Ein Hod, described as a picturesque village enfused with Israeli art and culture, an artists’ colony with galleries, museums festivals and exhibits, a lover of art and culture’s dream. What couldn’t be more perfect?
The problem with this utopia is that it is built land that was owned by Palestinians expelled in 1948, the Nabka. Unlike the villages of the now depopulated Palestinian villages and towns like Kwaykaat, Manshiyya, Berwah, Ruwais and al-Hadatha, Ayn Hawd was left intact, filled the Palestinian homes with Jewish artists, created an artists’ colony, the village’s mosque was converted into the Bonanza Bar/Restaurant and renamed Ein Hod. Any attempt to return to their homes was denied.
Many of the expelled residents of Ayn Hawd relocated only a stone’s throw away on their own land, in orchards and pastures. For years after their expulsion in the post 1948, new State of Israel, while the homes they were driven from still were unoccupied, the residents of Ayn Hawd were denied the right to return. Eventually the tents they pitched and the lean-tos the contructed in their orchards and pastures, just outside the village, made way to make shift homes named Ayn Hawd al-Jadida, one of the numerous unrecognized villages where an estimated 100,000 Palestinians live.
The previous residents of Ayn Hawd were now considered present absentee, absentee since they were displaced from their homes, but present since they hadn’t left Israel when displaced. Since they remained within the State of Israel, they are Israel citizens, living in unrecognized villages. Unrecognized villages do not receive any services or support from the Israeli government. As Muhammad Abu al-Hayja, founder and director of the Association of Forty, states "It means that your village doesn;t get any services at all – no electricity, no running water, no schools, no medical clinics… It means that you are cut off from the rest of the world – not just the larger outside world, but even from Israel and what goes on there".
When looking at the Ein Hod website, once can almost hear the music from the festivals and see the cobbled streets. "Ein Hod is a picturesque artists’ village, the only one of its kind in Israel and one of the few such villages in the world. Nestled in natural vegetation and bordered by an ancient olive grove, it lies on the western slopes of Mt Carmel, in a breathtaking landscape looking out toward the sea and the Crusader fortress of Atlit. The Ein Hod Artists’ Village – for lovers of art, landscape and nature, a perfect place to spend a few hours a full day or a few days." While the tourists stroll the streets, visit the exhibits, the artists paint and sculpt and the absent present Israeli citizens live a few hundred yards away from their ancestral homes, without electricity and running water, ignored, forgotten and deserted by the State.
The constant pressure from the State to pack up and leave has not severed Muhammad’s connection to his land, his life and his history. "After I began to understand what was going on in this country, I began to feel like I know who I am. I am a native of this land, and his is actually my country – the stranger is the one who came from outside and refused to recognize me. I live in my own country. My people and my ancestors are buried here. I belong to this land. I do feel like a stranger amonth the Jews, and they feel like I am not of their world. But I am not a stranger to this soil."