Nakba - 76 years on

May 2, 2024

As we approach 15th May, Palestinians all over the world will be remembering the Nakba, and their hearts will be with all those in Gaza re-living it again. Here four members of the Zaytoun team reflect on their own personal experiences of loss, and love of their homeland. 

Manal Ramadan White, Zaytoun’s Managing Director:

“For us Palestinians, Nakba isn’t just a chapter in history. As we witness the atrocities unfolding in Gaza, the relentless cycle of displacement feels more brutal than ever before and serves as a stark reminder that the struggle for equality, freedom, justice and peace is far from over. 

The memories of over 750,000 Palestinians, including my grandparents, forced to flee their homeland in 1948, echo through generations. My father, just shy of 3 years old at the time, became a refugee overnight. 

His faint recollections as a toddler, glimpses of the Mediterranean in Haifa in the distance, are a bittersweet testament to the enduring power of memory. I often wondered whether he truly remembered it or if it was a trick of the mind. My grandfather, Jiddo, certainly did remember it. The longing for home and the sea never left him as he spent the rest of his life as a refugee, yearning for that taste of salt in the air and the backdrop of shimmering waves. For my grandmother, Teteh, who grew up in rural Al Tireh, it was the taste of the olives and olive oil and the figs from her family’s modest grove that she missed the most.  

Their lives as refugees were never quite the same. The flavours of the sea and the produce from the groves were a distant memory, and the sense of belonging elusive. Never again did my father or his parents glimpse the Mediterranean from those hills of al Carmel.  

We are again living through the pain of displacement, this time livestreamed through our phones and TV screens. Future generations won’t have to rely on the memories of their ancestors. 

Now, as I watch the plight of Gazans, including relatives of my father and those of my colleague Heather, forced to flee their homes, some newly dispersed in the diaspora, others yet again displaced desperately seeking to flee the famine and disease, I can’t help but wonder—will seafood, chilli and dill seeds taste the same again? Will the toddlers remember playing at the beach, or will it become a distant dream lost to displacement and destruction? Will they ever regain the sense of belonging that was unjustly taken from them?

On Nakba day, we stand in solidarity with those whose lives have been and continue to be uprooted. We hope for a future where no child has to grow up longing for the taste of home, and where dignity and belonging are universal rights, not privileges.” 

Heather Masoud, Zaytoun’s co-founder and Operations Director:

“The suitcase from our family trip to Gaza in Oct 2022 was full of olives, shatta (chilli sauce) and zibdyas (clay pots). Tastes of home to keep my husband Ahmed going until his next trip to Palestine. His family live(d) in Jabalia refugee camp.  

Much of Gaza’s population is comprised of displaced Palestinians. Ahmed’s family were expelled from the village of Deir Sneid which was erased by Israel’s creation. The tie to home and land that was severed pulls strongly through the generations and manifests in many aspects of life. October meant we got to join the picking from their single olive tree in the garden. Songs of homeland and the gathering of family whilst harvesting was shared with our kids who were reminded that their great grandparents were farmers before they became refugees. His family have been made refugees again & again & again since Oct 2023. Family homes are in rubble and the family are scattered, displaced and not safe. They have not been able to gather to grieve his brother’s killing in January, meet the arrival of a new niece in April or mark his mother’s 70th today. There is no time frame for when family members will see each other again or be able to return to the ruins of their homes.” 

Wesam Tahboub, Zaytoun’s Customer Relations & Office Manager:

“The Nakba is the reason why the majority of my family reside in Jordan. I question how my Mum’s family home can no longer be theirs, how a shopping mall can now be there in the place of my grandfather’s shop, and why my grandmother was denied entry to her own home in Jerusalem. On my last visit I saw more of the unbelievable beauty of our land while travelling into fully occupied areas such as Um Khalid (Natanya). It was bittersweet knowing that so many Palestinians living close by in Tulkaram will never visit the lovely beach.  

There are so many catastrophes happening like this every single moment. I feel a distance from this land because we were not allowed to be born there, or live there and the journey to enter is near impossible. The thing that I am certain of is that, when I go there, the land reaches out to me, and the people know I am one of them. It feels wonderful to finally belong somewhere in a way I never have. Right now I feel this immense sadness and rage and at the same time I feel a sense of hope that Palestine will be liberated in my lifetime so I can go and pick fruits and vegetables from my land and explore every inch of it without that fear I have experienced each time I have visited.”  

Omar Qasim, Zaytoun’s Finance Assistant:

“To me, being Palestinian has given me a strange mixture of hope and helplessness. I was born and have lived in Britain my whole life and haven’t always understood what it means to be Palestinian. With a Palestinian dad and a Scottish mum, who have given me a very comfortable and happy life, I didn’t always realise just what Palestinians have to fight for on a daily basis, largely dependent on where they happen to be born. I remember the first time I learnt that I was Palestinian, my auntie sat me on her lap in the living room of my Teta’s house, and explained that our family was in fact from Tulkarem in Palestine, not Jordan, where they had been forced to move to, like many Palestinian families. It may seem strange that I first heard it from my auntie, rather than my dad, however I think this was due to a combination of him protecting my sisters and I, and it being painful to talk about.

Since then I’ve come to realise that the Palestinian struggle is not just for Palestinians and the diaspora. That’s why on the 76th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba I will be focusing on hope, rather than helplessness, and draw inspiration from those who have struggled far more for much less, and those who stand in solidarity around the world.”

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