Kafr ‛Ein – Ramallah Disrict
Amīn Fuʼād As‛ad,
speaking from Umm el-Faḥem, 2011
I was born in 1933. We lived right next to the well of Kafr ‛Ein, just half an hour from my present home in the Arab–Israeli city of Umm el-Faḥem. I remember we had the best land, with water running down to it from the surrounding hills. When I was fourteen, we were driven out by the occupation. At the time we thought it would only be for a few days. None of us realized we would never return.
The house we left was like a palace, but when we went back only two weeks later, all the houses—even the furniture inside—had been almost completely destroyed. The Jews didn’t want us to nurture any hopes of return, so they had obliterated everything, taking over the few remaining places for themselves.
We had been good neighbors to the Jews in the past, but when they occupied our lands it made no difference. Those people who had been our neighbors took our land and never gave us the chance of return. They turned on us.
At first my family migrated to al-Lajjūn, then to Musmus, but eventually we were forced to come to Umm el-Faḥem. Initially we worked planting tobacco. Later I was able to buy a piece of land and I built an illegal house on it, where I still live to this day. Long ago I had worked in construction and was among the workers who built the city of Tel-Aviv. Now, having built this small house illegally—since it was impossible to be granted permission—I was handed a demolition order. I told the government officials that if they wanted to destroy my house, they should dig a grave for me, too, and I went to court.
In court, the lawyer argued that I had already lost my land once and pleaded with the judge to take my service to the nation into account. After all, I had helped them build their largest city. Fortunately he was lenient and gave me a six-month sentence with a large fine and labor to fulfill my debt. I paid off the fine within a year. The irony is that, even though the house was illegal, the government still demanded I pay taxes each year. The judge had decided that. Now we live as a joint family and my sons have built their own houses on the land.
After the establishment of the State of Israel we were left without basic provisions, so we had to resort to smuggling the things we needed from Jordan. We often sold these smuggled goods on to the kibbutz that occupied our lands. We took the risk in order to have a chance to keep our lives going. The funny thing is that after taking our land, the Jews acted as if nothing had happened—they wanted to treat us as their brothers and close friends. But I tell you that for Jewish people there is no friendship. Only their own interests and desires play a role in their lives. The Iraqi Jews brought to settle the nearby kibbutz didn’t speak Hebrew, but they were allowed to live in our old houses. None of them felt responsible for the fact that they were living in our houses and on our land. Since my enemy is also my judge, what can one say in response to such a situation? Despite living so close to my old home, I never go back to visit it now. Somehow, I feel that if I go back, maybe I will die right there, since all my fondest memories are from that place.
I went to the kibbutz once, 24 years ago, to buy cows. They were grazing where we used to live. I asked the Jewish man if I could take a moment to have a cigarette under an old tree as I had in the past. He agreed and I smoked a cigarette there, sitting beneath the tree. Then I clipped off a branch and he asked me why. I told him that I wanted to put it above my father’s photograph, which hangs in my new home. When I got back that night, I put the branch above the photograph, where it has remained ever since. After that visit I decided I could never go back. It made me too depressed.