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On the hillside south of Highway 1, the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which until 1948 was the road from Yaffa to al-Quds, opposite Abu Ghosh and Kiryat Ya’arim, are scattered the remains of Khirbet al-’Umur, a Palestinian village. You reach it via the village of ‘Ein Rafa.
The idea of investigating the village and organizing a study tour arose because of a well-known spring in the area which has many visitors, mostly Israeli Jews. The spring, which had been part of Khirbat al- ’Umur, is located within the borders of ‘Ein Rafa. In Arabic the spring name is pronounced as “Ein Le’Umur” (without pronouncing the initial “a”). As time went by Israelis changed the pronunciation of the name to Ein Limor, while others called it Ein Limon – a change that apparently occurred naturally, not deliberately. A search for the name in Israeli maps, and on Google Maps, of course, revealed that Ein Limor and Ein Limon have become the spring’s official names (neither has yet been selected), and the Arab name, Ein Le’Umur, disappeared from the maps, from speech, from the signs and from our minds.
The state of Israel, and the Zionist movement before it, acted and continues acting energetically to erase Arab names from the landscape and replace them with Hebrew/Jewish names. The naming project was given to the Government Names Committee established in 1950, the successor to the “Locality Names Committee of the Jewish National Fund” established in 1925. The committee’s task was to assign names to localities, intersections and interchanges, parks, springs, streams, etc. The committee has assigned thousands of new names since its creation. They have been inscribed on Israeli maps and printed on roadside signs and at entrances to sites. While no overall system exists for selecting names, there is a single goal – Judaizing the names and erasing Arab identity from the landscape and from consciousness. Sometimes the committee drew on names from Jewish history, such as Jerusalem, Modi’in, Gezer, Dor, etc.; sometimes the committee changed the Arab name to one based on Jewish sources even if the difference was minor, like Akko instead of Akka, Yafo instead of Yafa and Tzor’a instead of the Palestinian village of Sar’a; sometimes it translated the Arabic name into Hebrew, like Ayelet HaShachar instead of Najmat Al-Subh; sometimes it corrupted the Arabic name by selecting a Hebrew word that sounded and appeared similar, like Aggur instead of the Palestinian village Ajjur, or like Ein Limon/Ein Limor instead of Ein Le’Umur; sometimes it devised names on the basis of events that occurred nearby, like Kfar Daniel, named for Daniel Frisch, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, which is located on the site of the Palestinian village of Danyal which stood there until it was captured in 1948. The work of Judaizing and Hebraizing the names continues officially today with regard to Palestinian localities that still exist.
Gush Halav, for example, is the Arab village al-Jish; a few years ago ‘Ibillin junction became Evlayyim junction; and the consolidation of several Arab villages into a single local council also received a Hebrew name – Ma’aleh ‘Iron. In a few cases Jewish localities, particularly those established prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in place of or next to Palestinian villages, retained the Arab name – for example Ja’ara, Sajara, Karkur and others.
Recently the ‘Ein Rafa village committee organized village youth to clean and maintain the spring and its environs. Along with that activity they decided to conduct – in cooperation with Zochrot- a tour of the ruins of Khirbet (A)Le’Umur, the adjacent village, and especially of the spring.
On Friday, 9.10.2015, about sixty people arrived for the tour: Jews, Arabs and activists from abroad. Half the participants were from ‘Ein Rafa. The tour was led by Mahmoud Alayan, a member of the nakba’s second generation, who was born and lives in the neighboring village of Abu Ghosh. His father was born in Khirbat al-‘Umur. Even though Mahmoud is an Israeli citizen he doesn’t have the right to return to his village and regain his lands. There are some 300,000 internally displaced persons in Israel like him. We began the tour at ‘Ein al-’Umur, walked beside Wadi al-’Umur (Arabic) /Wadi Kasla (Arabic)/Nahal Kisalon (Hebrew), climbed the hill on which the village had stood, passed among its ruins and demolished buildings. We heard about the capture of the village and the expulsion of its inhabitants and erected informational signs beside the spring, the entrance of the village, the desecrated cemetery and the destroyed mosque. In the end of the tour we stopped again by the spring, there our hosts from ‘Ein Rafa offered us tea and sweets.
Translated from Hebrew: Charles Kamen
Tour at the destroyed Palestinian village of Khirbat al-‘Umur
District: al-Quds (Jerusalem)
Tour Language: Hebrew and Arabic
Filming: Raneen jeries - Zochrot