Giving Palestinians a glimpse of home

Tarek Bakri arranges for people to visit ethnically cleansed towns and villages.

Hadima Khaddash (left) took delight in being able to finally visit Jaffa’s seaside.

More than seven decades have passed since the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The people expelled by Zionist forces at that time – if they are still alive – generally have an acute awareness about their dispossession.

So do their children and grandchildren.

The awareness has remained strong even though huge numbers of the Nakba’s victims have never visited the towns and villages from where they originate.

Most Palestinians living abroad – particularly those in refugee camps – are unable to visit Palestine. Some Palestinians – for example those who hold American or European passports – are a little more fortunate insofar as they have been able to make trips home.

Bakri, a researcher based in Jerusalem, has facilitated such visits.

He regularly receives old photographs from Palestinians uprooted during and after the Nakba or their descendants. Using basic information, he sets out to find the homes of these families.

In many cases, he and his team have then arranged for people to see their homes.

Nasser al-Daqaq is among those whom they have assisted. A Palestinian American, Nasser initially met Bakri when the historian gave a lecture in Kuwait during 2016. Following the presentation, they chatted about Nasser’s family home, built in Jerusalem around 1890.

The house belonged to Nasser grandfather Chakib. But Nasser had never seen it himself.

Bakri asked Nasser to send him a photograph of the house. He promised Nasser to help the family locate it any time they were in Jerusalem.

Later that year, Nasser and two of his children – Khaled and Yasmine – made a trip to Jerusalem.

With Bakri, they set out to find the house in the city’s al-Baqaa neighborhood.

“After searching, we found the house on a side street,” Bakri told The Electronic Intifada.

“It was a huge three-story building, with a very beautiful garden and a tree over 100 years old. I could see great happiness on the faces of Nasser, Khaled and Yasmine. They said the house was nicer than houses in America.”

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