The Atlantic

Why My Father Made Me Forget Our Palestinian Catastrophe

How does a boy growing up in Israel remember how many of his people lost their homes in 1948, if no one will teach him?
Source: Seraj Assi / The Atlantic

When the creation of the State of Israel 70 years ago led to a mass Palestinian exodus, only about 150,000 Palestinians out of nearly 1 million who had lived on the territory managed to remain within the new state. Among them were my grandparents. And yet, it wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I first heard of the nakba, an Arabic term meaning “catastrophe” that many Palestinians use to mark the events of 1948.  

Ironically, I heard the word from a Jewish friend at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In my excitement, I called my father and told him about my thrilling new discovery. He faltered, then advised me to get this nakba out of my system.  

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