The sights of Rafah are too difficult to bear – trails of refugees alongside carts laden with bedding and the meager contents of their homes; children dragging suitcases larger than themselves; women draped in black kneeling in mourning on piles of rubble. And in the memories of some of us, whose number if dwindling, arise similar scenes that have been a part of our lives, as a sort of refrain that stabs at the heart and gnaws at the conscience, time after time, for over half a century – the procession of refugees from Lod to Ramallah in the heat of July 1948; the convoys of banished residents of Yalu and Beit Nuba, Emmaus and Qalqilyah in June 1967; the refugees of Jericho climbing on the ruins of the Allenby Bridge after the Six-Day War.
And perhaps the most shocking of all, the grandfathers and fathers of the Rafah refugees, abandoning the houses in Yibna in which they were born, in fear of the approaching Israeli army on June 5, 1948. “At dawn,” reported the AP correspondent, “it was possible to see the civilians fleeing from the town [Yibna] in the direction of the coast, without the intervention of the Israeli attackers.”
Some 56 years have passed, and they are again fleeing in fear of the Israeli attackers.
And the attackers adopt the same tactics, spread rumors and fire warning shots; and when the residents flee out of fear, they claim that they are not responsible for the flight, but then destroy the homes, for “after all, they are empty and deserted…”