The untold stories


Darwish Addassi wishes his fellow Americans could spend a day in his shoes. Maybe then they would know what it feels like to be a refugee. The 74-year-old retired chemist still remembers the day he was expelled from his home 60 years ago and became a refugee. Addassi has not been back to Lydda, Palestine since. On July 11, 1948, when Addasi was just 14 and in the eighth grade, an “informal” Israeli military unit entered Lydda after days of encircling the city. “My brother came into the house and he said ‘Lydda fell,'” Addassi said. “The Israelis came and announced that we have kicked you all out.” His family’s farm of oranges, grapefruits and lemons, more than 4,000 years old, was gone. Making matters worse, Addassi, along with the other men of his family, were rounded up and detained by the newly formed Israeli government.

Read his entire story.


When Said Arouri thinks of his home village of Burham, Palestine, intermingled with his family’s olive and fig trees are the faces of those who fled their homes in fear of Zionist militias 60 years ago. “I remember the massacre of Deir Yassin, when more than 100 men, women and children were murdered in cold blood,” he said. “I remember as if it were yesterday the people streaming into our village. They left their homes in terror, on foot. They were hungry and thirsty. Some of them lived in my parents’ house. They lived in the mosque or under the trees. The whole village shared food with them. We thought we would do everything we could to help them until they could return to their homes. Of course, that was 60 years ago and they are still waiting to go home.”

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In May of 1948, 14-year-old Wilhelmine Baramki and her family packed a few of their bags and fled their west Jerusalem home. For several months prior, Zionist gunmen had been shooting at the bus that carried her father to and from work and the occasional bullet came through the windows of their home. It became too dangerous for her father to go to work. In the face of increasing violence, the family moved in with their aunt in a convent in Jerusalem’s Old City. “Our home is still there but we can’t go back to it,” said Baramki. “We thought we were going temporarily. We locked all the doors, and marked which key went to which door. We just took the necessary things because we thought we were just leaving for two or three weeks and then we’d come back.”

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On the window sill of her Central Park West apartment, Inea Bushnaq keeps a miniature orange tree and an olive sapling. They remind her of her first home, a house on the western edge of Jerusalem overlooking an olive grove. In 1948, fighting between Zionists and Palestinians sent bullets through the windows of the house. Bushnaq was nine years old at the time. “I could sense that my parents were frightened,” she recalls, “And to a child that was more alarming than the bullets.” The next day the family packed two suitcases and moved to Nablus, to the house of an uncle which had become a refuge for other family members fleeing Haifa and Tulkarem.

Read her entire story.


Mohammed Buttu remembers the seven mile journey that changed his life like it was yesterday. In 1948 Buttu, then nine-years-old, remembers his father rushing home from a town meeting to announce that the family had to quickly leave their home. An argument ensued between his parents over why the family had to leave. But, his father explained that there was no time because the Zionists were coming and their lives were in danger. “The long walk then began,” he said. “My mother, careful not to frighten me, told me that we were going camping in Nazareth. She tried to keep the truth from me, but she did not realize that I overheard her conversation with my father.”

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For four months in 1948, 11-year-old Nina Bazouzi Cullers huddled in her grandmother’s basement in the Old City of Jerusalem, hoping to return to her nearby home which she had fled, fearing for her life. Cullers was one of three children of Greek Orthodox parents living in the affluent Katamon suburb in west Jerusalem. “My parents were both from the Old City in Jerusalem,” Cullers says. “After they got married in 1935, they had hopes of living comfortably in a nice residential area. Their main hope was to give their children the best education, no matter the cost. When the disaster that was the Zionist’s aggression unexpectedly came, it shattered all their hopes and dreams.”

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Mahira Dajani knows what it is like to lose everything. Born into a large, wealthy family in what is now West Jerusalem, Dajani fled her home in 1948 during the Palestinian “Nakba,” or catastrophe. In April 1948, 16-year-old Dajani returned home one afternoon after completing her high school exams to find her mother and younger siblings gone. Her father told her that they had fled to Hebron and that she should go, too. Word had reached the family of the massacre in Deir Yassin, where more than 100 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed by Zionist militias, and they were worried about what may happen in Jerusalem. “I thought I’d be there two or three days and then return home,” Dajani recalled, “I didn’t take anything except for what I was wearing. I left for Hebron and never returned.” Her two older brothers stayed behind to guard the house while the rest of the family reunited at her aunt’s house in Hebron.

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Soon after Khaled Diab became a refugee in 1948, his life seemed so bleak that he thought it might not be worth living. Still, he considers himself one of the lucky ones. Diab was 21-years-old when he was driven from his home in the Palestinian village of Majd al-Krum by Zionist forces seeking to transform Palestine into a Jewish state. “I made it to the U.S. and went to school; I was able to make a life for myself. The people still in Gaza, the West Bank, in the refugee camps, they are the ones suffering the continuous Nakba, with Israeli military attacks and ongoing theft of their land for Jewish-only settlements.”

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Ibrahim Fawal was 15-years-old when he woke up in May of 1948 to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees streaming into his small West Bank town of Ramallah. It is an image he still cannot forget. “They were pitching tents anywhere they could: churches, schoolyards, open fields and cemeteries,” he said. Many had been forced out at gunpoint from their homes in what subsequently became the state of Israel. “Think of the people of New Orleans. They woke up one morning to complete devastation and had to flee,” said Fawal, the author of On the Hills of God. “Most of them have returned to their himes but we Palestinians are still waiting. Sixty years later, and hundreds of thousands of us are still refugees. The Nakba was our Hurricane Katrina – and for us there is no end in sight.”

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Saadat Hassouneh is the proud father of three: one daughter is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and another is pursuing her Ph.D. at Duke University, his son is an engineer who works for Microsoft. He remembers a time when this would have seemed impossible. Hassouneh was 10 years old in 1948 when his family was driven from their home in Lydda, Palestine during the Zionist takeover. Having lost everything and living in a West Bank refugee camp, his father couldn’t afford to send him to school. He wanted to go so badly that he would run away from home, insisting that he be allowed to attend. “It was the first time in my life that I felt insecure. I didn’t realize what was happening to us. In Lydda, I never felt that way. I knew this was our land; that we were a people and we were there. Now I had to stand in line for a flour ration.”

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Before becoming a refugee himself, Ahmad Hassan Joudah remembers going door to door in his village, recording the names of newly-arrived Palestinians fleeing Zionist attacks in April 1948. “Many from the big cities, such as Yaffa, fled to our village,” he explains. “I participated in tracking how many new refugees arrived. It almost doubled the population. Each family accommodated another family.” Born in 1934 in the village of Isdoud, located on the Mediterranean between Gaza and Yaffa, Joudah was the son of a farmer. When he wasn’t excelling in school, he was tending to the family’s cows, harvesting wheat, or picking oranges, tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh remembers the day in 1948 that his native village of Arrabeh in the northern Galilee fell to Zionist forces intent on turning Palestine into a Jewish state. “Everyone had a white sheet hanging on a stick on their roof,” he recalls sixty years later from his home in Arrabeh. “The village elders in the neighboring villages of Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Dier Hanna had met and decided that no one would leave. My father was among them.” During the previous months, the eleven year-old Kanaaneh had seen streams of refugees from Palestinian villages further south flowing through Arrabeh, intent on reaching the safety of the Lebanese border in the north.

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Nina Saah and her husband were next door neighbors as children growing up in Jerusalem in the 1930’s and 40’s. When Nina was a student at the Schmidt’s Girls College, a Catholic School run by nuns, Issa tutored her in math and poetry. After she graduated, he asked for her hand in marriage. But soon after proposing, he decided they should wait. He didn’t want to make Nina a bride and a widow in the same week. It was 1948 and Zionist militias were attacking Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem in anticipation of the end of the British Mandate in Palestine. Little did the couple know they would end up waiting 15 years to finally marry.

Read her entire story.



  1. Ahimsa said,

    May 14, 2010 at 16:32

    NAKBLINKA: The Cleansing of CoExistence

  2. Charles Amash said,

    May 16, 2010 at 23:36

    I am from Lydda and remember that horrible day in 1046 when Israeli soldiers came to our house and wanrted to arrest my father and me who wa 16 at the mother at the top of her voice screamed so high that the soldiers were taken back and left. But the came back within an hour and told us we cannot stay in our home and should leave before all of us get arested . Finally we had to leave with 3 loaves of Arabic bread and somne cans of sardines and corned beef. My mother had a miscarriage walking to Ramallah.
    Still I am sad and angry and the Nakba still very vivid in my heart.

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