Inhabitants of Birim Expelled, 31st October 1948

(Zionist soldiers had told the villagers to clear out 'for their own safety')

"Quickly, Mother and Father set the house in order, urging us to hurry and leave behind everything but the heavy clothes we were wearing. I was the only one permitted to carry a blanket with me. Having just been in a scrap with my cousin Asad, I was allowed to wrap this covering over my face to had a black eye which was somewhat painful and embarrassing. Then we were hurried outside.

Father locked the door behind us. Then he handed the key to one of our soldier-guests who was leaning against the front wall, his gun hanging casually from a strap over his shoulder.

"I know that God will protect our house," Father said sincerely, "And you'll be safe, too."

"Yes," the soldier replied with a smile. That was all.

(All the villagers move to the inadequate shelter of their olive groves.)

In a day or two, when the pain and swelling left my eye and I was ready for fun, the novelty of camping had worn off for everyone else. My brothers were simply sullen. The men, I could tell, were beginning to feel nervous that they had left their homes and lands under the protection of strangers. The older people were starting to suffer from sleeping on the damp, stony ground. Though the days were sunny, the termperature dropped rapidly at sunset, plunging us from a hot afternoon into a shivering night. Everyone was thankful that I had brought my blanket. All six of us children would try to squeeze under it while Mother and Father huddled together uncomfortably on the ground.

The cold was somehow bearable. The rain was not. A heavy, gray bank of clouds covered the hills on the fourth day. A chilling drizzle spattered through the olive leaves, soaking the grass, mixing the gravel and dirt into mud beneath our feet.

Father led us through the trees to the grotto at the edge of our land. The inside walls were layered with gray and green moss, and a faint smell of damp humus and of goats hung in the air. It was small, but all of us could fit inside, protected from the night draughts and sudden rains.

For nearly two weeks, the men kept up their vigil, watching for threatening activity in the village. Occasionally, a fleet of trucks would arrive in a cloud of dust, and shortly they would drive out again. Mostly, things remained quiet. The people of Biram continued to camp under the olive trees, foraging for food, drinking from artesian springs and getting stiffer each night from sleeping on the ground. Still there was no word from the soldiers.

At last the elders decided not to wait for the military commander's signal to return. A delegation of men collected in the olive grove and climbed the hil to Biram.

Before long, they came running back, their faces a confusion of anguish and fear. The horror of their report spread through the grove.

Upon entering Biram and passing the first house, they had seen that the door was broken in. Most of the furniture and belongings were gone. What was left lay smashed and scattered on the floor. At the next house, it was the same, and at the house across the street. Chairs were smashed, curtains shredded, dishes shattered against the walls.

Then they were stopped by armed soldiers. The one who appeared to be in charge waved his gun menacingly and barked, "What are you doing here? Get out!"

Angry, and certain that these impudent soldiers needed a reprimand from their superior, the men stood their ground.

"Where is your commanding officer? We are the people of Biram, and we want to bring our wives and children home!"

The one in charge approached them his gun held squarely across his chest. "The commander is gone," he said coolly. "He left us to protect the village. You have no business here anymore."

Blood Brother by Elias Chacour

(In the early fifties although the Israeli High Court ruled that the villagers could return to Biram the IDF destroyed the houses.)