IMEU, Mar 26, 2008
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Cullers was one of three children of Greek Orthodox parents living in the affluent Katamon suburb in west Jerusalem. "My parents were both from the Old City in Jerusalem," Cullers says. "After they got married in 1935, they had hopes of living comfortably in a nice residential area. Their main hope was to give their children the best education, no matter the cost. When the disaster that was the Zionists' aggression unexpectedly came, it shattered all their hopes and dreams."
On January 5, 1948, Cullers' world was wrenched apart when the nearby Hotel Semiramis was blown up by the Haganah, a Zionist militia, killing 20 people. "It terrorized our neighborhood and sent a number of our neighbors fleeing," says Cullers. "We stayed hoping that things would calm down soon. Before they left, many of our neighbors gave my father the keys to their homes and asked him to look after their properties."
Things did not calm down, however. After a series of other bombings in the neighborhood and the massacre of more than 100 Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin, Cullers and her family went to live in her grandmother's basement. "We had very little time to think about what to take with us," she explains. "My father rolled up two oriental rugs, to help insulate us from the dampness, and a kerosene heater. That was all that we took from our home. The Zionists then captured our area along with most of Palestine."
After four months in her grandmother's basement, hoping to return to their home across town, Cullers and her family moved to Bethlehem. After finishing school herself, Cullers taught fellow refugees at schools in the Dheisheh refugee camp. In the mid-1960s, she went to study in Lebanon and graduated just as the 1967 war broke out. Because she was not in the West Bank when Israel occupied it, she was not allowed to return - separating her from her family and making her a refugee for the second time.
Cullers came to the U.S. on a church-sponsored speaking tour and ended up staying - teaching school in Maryland, marrying her husband in 1970 and having four children. She is now retired and lives in Virginia. Cullers feels it is important for Americans to know what happened to her and hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians. "Many Americans are unaware of what the Zionists did to the innocent Palestinians," she says. "The US continues to support Israel regardless of the fact that Israel has defied UN resolutions and international law. Americans need to hear from survivors of the Nakba, just as the world has heard and continues to hear from the survivors of the Holocaust."
The "Nakba" ("catastrophe" in Arabic) refers to the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 and the exile of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and homeland. It is estimated that more than 50 percent were driven out under direct military assault by Israeli troops. Others fled in panic as news spread of massacres in Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin and Tantura. Nearly half the Palestinian refugees had fled by May 14, 1948, when Israel declared its independence and the Arab states entered the fray.
Israel depopulated more than 450 Palestinian towns and villages, destroying most while resettling the remainder with new Jewish immigrants without regard to Palestinian rights and desires to return to their homes. Israel still refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to pay them compensation, as required by international law.
Today, there are more than 4 million registered Palestinian refugees worldwide. The Nakba is a root cause of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's denial of its expulsion of the Palestinians and seizure of their homes and properties for Jewish use continues to inflict pain and to generate resistance among Palestinians today.
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