Capturing a different sort of survivor testimony


A new effort is underway to videotape testimony from Israelis and Palestinians who lived through the tumultuous events of 1948. From Tel Aviv, JTA’s Dina Kraft has the story for the New York Times:

Modeled on Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which interviewed about 52,000 Holocaust survivors, the project is collecting firsthand accounts of the arrival of the Zionists and their struggle to create a Jewish state. One account was that of Harold Katz, a Harvard Law student and World War II Navy veteran, now 85, who volunteered to help illegally smuggle Holocaust survivors by ship to pre-state Palestine. “We couldn’t just sit in law school while history was being made,” he said. “We had to do something.”

In testimonies collected on the Arab side, witnesses tell of smoldering remains of villages destroyed in the fighting, and confusion as families fled and became separated.

In an interview with Zochrot, an Israeli organization that promotes awareness of the Palestinian perspective on 1948, Dia Faour, 93, tells how men and women in her village, Sabalan, near the Lebanese border, were divided by Jewish militiamen and told they had an hour to leave the village or be shot.

“I started running in fear,” she said. “My children and I went in one direction, my husband in a different direction. I fled to Lebanon and nighttime fell. It was very cold outside and the children were hungry.” It took her two attempts, dodging military checkpoints with four young children in tow, but eventually she returned and found her husband.

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