“Remembering is Our Munity”: An Examination of Exile, Memory, and Palestinian Identity in Salt Houses “[W]hat is true of all exiles is not that home and love of home are lost, but that loss is inherent in the very existence of both.”- Edward Said, “Reflection on Exile” (1984)
Watan means homeland in Arabic. For exiled Palestinians, the politically charged term evokes a painful memory of home, loss, and expulsion from a land they were forced to flee in 1948. The 1948 Israeli-Arab War which led to the creation of the State of Israel, also resulted in the devastation of Palestinian society. This period is regarded by Palestinians as the nakba, or the catastrophe, which saw the displacement and expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinians from their communities (Gelvin 236). Approximately 80 percent of the Palestinians who lived in the major part of Palestine, upon which Israel was established, became refugees (Abu-Lughod and Sa’di 3). The minority of Palestinians who remained in the newly-minted state became “nominal citizens” and were subject to a separate system of “military administration” (3). In the same year, those who had stayed witnessed the systematic annexation of their lands (Abu-Lughod 3). Others became internally-displaced refugees and sought refuge in places like the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which were under the control of Jordan and Egypt respectively (Gelvin 240). Thus, historic Palestine became “a society disintegrated, a people dispersed, and a complex and historically changing but taken for granted communal life was violently ended” (Abu-Lughod and Sa’di 3).