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80-year-old Palestinian man remembers destroyed village of his youth

Nov. 2, 2013 10:47 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 18, 2013 12:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An 80-year-old Palestinian man recalled memories of the destroyed village of his youth for the TV program, "A memory that never rusts," describing a landscape destroyed by Zionist forces in the 1948 conflict known in Arabic as the "Nakba," or catastrophe.

Jameel Deif-Allah Sawalma offered recollections of his long lost village of al-Auja, near Jaffa, before it was overtaken and destroyed.

"Our village plains were wide like a palm, al-Auja river was to our west and our soil was red like a beet," he said.

"There were no rocks, and we planted it with watermelons, melons, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, sesame, lupine, oranges and lemons."

Sawalma recalled fishing from the nearby river using hooks and sleeping bills to knock the fish unconscious, as well as the run back home to cook them, while fish traders used large nets to catch the famous Jaffa fish.

He recalls the two schools they had in the village, and how he studied at one until the 3rd grade.

"I used to study maths, Arabic, the Quran and to this day I remember the poems I memorized," he added, and recited some of the poems he learned decades ago.

Sawalma’s weary memory still holds an image of how al-Auja River meandered through their lands, and how it flooded in the winter. He talked about the red brick houses of the village, the horse-drawn carriages on the dusty streets, and their wooden or metal wheels which he used to repair for a living.

Al-Qaraeen, al-Sawalma, al-Hashasheen, and al-Araysha were the four families in the village, and they used to go to Jaffa and Malbas (near present-day Petah Tikva) to buy goods and sell crops, he said.

Weddings lasted for a week in their village, and they used to sing and the groom would ride a pony throughout the village, he added.

Sawalma concluded with the harsh recollections of the Nakba, when him and his family were forced out of the village and had to march to Qalqiliya and the to al-Far'a refugee camp.

A dream that never leaves him is to return to the river, fish from it and walk in the fields of his village, a place that exists only in memories now.

Around 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world.

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