RAMALLAH, May 1 (JMCC) - The Palestinian village of Lifta, in the heart of Jerusalem, remains as a few stone walls overgrown with weeds.
In this feature
, the Independent
explores the village and the memories of displacement it holds for its refugees. Israel soon plans to build a modern neighborhood in its place.
Mr Odeh was just eight years old when the shooting started one day in January 1948. Tensions were already high – a month previously, the Stern Gang, the pre-state Jewish militia, had killed six of the villagers in the coffee house in an apparent reprisal attack. Occupying a strategic position at the entrance to Jerusalem, Lifta became an important target for Jewish fighters. When the first shots were fired in the village, Mr Odeh's father hoisted his youngest child on to his shoulders, and bade his wife and children to follow as they made for a nearby road. With several other families, they boarded a truck heading away from Jerusalem.
We went only in the clothes that we wore because we [thought we] were coming home the next day, says Mr Odeh. Everything – clothes, food – remained at home.
Like most Palestinians who fled, he could not return home. Jewish soldiers blew up the roofs of their homes to make them uninhabitable, and chased off those who did try to come back. By the end of February, the village's nearly 3,000 inhabitants had all left.
The family initially lived in Ramallah, where Mr Odeh says he slept under a tree and queued long hours for food. His father succumbed to illness and depression and died soon after. The family later settled in Jerusalem, and, when he was old enough, Mr Odeh joined the Palestinian resistance, a step that would earn him 17 years in an Israeli jail and see his family home destroyed once again, this time in retribution.