Nabil Shaath was just 10 years old when he was forced out of Yaffa, the Palestinian name for Jaffa, at gunpoint, but he still treats the ancient port city like home. The 76-year-old was the Palestinian Authority’s first ever foreign minister, and remains a hugely influential statesman, but accompanying him through Israel for Nabka Day – May 15th – was ultimately about his childhood.
“I remember the place so well. My boyhood here was a very happy one,” said Shaath, who vividly describes the time before the Nabka, or “Catastrophe.” This was when Yaffa became part of the new Jewish state, and Zionist paramilitary groups such as the Irgun began attacking civilian populations with high explosives fired from mortars.
“We’d never experienced anything like that – on the contrary, Jews, Muslims, Christians and other groups had all lived together in harmony. I had a great Jewish friend at school, a little boy who sat next to me in class. It was a perfect place to grow up. The city was our playground.”
Shaath was clearly deeply emotional as he stood next to his old family home in what used to be the Al-Nuzha, or “picnic area,” of Yaffa. The onetime fine family villa where he lived with his father Ali, his mother Samiha, his brother Nadeem, and his three sisters Maysoon, Noha and Zinab, is now a dilapidated drugs rehabilitation centre.
“My father would’ve fainted if he’d found out what became of our house,” said Shaath. “There were no drug problems when we lived here. Yaffa was a very civilized place, with lots of cinemas, including the renowned Al-Hamra, theaters and two daily newspapers. The best thing about it was the constant smell of jasmine, and the sight of orange trees everywhere.
“Oranges were at the heart of the city’s success. International demand propelled it onto the world stage, and into the global economy. By the 1930s, Yaffa was exporting tens of millions of citrus crates abroad, providing thousands of jobs.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر