Media Analysis

The bulldozers of Shavuot, 1967

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In a few weeks, the world will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, which ended partition and began the occupation. Israelis will celebrate the “liberation” of Jerusalem. They will gather at the wide open plaza of the Western Wall. Before the war this was a neighborhood called the Mughrabi Quarter: 135 houses with 700 residents, many of them of Moroccan and Algerian ancestry.

Yesterday at the Center for Palestine Studies in New York, Vincent Lemire, a French scholar, told a story about the destruction of the Quarter and the expulsion of those residents that he heard from Haifa Khalidi in her family’s house next to the former Mughrabi Quarter.

Vincent Lemire, from his twitter feed


I would like to relate this visit and tell you how staggering was this discovery that led me to the archives. For several minutes I had many questions in my mind. Why Haifa Khalidi was sleeping in this tiny room, at the top of a small staircase, very narrow and very steep, at the top floor of this splendid Mamluk house in the center of the old city of Jerusalem, where she sleeps alone? Why is she sleeping in this tiny bed in this tiny room under the roof, overheated in summer and freezing during winter?

The answer was obvious. She was sleeping there because she is afraid. She was afraid that the settlers from the next door yeshiva could enter from the roof during the night to occupy the house, as they occupy several houses in the neighborhood. That’s why she is sleeping at the top floor– as the gatekeeper of the house.

And this scared– this frightness has direct connections with the destruction of the Mughrabi neighborhood 50 years ago.

Haifa Khalidi was born, as you know, in a prestigious Palestinian family in this very house in 1948 during the first war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. And for 70 years she has never left this very place.

She wanted to take me on the rooftop. We switched from this tiny room to this boundless view… It was evening time. The night was wonderful. From there one can see Bethlehem to the south, the Mount of Olives to the east, and further, the desert and even see the first lights of Amman… The wailing wall– I have never seen in this light.

Haifa said, “Come with me downstairs to see from the bathroom windows.”

And here in the bathroom she told me the story– her story of the Six Days War and of the destruction of the Mughrabi neighborhood.

“It was from here that I saw the bulldozers raiding the Mughrabi neighborhood just at the end of the war. Sunday the 11th, Monday the 12th of June 1967. Two days and two nights… I remember the noise, the dust, the screams, the tears. The residents had two hours to collect their belongings and leave their houses forever. After the destruction, two old women were found dead under the rubble of their house.

“I was afraid that our house was going to crumble. Finally the bulldozer stopped just before the wall of our house. In front of this bathroom, just here–”

And she showed me the place with her hand. She was reviving the imagination from her mind. At that time she was 19 years old.

The Mughrabi Quarter before the Six Day War. View is from the west. Western Wall is in the middle ground.

Back home I looked for pictures of this destruction. I found some. Not so much. In these pictures, we actually see bulldozers, piles of rubble, trucks, and we see the crowd of Israelis beginning to gather in this place, to pray and to sing, on Wednesday, the 14th of June, for the celebration of Shavuot.

The French consulate archives reveal that 200,000 Israelis came to visit the wailing wall during these days.

We are historians. Our duty is to report and to tell the history. And more than that our duty is to identify the blind spot, the dark places of yesterday and to light them, to make it visible and accessible for this day.

Photograph of the Western Wall plaza today, on what was the Mughrabi Quarter. Photo from Jewish Federations of San Diego, from its page, opportunities to travel to Jerusalem.

Shavuot is a Jewish holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moses by God.

The Mughrabi Quarter had been preserved, till its destruction, by a waqf— an Islamic philanthropic trust– maintained from Algeria, Lemire said.

Below is a map of the Old City showing the Khalidi library at the northwest corner of the plaza opposite the Western Wall. It is two doors down from the house in the story. Here is the website for the Khalidi Library, containing a description of the Mamluk house in which Lemire met Haifa Khalidi.

Map of the Old City showing Khalidi library at edge of the former Mughrabi Quarter.

Here is a photograph from that website of the Khalidi library, two doors down from the Khalidi house.

Khalidi library, in old city of Jerusalem, near Western Wall


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In more macro context: What say we all about “revisionist history”? In the context of “history is written by the victors”? Just asking. Further inquiry: Is it not the very job of historians to change the narrative depending on what is revealed, uncovered after the initial history is written? Again, in context, modern states classify data, with statutes pushing freedom of information access far in the future. Bush Jr said, to paraphrase, “history is made… Read more »

A sobering reminder of the vicious and entirely planned destruction and theft of Palestine from the Palestinians that Israel chooses to ‘celebrate’. I think it’s the only way to properly ‘commemorate’ these sins that Zionists chuckle over while they continue to sin and break international law with alacrity and impunity. Ilan Pappe seems to have the same idea: “Jenin won’t forget Israel’s massacre Fifteen years ago this month the Israeli army bombarded and assaulted the… Read more »

I wasn’t yet 12 when the 67 crisis occurred, culminating in the 6 day war. Though I had cousins in israel I had never met them. But I attended a religious Zionist summer camp in 64, 65 and 66. I knew the words to hatikva and Yad l’achim, the bnei akiva youth movement anthem. Ben Gurion (in the run up to the war) scolded rabin for the attack on jordan the previous november. One cannot… Read more »

The zionists have used the Holocaust for their own devious reasons, using it as an excuse to occupy, steal, and attack anyone who criticizes their policies, yet we have to wonder why, if they really cared for those who suffered this horrible time in history, they have been neglected, and treated badly for years. They have made a business out of getting aid and sympathy using that tragedy. Never again is not for everyone, and… Read more »

“But they behaved like conquering soldiers regarding mughrabi, because that’s what they were”

So that makes it all OK for you then – “conquering soldiers” have special privileges =