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Dundee–Nablus

Twinning Association

رابطة توأمة نابلس دندي

Remembering the Six Day War - by the people of Nablus

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INTRODUCTION:
Six Day War 7-12th June 1967

Welcome to this special issue of our Newsletter. We have dedicated this issue to the people of Nablus and their memories of the Six Day War. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of that traumatic invasion. The consequences of this war still ongoing and unresolved.

The settlements and their continual expansion are the most obvious signs, but the occupation affects the lives of all Palestinians, including those living in Nablus.

We are delighted to share with you the testimonies of six people who experienced at first hand the entry of Israeli troops into Nablus and its effect on their lives.

I hope you enjoy this special issue of the Newsletter.

Alister Rutherford
Editor

Yusif Khanfar

Yusif Khanfar is a 67 year old retired farmer and fruit trader in Nablus. Yusif briefly describes his memories

I was about 16 years old, sitting with the rest of the family listening to the radio - Egyptian, BBC and the Jordanian official radio. In my village ten families, all surrounding neighbours, would come to listen together.

We started to realise that the West Bank is falling into Israeli hands when the Jordanian soldiers started to take off their uniforms and ask people to give them civilian clothes.

Nablus was under continuous curfew

From that time, we started to see the Israeli soldiers coming to the village. They imposed curfew and called for all the residents to gather near the mosque. They told us that they were the Israeli defence army and the West Bank was now under their control. They asked us to collaborate with them, and to give up any guns or weapons. This happened about three days after the fall of the West Bank.

Map showing invasion routes

This reminded people of 1948 when Israel occupied the first part of historic Palestine. Many Palestinians became refugees and massacres were carried out by the Jewish militias. So people were very scared; some families left the village and escaped to Jordan trying to avoid being killed or harmed by the Israelis.

One week after that, they started to come to the village and to arrest some people and to search for guns. Because people were very scared from the Israeli actions people were detained in their houses for about 2 months.

This was because the Israeli soldiers were almost everywhere, and even the farmers did not go to their lands because they feared for their lives.

But when food had been consumed and their livestock started to starve they got courage to go out and to adjust their lives with the new situation, despite the huge frustration, fear and disappointment.

I remember that because of the fear of using cars, I had to travel to Nablus on the donkey to grind the wheat to make flour for the family to eat as we ran out of flour to bake bread.

It took me about 10 hours to get to the city although it used be just 45 minutes by car or bus. Life became very difficult and people struggled even to get to a hospital.

They brought his dead body back to the village

Every day, we would hear tragic news from different parts of the West Bank, including my village.

One of them was a friend of mine called Nael, who died of thirst. He was trying to cross the river but his strength was fading. Some people tried to help him, but it was too late. They told his family who went and bring his dead body back to the village.

Of course, this disturbing news added more fear and concerns, especially news about the Israeli army killing Palestinians in different parts of the West Banks, many of which were trying to cross the river.

We knew also that hundreds of Palestinians were arrested for nothing.

The city centre of Nablus was under continuous curfew because of some pockets of resistance in different parts of the city. This caused a lot of difficulties to the people especially economically.

We are still waiting

And the same happened to education when the Israeli army closed the schools and cancelled the general exams. They took over all the schools everywhere, including Nablus.

Then they started a new phase of occupation by summoning people for interrogation. They tried to get people scared by marching everywhere.

Meanwhile, people were hoping that the UN Security Council could enforce an end to the Israeli occupation.

With time people started to realise that this would never happen or might take much longer that they had expected; we are still waiting.

Tahani Jardanah

Tahani Jardanah describes herself as a house wife living in Nablus. She describes her first encounter with the invaders

The Israeli soldiers entered our house and threw my father to the ground and threatened him with a gun pointed at his head. They kept threatening him, trying to force him to confess that he was hiding arms in the house. I was so terrified that they would murder my father. I can never forget their brutality.

After that ordeal, they ordered my father to stand up and the whole family to vacate the house. While I was panicking, I dropped my slippers and I went back to collect them.

To my shock the soldiers were in the kitchen destroying all the food they could lay their hands on. They were vandalising our house and its contents. They even dropped our hair brushes in the toilet. Simply they were savages.

She heard her neighbour screaming for her husband

Together with everyone in the neighbourhood, they led us to an old Nablus courtyard, an abandoned place full of garbage and discarded cardboard boxes. Frightened to return home, we slept on the empty cardboard boxes. The neighbours around provided us with food and bread.

The next day my mother (God bless her) decided to go back to check on our house, so my sister and I followed her. On our way, we saw several dead bodies being carried on ladders because there were no medical or civil defence staff to help.

The image is engraved in my memory to this day
Newspaper headline - War ends - total Israeli victory

As we approached our house, my mother suddenly turned to the neighbours' house when she heard her neighbour screaming for her husband.

When we entered the house, to our shock we saw the husband's body on the floor riddled with bullets. My mother cried, and tried to cover my face to stop me seeing his body.

She couldn't protect me for I had already seen that terribly mutilated body and the image is still engraved in my memory to this day.

Noor

Noor (not her real name) is a 67 year old Nabulsi woman who lived in the old city. Here she remembers the war and its aftermath in an interview by Enas Almasri

In 1967, Israeli soldiers entered Nablus supported by tanks and armoured cars. As the helicopters started to airlift more soldiers to the mountain tops searching for and shooting at retreating Arab soldiers many people were killed.

… after 50 years of occupation we are in a large prison

This was not what people imagine war to be but it led to many men being killed, while others escaped to neighbouring countries. The atmosphere was frightening. The Israelis consolidated their control over Nablus and its surroundings. Using loud speakers, they started ordering the people of Nablus to raise white flags and men to come out of their homes with their hands up.

The remnants of the Jordanian army left the city and crossed the Jordan River if they were lucky.

Those of the population who stayed raised the white flags and men handed over their guns; guns that were old and ineffective.

In reality, there was no resistance to counter the Israelis. After controlling the city and its surroundings, they started entering people's houses searching for arms and destroying food and property.

In short, some people escaped the city, others were killed and the rest of the population remained indoors as my family did.

After fifty years of occupation Nablus has changed much. It used to be more cultured, clean and cohesive.

After 50 years of occupation we are in a large prison surrounded by an encroaching wall dotted by countless check points that makes our life unbearable. The soldiers can enter the city at any time and arrest anyone including children.

The occupation destroyed local factories and our economy is in a dire situation.

We will resist until we are free

They currently hold about 5,000 of our men, women and children in prison. At the moment, these prisoners are trying to make their voice heard by going on hunger strikes.

Our education system and services are deteriorating under the punitive occupation. In some parts of Palestine, many school-aged children can't attend school because of the dividing wall.

We have had three uprisings during which many young men and women lost their lives and family homes were demolished.

The Palestinian Authority was established after the first uprising as a result of the agreement with the Israelis based on the two states principle. Despite this agreement, we still live under occupation. People are unhappy with the Palestinian authority's "achievement"!

Finally, I stress that we will resist until we are free. Nablus is opening up to the international community through arts and culture and exchange visits.

People like you, writing and publishing facts about our circumstances helps our cause.

Our cause is just and with God's will we will be free.

Bashir Sharaf

Professor Sharaf has retired from An Najah National University in Nablus. He recalls the first day of the war

On the 5th June 1967 I was invigilating the secondary school exam held at Khadori Teachers' Training College, which later became a university, at Tulkarm where I was working.

… it was a terrifying sight
Tanks during the war

On that day, Israeli war planes attacked the Egyptian planes and airports wiping out all their air force. As the news of the attack reached the college, panicking students caused havoc and some left the exam hall before completing their exam papers.

Life in Tulkarm came to a stand-still and there was no transport to take us (the teachers) to Nablus which is 30km from Tulkarm.

Fortunately, we found a taxi that normally carries four passengers, but on that day all 11 members of the examination board were loaded inside.

… striking reminders of how cruel humans can be towards other fellow human beings

One of the Israeli planes targeted the taxi behind us and obliterated all those were in that car. It was a terrifying sight.

This event still hounds me to this day. Although we arrived in Nablus safely, the incident that we witnessed and later the horrors of the occupation are striking reminders of how cruel humans can be towards other fellow human beings.

Jalal Khadiry

In 1967, Jalal Khadiry’s family lived in Tubas—north of Nablus and near to Jenin. He had five sisters (Laila, Khawla, Salwa, Sana’a and Asma’a) and two brothers (Jamal and the youngest Hisham)

When war broke out in June 1967, my father's traumatic memories of the earlier 1948 catastrophe and Israeli massacres of Palestinians was enough reason for him to decide to move the whole family eastward to Amman. He hired a taxi to take the whole family except himself.

Asma’a died immediately

He promised to follow us the next day. It was God's will that he didn't accompany us. As we were approaching a town near the Jordan river disaster struck. I saw an Israeli fighter plane approaching in low flying manoeuvre.

The shock wave was deafening. The plane passed over us, turned back and struck our car with a rocket. It was living hell.

Although I was only five years old, the scene of shattered bodies is engraved on my memory till now.

My youngest brother had his face split in two. The shrapnel that killed him hit my mother in the neck. My sister Salwa suffered life threatening injuries. She lost one leg and the fingers of one of her hands. I received a shrapnel wound to my leg that left me disabled. Asma'a died immediately.

Two Jordanians passing by rushed to help. They wrapped my leg and removed the bodies from the car and gave first aid. Laila, Khawla, Sana'a and myself were alone. In shock, I shouted for my dad but there was no reply.

My mum said we should continue to Amman but as my brother Jamal was still missing, I refused to go without him.

Luckily Jamal showed up in the distance with a local man who carried him back to us. The strength of the explosion had set his hair on fire and thrown him out of the car.

Although Laila was young, she managed to stop a car that took us all to hospital. The most serious injuries were those to my mum and sister Salwa.

Hate will always lead you to wrong decisions

My father came to the hospital next day. I used to believe that my father was superman but in the hospital he seemed quiet and weak.

Smiling troops in troop-carriers

He had been the family leader, capable of defending his family. He was a man who knew how to protect the family from dangers. On that day, he wasn't the superman I had imagined but I didn't blame my father.

From that day on I couldn't imagine that I would ever speak to an Israeli or even a Hebrew speaker for that matter because to me they were all murderers. There was nothing in my mind but pain, anger and revenge.

One day during the first Intifada one of my best friends was killed. I went home full of anger, hate and called for revenge. Although my father saw me coming home, he avoided talking to me.

My father is a man of faith. One day Jordan TV showed a programme about the mistreatment of Jews and the horrors of the Holocaust. My father asked me to watch it without saying any word.

As the programme ended, he told me that when you are angry, hating and calling for revenge will consume your ability to think rationally. Because of your anger, you will be unable to make sound judgements. Hate will always lead you to wrong decisions and you can't run your life like this. You must lead a positive and fruitful life.

Bereaved families

I grew up and became a headmaster. One day I was invited to Turkey with other Palestinian headmasters. To my surprise and dismay, I learned that meetings between Israeli and Palestinian headmasters were taking place there.

During a workshop, an Israeli headmaster described how he had lost his son in an explosion on a bus. His loss was great and I could empathise with his pain. The fact that I saw an Israeli talking about his pain and loss encouraged me to talk to him and tell him my side of the story and what had happened to my family.

I also met Boaa'z Ketanin a leading Israeli official at the conference. He explained to me about the bereaved families group and asked me to join them.

Four months passed without me making any decision about joining the group. Then Dr Adel Misk, a member of the Palestinian side of the group, invited me to a meeting in Jerusalem where I would learn more about their activities.

This meeting revived my humanity

Again, I didn't respond immediately as I felt I needed time to see how I felt about it. I also discussed it with my father and sister Salwa. Despite all of what happened to our family, Salwa wasn't bitter or hateful and suggested that I go.

At the meeting, Palestinians and Israeli families spoke about their pain and the cycle of violence that engulfed the region for the lack of a positive political resolution to the Israeli and Palestinian question.

This meeting revived my humanity. From that moment on, I decided that this would be my national duty. Liberation of land can't be achieved through arms only. Israelis should be able to see me as a human being stretching his hand out for peace.

Zuhair ElDebe'e

Zuhair ElDebee' is Director of Cultural Centres in Nablus. This is extracted from an article on 50 years of occupation

During the 1967 invasion of Nablus, the Israelis faced resistance from Jordanian soldiers, based in the city, and responded with the internationally banned Napalm shells. Many were killed, while others suffered horrendous burns.

As the Israeli troops advanced through the city, they fired indiscriminately in all directions resulting in the death and injury of many civilians.

Ebreeza was buried next to her grandmother

One of the most notorious events was the summary execution of eight young men. They arrested them, tied them and sprayed them with bullets.

Troops on top of a single tank

Another innocent victim was Ebreeza Almenawi (Um Ghazi). Carrying her unborn child, she was killed on the first day of the Occupation in her house on a mountain to the north of the city.

Thirty-seven years later tragedy struck the Almenawi family again when on the 19th September 2004 Ebreeza's granddaughter, who shared her name, was shot on the same roof where her grandmother was killed.

Ebreeza was buried next to her grandmother. The graves bear witness to the racism and violence of the occupation.

Many Nabulsis disbelieved the news that Nablus was occupied on the 7th June 1967. When the reality of occupation hit them, they were deeply shocked.

Rumours among Nabulsis suggested the occupation would end in seven weeks, then seven months, then seven years. The idea that the occupation would last more than seven years was beyond their comprehension.

They based their logic on the principle of international law and historic evidence that peace is the natural relationship between nations.

Fifty years of occupation have failed to break Nabulsis' determination

Military rule to control peoples' lives was regarded as unnatural, unethical and inhumane and therefore it shouldn't last long.

Fifty years of occupation have failed to break Nabulsis' determination to hold on their identity, language, culture and industry.

Thanks to Mohamad Issa and Nehad Khanfar for translations. Thanks especially to our contributors who included very painful and personal memories. Their testimony gives an authentic and moving account of conflict and occupation.

Timeline: The Six Day War

The effects of the 1967 war continue to this day. At the time, Jordan controlled the West Bank, the Sinai was part of Egypt and the Golan Heights were in Syria. Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights has lasted for 50 years.

June 5
  • Israeli air strikes disable nearly the entire Egyptian air force with few Israeli losses
  • Israel attacks Jordanian and Syrian air bases and achieves air superiority
  • Israeli tanks drive into the Gaza Strip and Sinai peninsula
  • Israel launches air strikes in West Bank and on Syria air force bases
  • Syria, Jordan and Iraq respond with air strikes on Israeli targets
  • Fighting breaks out in Jerusalem
June 6
  • Syrian forces fortify the border with Israel and begin artillery fire
  • Israel takes Gaza strip and much of the Sinai peninsula from Egypt
  • Israeli captures West Bank areas inc. Ramallah, North East Jerusalem and Jenin
  • At midnight Jordanian forces are ordered to retreat from West Bank
June 7
  • U.N. Security Council presents a cease-fire initiative which is not accepted
  • 11:15 Nablus conquered
  • 12:15 final general retreat ordered for Jordanian forces
  • Old City of Jerusalem and Jericho also captured by Israel
  • Bir al-Hasna and Al Qazima in Egypt are claimed by Israel
  • Fighting between Syria and Israel continues on the border of Golan
June 8
  • Israel air and sea attacks on US Liberty (USA technical research ship) off Gaza coast killed 34, wounded 171
  • Hebron falls to the Israeli army
  • Egypt accepts a cease-fire
June 9
  • An Israeli attack on Golan Heights is ordered
June 10
  • Cease-fire with Syria is agreed upon
  • War ends, with Israel claiming the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal
  • Deaths—Egypt 10-15,000; Jordan 6,000; Syria 2,500, Israel 900, many wounded and captured
Sources include: Wikipedia, The Israel Project, Michael Oren speech to the Middle East Forum (May 2002), Zionism and Israel Information Centre, Palestine Facts

Nablus today—surrounded by Israeli settlements

UN map of settlements

This map, created by the United Nations, shows Nablus and the control of land around it. Dark mauve areas are Israeli settlements. The blue areas around them show Area C which is under full Israeli control. The ochre (yellow) areas have some element of Palestinian control. Checkpoints and road blocks are also shown. Credit: UN OCHA OPT

Nablus—our Twin City

Nablus is the largest city and commercial centre in the northern West Bank.

Clock tower

It has thousands of years of history. The beautiful old city has narrow streets between stone houses, mosques, ancient Turkish baths and a landmark clock tower. In the market/souk you can shop and enjoy mint tea with hummus or falafels.

Better still, try the famous Nablusi knafeh—a delicious and distinctive dish with cheese in a pastry noodle crust drenched in syrup.

Nablus is famous for its soap, olive oil, and delicious sweets. In recent years factories have been destroyed. Israeli controls severely hamper imports & exports. Nablus has 81 schools and An Najah National University which is the largest in Palestine with some 20,000 students.

There are four refugee camps in Nablus. Balata is the largest in the West Bank with over 23,000 people. Many fled Jaffa in 1948 when Israel was created. They and their families long to return.

As well as the Muslim majority, there are many Christians in Nablus and an ancient Samaritan community.

Where is Nablus?

Map showing Nablus

Palestine is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Nablus lies in the West Bank (of the River Jordan). It is 30 miles (48km) north of Jerusalem in a fertile valley between two mountains.

It is much hotter than Dundee in the summer but can be surprisingly cold in winter. Nablus is one of the oldest cities in the world and one of the largest cities in Palestine.

It has many similarities with Dundee being roughly the same size with around 150,000 people. Both cities are set in a stunning location and have an industrial economy.

Dundee’s historic link with Nablus

Map showing Nablus

Dundee was the first city in Europe to establish links with Palestine.

The courageous decision in 1980 to twin with the City of Nablus has been good for Dundee and Dundonians. It has raised the profile of Dundee in the UK, Europe and throughout the Arab world.

This has confirmed Dundee's reputation as a city of Discovery and Innovation. Other cities have followed Dundee's lead; the latest is Boulder, Colorado USA.

Join us!

If you agree with our aims and want to support our work why not join the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association?

Just fill in our membership form

Annual subscription (correct Jun 2017):
  • Individuals £10 (min)
  • Families £15 (min)
  • Unwaged and students £5 (min)
  • Groups and organisations £20 (min)

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Join us

If you share our objectives we would love to have you as a member.

Contact our Membership Secretary
or fill in our Membership Form

Speakers

We provide speakers for local community groups. Several topics and formats available.

Read more

Friendship and Understanding

We promote friendship and understanding between the people of Nablus and the people of Dundee.

Young people from Dundee and Nablus
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FONSA

Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas

A Scottish charity which supports Palestinians in and around Nablus.

FONSA