On January 3rd, 2014, 35 Gemini participants, students of Achva and Beit Berl colleges and Tel Aviv University, took part in a study day touring Jaffa and meeting with local activists. Following the day Project Coordinator Yael Tsabari wrote her impressions.
“It is always surprising to see what happens to us, Palestinians and Jews, when we hear the Palestinian narrative without the Jewish one. It happened during the study day, when Gemini students visited Jaffa in January. Students set together and heard the stories. There was a feeling that something is not right. Emotions were high and discussions heated: was there really a grand Palestinian city here? How come they only tell us the Palestinian story? How come the Palestinians didn’t know what a Ghetto was at 1948? Did they really put Ajami residents in a Ghetto? And what about all the Palestinians who have been living here since? Is Jaffa’s Nakba really ongoing, still making an effect 70 years on?
A lot of questions about a story that is still silenced, and by the student reactions, still require a lot of courage to tell it. Most of the 20+ participants did not know what happened before and after 1948, and they missed the known and told Jewish narrative, as if something terrible will happen without it, if we tell only the Palestinian narrative. What was clear was that the lives of the Palestinian residents of the town are still influenced by what happened before, during and after 1948. When looking at the Palestinian story, usually the focus is on the deportation of the Palestinians by the Jews in 1948, missing the culture and commerce which represented the prosperous Jaffa in the past, as well as the years of coming to terms with the break of this life. A rich cultural history and ongoing identity erasure lead many young Palestinian youth to ask what was here before 1948, and to change what has been happening to Palestinians in the city since the 1950s. 1948 is not the zero point in either story or the end point of it. But for some reason, it is irrelevant to hear what was here before the Jews and scary to listen to what is happening now to the Palestinians. Our ears, which are used to hear about the Palestinian existence mainly regarding the historical connection between the Jewish state and the Palestinian deportation, find it difficult. But we are all here, 2014. A change only happens with a desire to internalize the other’s story, any other: Palestinian, Mizrahi, female. This is the only way to be sensitive to what is happening around us and to create a society open to hear our different stories which compose this place. Only then we can think without fear and through willingness – if I was a Palestinian today, would I be happy with the way things are?