“The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet.”
This quote reminds me of my beloved aunts eyes last Palestine, as she told me the story of our family’s expulsion to Lebanon in 1948 and our struggle to return to our village. So often the world forgets about the efforts of women in conflicts and history. As our fathers, husbands and sons went off to fight a war we would never win, the women alone were left behind to care for the children, the elderly and the sick. They alone had to figure out how to feed their families, protect their children from the bullets of warring armies and find safety in the darkest of nights. In her eyes I saw sorrow and fear, but beneath her breathe as she repeated the story of her mother-in-law, there was strength not even words can describe.
My family is from Eilaboun, which today is in modern Israel. In 1948, the Zionist forces came to our village after members of a neighboring Bedouin clan captured two Jewish soldiers and beheaded them in the village square. With all of our men gone, either to find work in the cities or fighting against the invaders elsewhere in the country, only the women, the children and the elderly remained in the village. Entering into the village fully armed, the Zionist took their revenge on the young boys of our community. The soldiers came to each home, ransacking and grabbing all boys of the age 13 and up. My Great Uncles mother had to think fast as her only son had just reached the age they sought.
Searching through the wardrobe of her daughter, my Great Great Aunt grabbed a dress, some heels and a headscarf. As she was hurrying to dress her son, her daughters were applying light make-up on his face to cover his boyish features. Soon the Zionist broke down their doors, forcing the family to evacuate their home. Surrounded by their neighbors, no one spoke of the young boy dressed in women’s clothing. Unseen, the Zionist left the boy untouched as they moved on to the next home.
After each home was searched, a handful of young boys where taken to the village square and in the same place their own brethren’s lives were taken, they massacred those boys. All that remains are the bullet holes resting in the side of the old church. The rest of the village was herded into trucks and transported to Lebanon with only the clothes on their back.
Although my Great Great Aunt had protected her family for that night, the family was still broken. Her beloved husband and father of her young children was still in Haifa, where he worked. Unbeknownst to him, his family was no longer home and his search for them would only begin. After hearing of the misfortune of his village, he would keep his ears to the radio day in and day out, in hopes the Arab Army Radio would announce the location of his family, wherever they may be.
However, my Great Great Aunt was not willing to living without her family united. Making a daring decision, she prepared her children for the dangers walk back to their village. Cloaked by darkness and silence, with gun fire in earshot, they would navigate together the rolling hills of Upper Galillee by foot… That is where my Great Aunts’ story stopped, as she and her husband, the young boy in women’s clothing, choked on the tears of their saddened memories.
“Khalas” (trans. Enough), they both gasped as they drank their evening coffee preparing for my departure to America. Through all the violence and pain, as mothers and minorities, the women in my family though wounded, stand strong. And I am their proud descendant! My name is Maxine Anwaar and this is my first post on behalf of the mothers of my homeland, Palestine.
Written by Maxine Anwaar