It was strangely uplifting to spend two nights and three days in the Galilee, North Palestine. We visited good friends, made new friends, saw 3000 year old olive trees, walked in the ruins depopulated villages, and shopped and ate in Palestinian towns which survived 62 years of colonial apartheid. We crossed from Bethlehem to occupied East Jerusalem with a wave of an Israeli soldier’s hand (who did not bother to check papers of an Israeli car. A few minutes later we crossed the Green line (borders before 1967) that is neither marked or guarded. The imaginary green line had long disappeared since Israeli colonies go deep into the occupied West Bank. But in the areas of West Jerusalem, we could still see many signs of the three dozen Palestinian villages depopulated since 1948. Then taking "route 6" north. This highway was built on newly confiscated Palestinian village lands.
Over 530 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated. The remaining 130 villages and towns had most of their land taken and now the remaining Palestinians who comprise 20% of the Israeli population live on about 2% of the land while the Jewish population controls the rest (which is mostly Palestinian property). When we take the whole of Palestine (West Bank and Gaza included), we see that Palestinians who remained (some 50% of the population is restricted to less than 10% of historic Palestine. Thus access to land is nearly 9 folds more to the Jewish population (most of it not native) even without the return of refugees.
We visited devastated Palestinian villages like Iqrit (a catholic Christian community of which only the church remains), Al-Zeeb (a fishing Muslim community where the mosque and the few remaining buildings are converted for recreation of Israelis), and Al_Bassa (that used to be a thriving mixed town of Christians and Muslims and was filled with Jewish immigrants initially from Bulgaria and is now called Shlomi).
But we also visited still heavily populated (and growing) Palestinian towns like Arrabe, Sakhnin, and Acre. One is tempted to feel sad at the inability of the Zionist Jews to see that they could have lived with the natives instead of at their expense. I was saddened to see how Jewish settlements throughout the Galillee are built on Palestinian lands instead of on the very many open spaces. I was saddened to see how these Jewish communities live behind guarded perimeters (gated communities). Palestinian towns, impoverished but still open to visitors.
Throughout the trip we met a few of the 1.5 million Palestinians who remain steadfast and work to reject the schemes of Judaicizing the Galilee (and the Negev, hopefully my next trip). These are inspiring people in everything they do. I am humbled by their dedication. I kept thinking of Tawfiq Ziyad’s poem Unadikum (I call upon you) which was rendered into patriotic songs of love of land and people. It says in part, I call upon you I press on your hands I kiss the land under your shoes I gift you the light of my eyes the beats of my heart and I sacrifice myself for you as I share with you our tragedies.
For more information see Abnaa Al-Balad Movement http://www.abnaa-elbalad.org/engballad1.html
And the article just published in Haaretz by Ahmed Tibi on http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1160446.html