque in the heart of Moshav Zechariya is surrounded by a fence with the sign, "Danger, unsafe structure." It is not this holy structure of theirs that is dangerous. We can also ask where do the residents of Zechariya live today, on whose ruins the moshav was built (the answer: the poor Deheisheh refugee camp ). This does not constitute a breach of faith. It is not treachery against the Zionist ideal: it is historical and intellectual honesty, perhaps courageous, but certainly something which the circumstances require.

On the day of this Nakba, it is possible to begin telling the entire truth. If we are so proud of it, why hide it? And if we are embarrassed by it, the time has come to expose it and deal with it. Only on the day that the pupils in Israel also learn about the Nakba, will we know that the earth is no longer burning under our feet and that the Zionist enterprise has been completed.



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