Return to Ajjur

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio

Mondoweiss  /  May 9, 2023

A visit to the destroyed Palestinian village of Ajjur reveals the violence and anxiety at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.

In April 2018, when I was still living in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian comrade from the Deheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem came to De-Colonizer with a request: to help a Palestinian family to visit Ajjur. Ajjur is the village where the father of this family was born and expelled from by Israel during the Nakba in 1948. He wished to show his family his hometown for the first time. We gladly accepted, and with several other activists, we welcomed Mustafa Hajajra, his two daughters, and three children under the age of 16. They were the only family members who could come to visit due to Israel’s severe entry restrictions for Palestinians, both women and men, over and under a certain age. We made signs that expressed our support for the right of return, but for them, the important thing that day was the direct encounter with old Mustafa’s home village. Upon getting out of the car that brought them, he burst into tears, and it took several minutes for him to calm down. His daughter told us that he had been waiting a long time for this moment.

Most of the area of the village is within the Jewish National Fund’s “British Park.” Only a few of the village’s impressive buildings that Israelis used remain. Still, as in other Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed in the Nakba, you can see the stones of its scattered houses, fruit trees such as lemons and vines, and the wells and ruined terraces. The almost complete destruction, and the long passage of time, made it difficult for Mustafa to identify the different parts of his village. He recognized and remembered the Mokhtar’s beautiful and well-preserved house, which has now become an exotic wedding site for Israelis. His daughters picked lemons and gathered vine leaves to prepare family foods that originated in Palestine and that Israel destroyed.

The Israeli village ‘Agur is built on the land of the Palestinian village and preserves – or rather appropriates – its name. When we passed near its huge metal gate, so typical of rural colonial Jewish localities, one of its residents noticed us and immediately suspected that this visit did not bode well for him. He approached us, and his fears were confirmed: these were Palestinians from the place where he currently lives and Israelis who support them. He didn’t like it at all because for him this place only belonged to him and the “Jewish people”. Armed with an iron rod, he approached us and threatened us loudly. Our reaction, especially that of my wife Eléonore, made it clear to him that we were neither afraid nor going to run away from him.

I was reminded of this unpleasant situation when I watched the shocking video a few weeks ago of Israeli police officers mercilessly beating unarmed worshipers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque with batons. Yitzhak Rabin’s order, during the first intifada, “to break the hands and legs of the Palestinians” also comes to mind. And I am writing these lines amid another extreme round of violence following provocations by the current Israeli government.

On the 75th commemoration of the Nakba, it is therefore important to understand the main foundations of the Zionist enterprise. First, the Palestinians (which, according to Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich, do not exist at all) do not belong to the “Land of Israel,” and therefore, their expulsion from it is the realization of the Jewish national vision. The Nakba continues with various violent means, and these, the iron rod and the weapons of one of the most armed armies in the world, are necessary and active nonstop. The establishment of settlements for Jews only, or what is known as colonization, is the civil part of the enterprise and emphasizes a second central aspect of the Jewish state: Jewish supremacy over the entire territory of historical Palestine preserved and strengthened through an apartheid regime. The liberation from this regime, if and when it comes, will allow freedom and equality for all the inhabitants of the country and its Palestinian refugees.

At the end of the Hajajra family’s visit to Ajjur, I told Mustafa that we longed for their return to their village. 

“But they destroyed the houses,” he replied. 

“We will rebuild them,” I told him. 

He smiled and was silent. Indeed, we will have to rebuild this country after Zionism has passed from the world.

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio founded Zochrot in 2001 and he is the co-founder of De-Colonizer, together with Eleonore Merza Bronstein