Following an initiative by a group of Jewish activists from South Africa, members of the StopTheJNF movement, an unprecedented apology ceremony was held on May 1 among the ruins of the Palestinian village of Lubya in the Galilee. The South Africans apologized to refugees and internally displaced persons from the village for having donated money to the Jewish National Fund, used to plant the so-called South Africa Forest on the rubbles of Lubya, a forest which was part of the Zionist practice of denying the return of Palestinian refugees.
The moving event, attended by more than 200 people, was co-organized by Zochrot, the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID) and StopTheJNF-South Africa. It was preceded by a guided tour of the village ruins, that included descriptions of life in the prosperous pre-1948 village, the circumstances of its occupation and the expulsion of its inhabitants, testimonies by internally displaced persons, the distribution of a trilingual booklet about the village and the apology initiative, and last but not least – placing signs to mark key village sites erased by the State of Israel in the aftermath of the war, such as the local school, cemetery, mosque, and spring.
The ceremony included speeches by a representative of Lubya’s displaced persons, ADRID chairperson and a Zochrot representative. They all praised the initiative and called for similar events in other villages as part of the overall process of acknowledgement and realization of the right of return by Palestinian refugees and those still displaced within Israel.
The South African representatives described their journey to this point, sang a song of resistance in Xhosa and English from the time of their resistance to apartheid, read out the formal apology to the village family representatives and the public, and eventually submitted 200 apology and solidarity pledges personally signed by members of the group.
The event was held in three languages – English, Arabic and Hebrew.