The following are translated experts from a hearing at the Regional Building and Planning Committee – Northern Region on plans to expand the Jewish moshav of Ya'ad into areas of the destroyed Palestinian village of Mi'ar. The hearing took place in Nazareth on February 11, 2004. Zochrot and others came to express their opposition to the plan. Ultimately the committee decided to partially accept the oppositions to the expansion plan, including the opposition of Zochrot and the opposition of Mr. Abed Nimarnah on behalf of the displaced people of Mi'ar.
Mr. Na'aman Belkind, Architect
The essence of the plan is to expand the population capacity of the moshav Ya'ad from 136 to 240 housing units. This will be carried out by adding housing units on the northern and southern sides of the community. The southern side is included in the framework of the authorized plans for the community created in 1978. The northern side is an addition to the original plan for the community. The northern expansion of the community would be in place of agricultural land and the southern expansion in place of an open private area owned by the state.
Ms. Hannah Livne
I am a resident of Ya'ad and I am a landscape architect.
I have signed on my opposition and I represent a group of members of the community. Fifteen of them are written and signed on the opposition and there is another group that does not want to sign the opposition but supports what is written. My opposition is not to the entire plan. I support it and it is fitting that Ya'ad should grow. On the southern part of the community called Mi'ar Hill there is, among other things, an archeological barrow. A declared antiquities territory. The plan includes 240 plots of land, of which 117 are plots of land that exist in Ya'ad today. The opposition is to 34 plots of land on the southern side of the community, about 30% of the total plots of land designated for expansion. If the 34 plots are dropped Ya'ad can still meet the present pace of absorption for the next 20 years...
I oppose the development of the archeological barrow Mi'ar for three reasons. The first is the scenic matter. The area of the barrow has great scenic value because of an aggregate of components it contains... The remains of the village Mi'ar, ruins of houses of Mi'ar and the remains of orchards... The people of Mi'ar noted certain plots that would be less painful for them to build on, and which they agreed to concede.
The second is an archeological matter...
The third is the matter of the village of Mi'ar. The village existed on the hill until 1948 and was abandoned. Some of the people of Mi'ar who left the village are our neighbors and I know them. The life that existed there was extinguished. This involved great pain. We must acknowledge this if we are to have co-existence.
History is built layer by layer: Usually every layer, by virtue of its existence, erases the layer that proceeded it. Otherwise there would not be the barrow. This is the essence of history. In our case, people who experienced the pain, come to the barrow and see and remember the pain that they had. The hill is a space of memory and they are entitled to it.
The suggestion is to preserve the area that has not been built up as a park that will give expression to the historical layers. It would contain a reminder of the mishnaic Jewish village Sha'av, and a reminder of the village of Mi'ar which disappeared. The park will preserve the hill as a site, an area that would include expressions of the historical layers for the needs of the people of Mi'ar and for the memory of what they experience and this open wound. We have to understand what is happening to the other side and to reconcile with it. This park is an opportunity and a turning point. It is something that has not existed yet and there is hope for the future. We came to a compromise that says that you can build the green plots which is also not easy. It's hard to say where the line should be drawn. The founders of Ya'ad who came to Mi'ar Hill saw that it was a lovely place and they knew about the painful history there, so they went a bit further on. I heard that at the time, there was a boy who said when the people of Ya'ad came to settle in the area it was easier for them because of the greater distance from the village that was destroyed.
I would like to propose a method of action for the committee. I propose that the committee approve the Ya'ad plan today less 30 plots that are not marked in green... This would be a statement of brotherhood toward the people of Mi'ar. We started a process of encounters with them, the purpose of which is reconciliation.
I suggest for Ya'ad to be developed in the western direction and not to build on the hill... If the plan is approved, we will continue to be in contact with the people of Mi'ar. This matter will divide the community and will introduce great difficulties. The people of Mi'ar will try to appeal and will try to find ways to circumvent the proposed construction. In this sensitive period between us and the Arab neighbors anything could spark a flame. There are residents who are waiting for this to happen.
Mr. Abed Nimarnah
The people of Mi'ar today live in the communities of Kabul, Sakhnin, Sha'ab, Shfaram, Arabeh, and Ablin – about 6,000 people. I am one of them. I am a descendant of this village and I identify with the people of the village on the matter of their memory. I am 36 years old and I was born in Sha'ab. In the framework of my studies at Haifa University I am conducting research on this village. The people who lived and were born in the village remember the destruction of the village. The fact is that the people of Ya'ad, who toured the village twice with the village elders, recognize their memory and their sense of belonging to the destroyed village. If they had not recognized this they would not have toured with the people of Mi'ar. In my view, and in the view of academic researchers, the identity of a human being is composed of memory. If their memory is erased, so is their identity.
Some of the eastern plots of Ya'ad have been built on the ruins of this village. The bones of the dead lay in the area of the greenhouses.
Every year the people of Mi'ar come to tend this cemetery. Many people are spiritually and emotionally connected to the cemetery. There was no opposition by the people of Mi'ar to the expansion of the community northward. In pursuit of a future of brotherhood, in an area were Arabs and Jews reside, one must be considerate of the other and respect his feelings.
I direct my claims that it is important to be considerate of the memory and identity of the other the head of the Misgav Regional council.
Mr. Eitan Bronstein, Director, Zochrot
Zochrot was founded with the purpose of promoting a different position by the state, its residents, and institutions, toward the Palestinian pain of 1948, with the knowledge that in the absence of a new and different attitude on the part of Jews toward this tragedy, there will never be reconciliation between the people who live on this land. We carry out a number of activities on this issue.
We submitted the opposition because we see this as another instance of this same attitude that ignores the pain and the memory of the Palestinians and their culture. People who live with us here. I call your attention to TAMA 35, to the term 'quality of life.' Planning deals also with the relationship of people to the places where they lived in the past. The building plan as it is proposed today would destroy and cover over part of the ruins of Mi'ar. A plan that builds on top of the ruins of houses, water wells, and near the cemetery. The people of Mi'ar return to visit the place regularly.
Our argument is that memory should be respected. The author Muhammad Ali Taha, who is from Mi'ar, took part in a conference in July 2000, where he said that he looks at the world and he remembers the place where he played ragball, sometime he comes and travels and visits the cemetery. Our fear is that if the building plan is approved it will be another layer cementing the trauma of the people of Mi'ar.
Today, ninety-percent of the villages that were destroyed in the Nakba have not been built on. Forests were planted over them. There is in my view an opportunity here to challenge Jews. It is a difficult challenge, and the fact is that it's difficult to take this step. It is difficult for Jews, in practice, to acknowledge this pain.
Mr. Ahmed Tahta
I am a member of the group that organized the meetings with the secretariat of Ya'ad. From the beginning we had the intention of reaching a compromise that would not hamper the expansion of the community and would not cause further injury to the memory and the pain of the people of Mi'ar. We asked that a surveyor examine which points might cause further injury to the memory and the pain of the residents, and which points would not. We were shown only two points, on the border of the plots. Yet, in the plan, plot 173 falls on the wall of a house, and there would be a fence and a security path precisely over the mosque of the village. Nonetheless, the members of the secretariat who saw the points marked by the surveyor asked to keep plots 168-176.
This plan has a few versions. In one version a plot was added on the western side. There was opposition by some of the residents that this would obscure the landscape on the west, and members of the secretariat asked to cancel these plots so as not to impair the landscape. To me, it seems that people treat scenic value as being more important than the memory of people.
Mr. Hayibi Zakhi
I was born in 1942. I appreciate all the people who spoke here. It hurts me that people are building on my home. I don't know what kind of democracy ruins a house and builds another house on top of it. If they would build on this place and recreate the houses both for Arabs and Jews to live in, I would not be opposed to the plan.
Leonid Malikin of the Regional Committee, in response to the oppositions:
The Regional Committeee of Misgav has supported approval of the plan. However, now that we have heard the oppositions, and following my tour of the area in which I have looked at the issues under question first-hand, we will not object to removing a small number of the plots from the plan which are in the area of the cemetery... The cemetery, as we have seen on the older maps, is located above plots 183 – 185 and therefore we agree to remove the three plots in the southern area of the territory east of Road 15...