Background on Zochrot
Zochrot's purpose is to involve the Jewish public in remembering and talking about the Nakba.
The memory of the Nakba is an alternative memory that opposes the hegemonic Zionist narrative of history. The Nakba is the catastrophe experienced by the Palestinians in 1948 — the destruction of their villages, the expulsion and killing — but it is also an integral part of the history of the Jews who live here. It is a history that has been silenced and almost completely erased from the physical landscape of the country. Zochrot supports the right of return of the Palestinian refugees which is the personal, civil right of all uprooted people who were expelled from their homes. The right of return is also a collective right that was recognized by international law, particularly by U.N. Resolution 194 of December 1948, which has been re-approved tens of times since then.
Zochrot conducts various activities to these ends: touring and posting signs at destroyed villages; printing study materials and testimonies about the Nakba in Hebrew and Arabic; conducting seminars with teachers and students; operating an internet site that contains a wealth of information about the Nakba in Hebrew, including a database of maps; participating in legal struggles; and hosting encounters between uprooted Palestinians and Jews residing on their lands. The common denominator of all these projects is for Jews in to learn about the Nakba, to reveal and cope with the history that has been obscured, and to take responsibility for what happened in 1948. This goal is based on the understanding that the Nakba and its ongoing consequences are an inextricable part of our lives. Zochrot also aspires to create a space in which feminist narratives of the Nakba will receive significant attention.
General Summary of the Year 2005
In 2005 Zochrot continued to grow and establish its roots. No longer a novelty, Zochrot is now recognized as an established organization among the landscape of NGOs in the country. As the scope of financial support and the number of partners has grown, our activities likewise have increased compared to 2004. Zochrot conducted over a hundred activities including tours, lectures and encounters with visitors and organizations from the region and from overseas. During the year Zochrot also underwent significant structural changes; a 6-person staff (one full-time and 5 part-time) began working at Zochrot, and in March the Learning Center on the Nakba, which also serves as Zochrot's offices, was opened in Tel Aviv. Zochrot members in the North of the country congealed to form the organization's ' Haifa branch'; they met on a regular basis both independently and together with the Tel Aviv group, and organized several large events. A promising partnership was formed with an organization of Palestinian refugees in , an important 'first' for Zochrot. Zochrot continues to receive periodic media attention and the number of people contacting Zochrot increased in 2005. In sum, Zochrot estimates that the number of people who directly took part in Zochrot activities in 2005 was over 7,000 (about a thousand internationals and the remainder more or less evenly split between Jews and Arabs). This is almost twice as many people reached by Zochrot in 2004.
Summary of Activities
Evening lecture series. With the opening of the Learning Center , Zochrot initiated an evening series of lectures on the Nakba, all free and open to the public. Most of the evenings centered on an expert lecture and discussion, but there were also film screenings, literature readings, and workshops. There were 27 evenings in total. Some evenings investigated the Nakba in a particular geographical area or time period; others explored the meaning or effects of the Nakba as related to different topics such as refugees, the right of return, transitional justice, collective memory, feminism and women's experiences, forgiveness, collective trauma, literature, and architecture. Louise Bethlehem led a 3-part series on apartheid, resistance, and reconciliation in South-Africa, noted Israeli author Sami Michael gave a reading of his works in the Miske village schoolhouse, and in the city of Lod the public heard an evening of testimonies on the Nakba from Palestinian survivors. About one third of the evenings were conducted outside the Learning Center (in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa , and other areas) in the aim of broadening the public reach of the lecture series. About 800 people participated in these evenings.
Tours . There were seven public tours to Palestinian sites destroyed in 1948: Lod, Suhmata, Acre , al-Haram/Sidna Ali, Lifta, Bir'im, and Miske.
For the tours of Lod, Suhmata, Acre , al-Haram/Sidna Ali, and Lifta, we posted signs designating the name of the village, the location of existing remains, and some facts about its history and population. A special commemorative Hebrew/Arabic booklet was produced, and gatherers heard testimonies and lectures from refugees and scholars. There were also presentations of music, poetry, films, and artwork during or following the walking tours.
At Bir'im, Zochrot held a solidarity visit with the Bir'im children's summer camp for third-generation refugees of the village. For this visit Zochrot conducted an educational tour and posted signs commemorating the site of the village.
The visit to Miske was one of the highlights of the year. In June 2005 the Israel Lands Authority constructed a fence around the Miske village schoolhouse to prevent the displaced residents of the village from meeting there. In response, Zochrot covered the entire fence in white tarp and transformed it into an outdoor art gallery for the creative use of tens of artists, amateurs and professionals, both adults and children. Gatherers used the fence to display their posters, paintings, and photographs, to screen videos, and as a backdrop for performance art (one woman chained herself to the fence; another satirically guarded the fence as a member of the Israeli Green Patrol). In lieu of a typical commemoration sign, Zochrot posted a sign to compete with the threatening sign put up by the Israeli Lands Administration to prevent entry into the structure. The (much friendlier) Zochrot sign read: "Miske Schoolhouse: The land belongs to the uprooted people of Miske, and entrance is permitted to all with love, regardless of differences in nationality, religion, gender, race or sexual orientation."
David Tartakover, winner of the prize, hung a remarkable series of posters on the fence/gallery at the Miske public art event.
Contributors to the Miske event included: Boaz Arad, Osnat Bar Or, Aya Ben-Ron, Dganit Berst, Yair Garbuz, Tamar Geter, Zvi Geva, Shahaf Haber, Michal Heiman, Ilana Hirshenberg, Micki Kertzman, Ori Kleiner, Yizchak Laor, Dana Levi, Haim Dauel Luskyin, Y. Mekeitun, Avi Mograbi, Makbula Nassar, Efrat Natan, Michal Neeman, Yael Oren-Zalait, Yael Reshef, David Riv, Roy Rosen, Michal Shamir, Arik Shapira (winner of the "Israel Prize"), Fadi Shbeyta, Neomi Siman-Tov, Elisheva Smith, David Tartakover (winner of the "Israel Prize"), and rapper Samech Zakut.
About 100-200 people participated at each of Zochrot's public tours.
In addition to the public tours, Zochrot also conducted 22 smaller tours by invitation of local and overseas groups (from 10 to 50 participants at most tours). Tours focused on areas where Zochrot has gained expertise in recent years through its ongoing activities: Haifa, Deir Yassin, Park , and of course the destroyed villages in the Tel Aviv – Jaffa area. Participants included high school and university students (the Bilingual School of Jerusalem, Nachshon College, and the Alternative Youth Summer Camp); organizations (the Van Leer Institute, al-Quds University, and Bat Shalom); and an array of scholars, photographers, filmmakers, and teachers working on projects related to the Nakba. There were also several tours for Zochrot's colleagues and partners from overseas. Most tours included an introductory overview of the Nakba by Zochrot, followed by a walking tour and ending with an open discussion session for participants to process and respond to what they learned. Many tours also included a presentation by a displaced person from the site being visited. Altogether about 1,650 people participated in Zochrot's tours.
Commemorations. Five commemoration events took place in 2005, with the participation of about 750 people in total. For the 57th anniversary of the massacre at Deir Yassin, Zochrot returned for the third time to the site of the massacre, today in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem . A special booklet was produced for the visit, and signs were posted bearing the names of the victims. The ceremony was enriched by musical performances from Zochrot friends in the country and from abroad, and was conducted with the participation of the UK-based organization Deir Yassin Remembered.
During the period of Nakba Day/Israeli Independence Day, there were three commemoration events: On the eve of Independence day Zochrot screened the documentary film "Zion Admati" by Yuli Cohen Gerstel, which explores the struggle of the filmmaker, a Jewish Israeli woman, to cope with her father's participation in the perpetration of the Nakba. The screening was followed by a discussion with the filmmaker. Later that evening, Zochrot activists read testimonies of the Nakba on the streets of Tel Aviv. The following day, Nakba Day, Zochrot organized a gathering in the schoolhouse of the village of Miske , where attendants heard testimonies of the Nakba from refugees of the village. That afternoon, following the Miske visit, Zochrot joined thousands of others in the Procession of Return in Hawsha. Eitan Reich of Zochrot delivered spoken remarks and we posted signs to commemorate the village of Hawsha .
For International Nakba Day (May 15), Zochrot held a public art event in Tel Aviv city square called "Fill in the Square." We constructed a 1,000 sqm map of the land covering the lawn of the city square. Before the event, we had prepared an individual card for each of the Palestinian sites destroyed during the Nakba. Participants at the event could chose a village card and return it to the map of the land based on its coordinates. Among the participants were internally displaced persons who told about their villages and posted them on the map, or Jewish participants who posted cards for the Palestinian villages near where they lived. Throughout the event, there was a microphone stand where participants could tell gatherers about what meaning a particular village held for them. At the end of the activity, when all the village cards had been returned, we stood – a crowd of about 300 people – for a moment of silence while each person held up the card they had returned to the map.
Education. Zochrot initiated a number of educational activities for students, teachers, parents, and the general public in 2005. Zochrot's primary project is facilitating a teachers' group to develop a curriculum for introducing the Nakba in the classroom. The teachers, all Jewish, had the experience of being 'students' in different pedagogical exercises introduced by Zochrot. For example, the teachers researched the history of the Nakba where they lived, and wrote a letter to an imaginary Palestinian refugee. Based on these exercises, the group developed lesson plans to use in their own classrooms. The teachers then brought their classroom experiences back to the group to help and build the curriculum. Two teachers' groups opened in 2005, the first in the north of the country and second in the central region. 32 teachers and 2 school principals, representing different high schools and teachers' colleges, took part. This is the first program we know of to develop a Nakba curriculum for the Jewish public.
Other educational projects that took place in 2005 were: An introductory lecture on the Nakba and a tour of a destroyed Palestinian village for students and parents at an elementary school, followed by discussion sessions with students and parents separately; a three-part encounter on the Nakba for students of Haifa University; various lectures and facilitated discussions on the Nakba for tour guides, high school and college students, teachers, and youth group members and coordinators; an introduction to Zochrot's work on the Nakba to a group of women refugees in the West Bank; and the beginign of an ongoing (14-session) dialogue group for Palestinian and Jewish women in the north of the country.
Students and interested members of the public continue to visit the Learning Center on a regular basis, as well as to frequent Zochrot's 'virtual' online database on the Nakba. A number of academic studies were also conducted with the assistance of Zochrot.
Over 400 people participated in these educational projects.
Conferences and festivals. Zochrot organized and presented at a conference on Zionism at Tel Aviv University and at a conference on the Right of Return in Nazareth ; presented at an international conference of researchers on the Nakba and participated in international conferences of its partners ICCO, EPER, and Oxfam Solidarity . Eitan Bronstein gave a speaking tour in together with Leila Alali, Director of the al-Najdeh organization, an organization of Palestinian women in , and Eitan Reich gave a speaking tour in . Zochrot also joined a youth group to a conference in .
Zochrot participated in organizing the annual Activism Festival in Lod; during the three-day festival, Zochrot operated an information booth and conducted two workshops on the Nakba. Zochrot also supported the Tel Aviv Feminism Festival, and operated an information booth during the day-long festival.
Advocacy. Zochrot took part in two Planning Committee meetings on the proposed building plan for the Palestinian village of Lifta . We submitted a formal opposition to the building plan, and handed out flyers prior to one of the meetings.
Zochrot also submitted a High Court petition on the matter of recognizing the villages of Yalu and Imwas in today's Canada Park , which resulted in the agreement of Israeli authorities to post signs in the park designating the villages. As far as we know, this is the first formal act by the state to recognize the Destruction of Palestinian villages in the landscape of the country.
Future and ongoing projects.
Work began on a multimedia presentation on the Nakba which will be in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Twenty-five testimonies of internally displaced refugees have been collected on film, as part of Zochrot's new testimonies project. The aim of the project is to film and edit testimonies of internally displaced refugees, and then to translate them into Hebrew for the benefit of researchers and the general public.
Research has been completed on a planned guidebook to the Palestinian villages that existed in Tel Aviv until 1948.
There were a number of attempts to organize encounters between internally displaced Palestinians and the Jewish residents who now live on the lands of their villages. Meetings were held between members of Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan and the displaced people of Hawsha and Qusayr, with members of Beit Haemek to examine the possibility of their meeting the displaced people of Kuwaykat, and with residents of Kerem Maharal in order to investigate the possibility of their meeting the displaced people of Ijzim. Unfortunately these attempts did not ripen into deepening encounters.
The Learning Center on the Palestinian Nakba, which also serves as Zochrot's offices, opened in March 2005.
A staff of six workers was established in Zochrot. Eitan Bronstein is the director, working at a full-time salary since February. Norma Musih, Talia Fried, and Raneen Geries joined Zochrot at half-time positions in March 2005, followed by Eitan Reich and Iris Bar in July 2005.
Six concentrated discussion days took place of Zochrot in addition to the regular ongoing staff and board meetings.
Zochrot produced a film on the organization, directed by Liat Sabin Ben Shoshan.
About 40 meetings were held with representatives of different organizations locally and abroad.
Some of the organizations that Zochrot cooperated with in 2005 include: the Women's Feminist House, ADRID and Badil. Zochrot began a project with the Netherlands-based FAST organization on the village of Lifta , and there are plans for a joint project on the village Ras al-Ahmar for 2006 with the Lebanon-based al-Najdeh organization.
Media Exposure and Public Response
In 2005 Zochrot continued to become better known to the wider public. There was not a significant increase in the breadth of media exposure, perhaps because Zochrot's existence is now taken as a matter of course. The media continues to turn to Zochrot as a source of information on the history of the Nakba, which expresses the importance and reliability of the organization in the eyes of the media.
Zochrot received 160 emails to the website from individuals who wanted to know more about a particular place, to join the mailing list, to offer support and suggestions, as well as to express derision and opposition. Articles about Zochrot that were published on different websites received hundreds of responses, usually hostile, to the activities and the position of the organization.
MSN published an article under the headline "A Palestinian Village in the Heart of Tel Aviv?" which reported on an colloquium at Zochrot and which received more than a hundred responses.
An article was published in 'Haaretz' on the upcoming signposting in Canada Park under the headline "The Palestinian Past of Canada Park is Forgotten in JNF Signs" (June 12, 2005).
Ben Dror Yemini, a journalist with the Israeli daily Maariv, is a good example of the shock that Zochrot causes in the Jewish public. In the headline of the original Hebrew article, which discussed a conference in which Zochrot activists took part, he called Zochrot "Hamas Propagandists"; the headline was later modified to "Conference for Adherents of Elimination." Below is an excerpt from the English translation of the article:
The issue is that there are those among us who willingly apply themselves in service of the enemy. At one of the breaks, members of the organization "Zochrot" approached me. This is a group of Israelis, it is hard to believe, that deals with the commemoration of the Palestinian names of different villages in the country and in promoting the right of return. Why do you call us Hamasniks, they asked me. Because you are collaborators with those whose aim is the annihilation of the State of , I told them. There is no difference between them and those adherents of the right of return of Jews to the Kasbah in Nablus , and between them and those adherents to the right of return of Palestinians to Sheikh Muwannis. Both are enemies of the one sane solution: two separate nation-states. Exactly like . The right of return exists – for Jews to and for Palestinians to Palestine .
The phenomenon of "Zochrot" is not only sick. It is primarily destructive. It perpetuates the memory of Palestinian and Israeli suffering, since it encourages the Palestinian refusal front. If among Palestinians there are many who understand that the demand for the right of return is unrealistic, as in the more than 150 thousand Palestinians who have already signed the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document, people from among us come and clarify to them that they must be obstinate. Will the Palestinian suffering come to an end this way, or will it merely be perpetuated?
And with Israelis like these, who needs enemies?
An article by Eitan Bronstein was published in the book Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees edited by Nur Massalhah (Zed Books, 2005), and a section of the book The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide by Susan Nathan (Nan A. Talese, 2005) related the story of the founding of Zochrot and its activities.
Support for Zochrot
We wish to thank the following individuals and organizations which supported Zochrot in 2005:
Kerkinactie / Global Ministries PCN
Mennonite Central Committee
EPER Entraide Protestante Suisse
Oxfam Solidarity Belgiuim
Important financial support for activities came from participants, who bought village booklets and t-shirts and donated money to cover the costs of the events.
Special Responses to Zochrot Activities
On November 12, 2005, Zochrot conducted a tour of the destroyed village of al-Haram/Sidna Ali, situated on the beach of what is now Herzliya. The refugees of the village told about their experiences and an Israeli woman named Dana, who took part in a Zochrot tour for the first time, asked to say a few words. She told the gatherers that she had lived for years next to the village without ever knowing that it existed. She asked for their forgiveness for their expulsion and for her ignorance of their existence.
Some of the written responses to Zochrot in 2005 included the following:
I just want to give my appreciation (again) to the work you are doing. I read in Haaretz about the fight in Canada Park and wanted to express my support.
Warm blessings for the achievement at the High Court of Justice.
Clearly it is just the beginning of the path (remember when I suggested to you before the beginning to prepare ahead of time a few signs for every village...) Good for you.
In response to the fence event at Miske:
I am filled with admiration for you and for the amazing organization you founded!
I was sorry that I could not be with you at the event at Rabin Square,
which seemed to me to be an amazing civic act.
Future Directions for Development
Zochrot will continue to grow and develop in terms of public exposure, breadth of activities and growth of the organization and the staff. In 2006 we will move to a new address in the heart of Tel Aviv where we will enjoy more space for evening events and for the staff. In 2006, for the first time, we will initiate activities in the south of the country in the context of the Nakba. Zochrot also intends to support its Jerusalem-based activists in becoming a formal branch of the organization.