May 15 is Nakba day, the anniversary of the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948. Around 750,000 were forcibly evicted during the war which followed Israel’s “declaration of independence.”
For many Palestinians, the “Day of the Catastrophe” is an occasion to remember that mass displacement, and to express hope for their return.
Here, some Palestinians explain what Nakba day represents to them.
“Approximately 7.1million. The number of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons as of 2009.”
Yesterday, on the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, some of the estimated 7.5 million Palestinians living in exile around the world, many of them descendants of those made refugees in 1948, marked the occasion with the hashtags “we will return” (سنعود#) and “we are returning” (راجعين#).
Where abouts are these over seven million Palestinians?
Well, over two million Palestinian refugees were registered in neighboring Jordan in 2016, according to UNRWA. The true number for individuals of Palestinian origin in the Kingdom is thought to be over three million.
Around another million registered Palestinian refugees live in Palestine’s other neighbors Lebanon and Syria, although precise figures for the latter are difficult to obtain given the ongoing civil war there. In fact, Syria’s war has forced many Palestinians living there to once again become refugees.
Beyond the Arab world, there are sizeable Palestinian diaspora in Chile, the United States and Germany.
“We want to return to our homeland”
Although many of the world’s Palestinians have never seen their homeland, they continue to hope for a “right of return” to the streets their grandparents once walked.
The key is used as a symbol to represent Palestinians’ hope for a return to their homeland in general - and to their homes in particular. Lots of Palestinian families still have the keys to the homes they left in 1948.
A giant key looms over Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, which is mostly populated by refugees from Jerusalem and Hebron, representing the over 5,500 residents’ desire to go back.
“On this day 1948 our suffering story as Palestinians started”
The pain of the 1948 expulsions is still raw in the collective Palestinian memory.
"An Ongoing Displacement"
For many, Nakba day is as much about the events of the present as about the events of the past.
“Our return is a matter of time”
Still, hope still persists.
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